HONG KONG: He has the face of Chairman Mao, and it's changed his whole life. Gu Xiaoyue, who is also a renowned calligrapher in the same tradition as Mao, has recently brought his latest works to Hong Kong.
Titled chairman of Capital's Mao-style Calligraphers Association, Gu displayed eight specially created calligraphy works at the Hong Kong exhibition, including "Pearl of the Orient" and "Hong Kong Prosperity".
He is also expected to team up with 99 local kids to create a large calligraphy work Saturday, to celebrate the 60th National Day of the People's Republic of China.
People are often stunned when they encounter Gu in person. He has the face, the shape, even the hair of Chairman Mao. Gu admits his appearance was the main impetus and prerequisite for his becoming a mimic of the venerable chairman.
Gu also talks like Mao. Born in Hubei, he lives most of the time in Henan. He speaks Hunan Shaoshan dialect fluently.
"The Shaoshan dialect is Chairman Mao's mother tongue. I believe if I want to become a good impersonator of Chairman Mao, I need to talk like him too. So I started to learn Shaoshan dialect in 2001, spent time living there and asked language specialists for help. It didn't take me long to master the Shaoshan dialect," said Gu.
In the subsequent "Contest for Film and Television New Talents" organized by the Ministry of Culture, Gu stood out from other participants and was employed as chief of the Shaoshan Song and Dance Ensemble almost immediately afterwards.
He's worked at a State-owned enterprise and never has been professionally trained as an actor. Appearing in dramas and stage plays proved daunting for the amateur thespian in the beginning.
"To be a good impersonator, it is not enough just to 'look' alike. You have to 'feel' alike," said Gu. "I practiced a lot and tried to be like Chairman Mao in all respects. Even in my spare time, I read Mao's literature. I do think it helps."
Gu participated in the drama "Founding Ceremony", touring a dozen provinces in China. Stage plays such as "Chongqing Negotiations" and "Mao Zedong in Henan" also achieved exceptional audience response. Gu also played Chairman Mao in several movies like "Yan'an Battle", "Founding Leader Mao Zedong". He will give his debut performance in a 25-episode TV series about General Su Yu, expected to launch next year.
Gu does not deny his typecast career changed the course of his life.
"I act as Chairman Mao in movies or plays, but even in daily life, I constrain myself to live up to this identity. I live a very low profile life. I don't go to amusement places. I treasure 'thinking thoroughly before action'. My kids are very proud of me. I think they respected me even more after I became the double of Chairman Mao," said Gu.
Becoming a calligrapher was no accident. Gu started practicing calligraphy at the age of 10. But becoming a Mao-style calligrapher arose solely from his career as a Mao look-alike. Since he wanted to emulate the Chairman as much as possible, his extension into Mao-style calligraphy was natural. Gu's Mao-style calligraphy is not purely the same as that of Chairman Mao. It has its own distinctive features. He thinks his calligraphy still fits within the Mao-style, but the characteristics are quite "recognizable to those who are familiar with Mao-style calligraphy".
Gu's works won the top prize in national Mao-style calligraphy competitions. In an auction aiding the victims of the Sichuan earthquake last year, six pieces of Gu's calligraphy works were sold, one for 51,200 yuan. The proceeds were paid directly to the Red Cross Foundation.
Gu is also the only disciple of Gu Yue, whose impersonation of Chairman Mao was a milestone in the history of Chinese movies. Mentioning his master, Gu called Gu Yue an incredible actor, whose impersonation of Chairman Mao is superb.
(HK Edition 09/26/2009 page1)