Ai Weiwei



10 x 41 x 16 cm

Executed in 2012




Ruyi (2012) is Ai Weiwei’s reinterpretation of a traditional ceremonial Chinese wish fulfilment sceptre, a symbol of power in Chinese culture. Its form is derived from the lingzhi mushroom, used in traditional Chinese medicine and believed to confer good luck. Ai plays on these ideas of faith and medicine, composing his sceptre instead out of highly detailed ceramic human organs. Ai’s Ruyi translates ideas of long life and good fortune physically, as if Ruyi were an extension of the body.

Ruyi sceptres were widely used during the Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 AD) by intellectuals and nobles during gatherings. Like “talking sticks”, ruyi granted individuals the right to speak, enabling orderly and democratic discourse. Freedom of speech and democracy are ideas which Ai constantly returns to in his open criticism of the Chinese government and the climate of censorship it endorses. Therefore, Ruyi becomes a contemporary emblem of open discourse and equality, inspired by China of the past.

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