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A short Biography of Wen Pulin

Photograph by Yang Xinyuan, at a brunch in the Kempinski Hotel, Beijing, in August 2005. 

Wen Pulin 温普林 (“盲流艺术家”), born in Liaoning province in 1957, of Manchu origins.

Wen graduated in 1985 from the central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, with a major in film. It appears that Wen’s life has two central themes – contemporary expressions of art in China, and the cultures and traditions of Tibet.
In the first instance, the rise (not the marketing) of especially performance art can hardly be envisioned without him. As a trained film director, he initiated and was responsible for the recording of many art-related events, such as the Great Wall performance with Xu Bing and others in 1988 (the so-called Great Earthquake 大地震). An accomplished artist and author himself, Wen was probably the earliest organizer of such artistic gatherings and “happenings”, whether they were held with or without official approval. As a systematic cinematic author and recorder, over the years he created a visual archive of great depth and value, spanning the crucial time period from 1985 to 2002.  

The second great interest of Wen, in things Tibetan, the Great West of China as it is sometimes called, began with a trip in 1986, and an extended stay after the Tiananmen Square incident in 1989. Every year, Wen spends at least two months in Tibet; one of his sons (aged 14 at the point of this writing) is a so-called “Living Buddha 活佛”; he personally donated funds to restore Tibetan temples, and re-introduced the subject of Tibetan culture to a Chinese audience which had become increasingly politicized about the subject. His publications and documentaries (including one on Celestial Burial 達木天葬台) feature Tibetan religious customs, the arts, vanishing life styles and value systems.  

Books by Wen Pulin include chronicles of live in Tibet, such as Ba qie Living Buddha 巴伽活佛 (published first in 2000, this book was printed in over one million copies); a volume on the recent history of Chinese performance art (Zhongguo xingdong中国行动, 1999); he also edited a bi-lingual journal called Xizang renwen dili 西藏人文地理 Tibet Geography; his film Pa-dga' Living Buddha was shown at the 18th Hong Kong International Film Festival in April 1994.

Thomas Hahn
Sep. 29, 2005

Interviews with Wen Pulin

Interviewer Date File
Yang Du 杨渡 March 19, 2001 open
Lin Li 林黎 August 29, 2001 open
Jin Xiaofeng 金小风 1999 (?) open
Wang Yin 王寅 Feb. 16 + 19, 2004 open
Jin Feng 金峰 July 26, 1999 open
Zhang Xiangyu 长翔宇 2001 open
(Note: all files in PDF format, opening in separate window)