Living with Disabilities in China

March 8, 2017

Facts and Details.com reports, “China is home to the world’s largest disabled population. There are 83 million disabled people in China, with a million in Beijing alone.” No mention of the fact that China also has the largest population in the world.  For a comparison, in the United States, there are about 48.9-million people with a disability. China has more than 1.3-billion people. The U.S. has about 315-million.

After Mao’s Cultural Revolution, China’s education system had to be rebuilt, and in the late 1990s, teams of Chinese teachers traveled to the United States to learn from America’s public schools and teachers. What they learned, they took home to Shanghai and more than a decade later Shanghai earned 1st place in the international PISA test thanks, in part, from what was learned studying America’s public schools.

China never had a public education system for everyone until after Mao, and the job isn’t done yet. China still has work to do to provide a quality education for all children.

For instance, the art displayed in this post comes from deaf artists, who are graduates of the Shandong Provincial Rehabilitation and Career School, an institute in China that trains young Chinese with disabilities.

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In 1949, Mao Zedong launched the People’s Republic of China and ruled with an iron fist for almost three decades. During Mao’s time, there was almost no free artistic expression in China unless the art served the propaganda needs of the state.

Today, that has changed.

After Deng Xiaoping opened China to a global market economy, the post Mao generation was introduced to Western art and theory.

It wasn’t until the late 1980s and early 1990s that art from China started to emerge.

3-disabilitiesThe photos in this post are presented with permission from “Embracing the Uncarved Wood, Sculptural Reliefs from Shandong, China“, which was made possible by a generous grant from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation and with assistance from the Office of the Provost of Franklin & Marshall College. ISBN: 978-0-910626-04-0

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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