08-01-2006 17:56

There is an old saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Our guest Harvey West is truly a treasure seeker. He travels to remote villages in China to find dilapidated, dust-covered furniture, but under all the years of age and neglect, what he sees is beauty and history. With a strong passion and respect, he painstakingly restores these pieces back to their original glory and to be used and enjoyed by future generations to come.

In 1985, as director of the University of Washington Art Museum, Harvey was invited by China’s Ministry of Culture to prepare an important cultural relic exhibition to the US. Leading the American team, he worked with Chinese experts in the Forbidden City for 5 years. In 1989, Harvey and his colleagues succeeded in bringing 300 pieces of Chinese relics to America on 7 Boeing aircrafts. This one-year-long exhibition, “Son of Heaven – Imperial Arts of China”, presented 1.2 million visitors the pieces coming from 22 provinces across China with the span of 26 centuries. Until today, it remains one of the largest and most influential exhibitions of Chinese culture and arts in America.

Since then, Harvey found it hard to leave China. He calls his decision for staying “a package deal”, which includes his deep love for Chinese art, a helpful Chinese wife, as well as her wonderful parents. Shortly after he was married to Yao Xiaobo, Harvey moved to Xiaobo’s hometown, Guangzhou, in South China’s Guangdong Province. During the past 20 years, they have been studying and collecting Chinese antiques in remote areas of China. Now, they have one of the largest collections of regional Chinese antique furniture in the world.

Harvey and Xiaobo’s home is located in Guangzhou’s northern suburb. The house is named “Wei Bo building” by one of their best friends Huang Yongyu, a renowned Chinese artist. The spacious warehouse is not only their home but also a studio where guests will be amazed by the beauty of Chinese antique furniture and the harmonious display of the entire home. Like antiques in other places, each piece here is well-preserved; while unlike others, each piece is practically used in daily life – a big wooden door is now a dining table, a restored medicine cabinet contains a western drinking set, and a green ceramic railing is turned into a table lamp. In addition to collecting and restoring the ancient furniture, Harvey and Xiaobo are working on a new field – designing and manufacturing jewelry, clothes and scarves. Harvey gives the new products a beautiful name “little wave”. Although the brand is a literal translation of Xiaobo’s name, it’s not just a husband’s gift to his wife, but Harvey and Xiaobo’s wish that more and more people could enjoy art in life.

In this episode of Up-Close, you can hear Harvey and Xiaobo’s amazing stories, appreciate their collections, and learn the restoration process of ancient furniture. Moreover, you can know more aspects of Harvey and Xiaobo from the perspective of their family and intimate friend.

If you are inspired to lead a life like Harvey and Xiaobo after watching the show, don’t be hesitant or worry about money, simply look around yourself and begin to search for art in life. You will surely benefit with a pair of artist’s eyes and a willing heart.

Written By Chai Haoran