China / Society

Critics busy as giant toad floats into Beijing

By Yan Yiqi in Hangzhou and Chen Mengwei in Beijing (China Daily) Updated: 2014-07-25 07:20

Critics busy as giant toad floats into Beijing

A woman practises a Chinese martial art in front of an inflatable golden toad in Beijing's Yuyuantan Park since July 19. The toad's image has stirred debate on the internet between supporters and detractors. Hua Yu / for China Daily

An inflatable golden toad that first appeared in Beijing earlier this month in an attempt to emulate the success in China of the Rubber Duck created by Dutch designer Florentijn Hofman has stirred controversy on the Internet.

Guo Yongyao, chairman of Ningbo Jinluban Carpentry Co, designed the toad in December and said his initial intention was to compete with Western art and raise funds for the protection of cultural relics.

Based in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, Guo is a carpenter with an enthusiasm for traditional Chinese art.

He said his idea of designing the toad was to make youngsters at home and overseas aware of Chinese culture.

"The Rubber Duck received a warm welcome in Chinese cities and so should Chinese art," he said. "I am not doing this to draw attention to myself. I hope the toad's appearance can focus public attention on protecting our traditional culture and relics."

In Chinese culture, the toad is regarded as a creature of good fortune and usually appears as a three-legged animal in works of art.

The 22-meter-high golden toad, which stands on a piece of green lotus leaf with a diameter of 33 meters, floats on the lake in Beijing's Yuyuantan Park. Immediately after its public appearance, it drew both criticism and questions.

Words like "scary" and "ugly", referring to the toad, have been the most frequently mentioned in the country's mainstream social networks.

Zhou Li, 42, an elementary school teacher in Beijing, said she had been shocked by the giant display.

"How come it's so big?" she said, adding that it appears extremely large when compared with the duck.

Guo said it will take time for people to accept new forms of art and he is not overly concerned about the criticism.

"Works of art will always attract praise and criticism. Most people do not know the cultural background of the golden toad, simply seeing it as an imitation of the rubber duck. I wish that Chinese people, especially youngsters, would pay more attention to our own culture," he said.

Guo added that if the criticism of his design can inspire more people to develop China's cultural industry, he welcomes this.

The exhibition is non-profit, but ticket income will be donated to foundations to protect cultural relics. Guo has already donated 600,000 yuan ($97,000) to the China Culture Relics Protection Foundation.

He spent more than 8 million yuan on manufacturing the golden toad.

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