“Making a Fortune through ‘Fakes’: A Middle School Dropout Becomes ‘China’s Van Gogh'”zhao xiaoyong

As the movie “Her Vanishing Act” sweeps through cinemas, Vincent van Gogh’s name once again becomes a topic of intense public discussion. In the vivid imagery of the film, we witness an artist with scars hidden deep within his soul, whose life was filled with hardship and adversity. Yet, astonishingly, in a remote village in China, a story unfolds of a dropout farm boy who lives out his own Van Gogh life, inspired by the master’s works. **The Van Gogh Dream of a Farmer: From Imitation to Originality** Zhao Xiaoyong, an ordinary farmer from a remote village in northern China, once thought his life would forever be entwined with fields and farm work. Due to his family’s financial difficulties, he had to drop out of school at a young age and start a nomadic life of odd jobs. However, life is full of surprises and limitless possibilities. By chance, Zhao found himself in Dafen Village, Guangdong. Unlike other villages, Dafen is imbued with an artistic spirit, renowned as the “World’s Oil Painting Factory.” Here, the farmers are not traditional tillers of the land but artists with brushes and palettes. With a passion and talent for art, they skillfully replicate masterpieces, infusing these paintings with new life. Overwhelmed by everything in Dafen, Zhao decided to leave his past life behind and start a new chapter. Immersed in the scent of paint, he dedicated himself to painting. Initially focused on replicating masterpieces, he harbored a dream of creating his own original works. Van Gogh’s paintings deeply attracted Zhao. The master’s fervor and dedication to life and art deeply influenced him. Each replication of Van Gogh’s work felt like a spiritual conversation with the late master, helping Zhao understand the emotions and stories behind his paintings. Zhao decided to move beyond replication to original creation. Combining his life experiences and feelings, he began to produce paintings with a unique style. Year after year, his works gained more attention and acclaim, even attracting a fan base. Now, Zhao owns his own gallery in Dafen Village. His works are highly praised in various exhibitions. From an ordinary farmer to an artist, Zhao’s journey tells us that with dreams and perseverance, anyone can create their own miracles. **In Pursuit of Van Gogh** In August 2014, as the autumn wind began to stir, Zhao, filled with admiration and curiosity for Van Gogh, boarded a plane to the Netherlands alone. He hoped to connect with the land that nurtured Van Gogh’s genius and to have a transcendent spiritual dialogue with the deceased artist. In Amsterdam, a city blending the old with the new, Zhao walked the streets, feeling Van Gogh’s presence in every leaf and breeze. Visiting the Van Gogh Museum, he stood before the original works, envisioning Van Gogh’s passion and dedication to life and nature. Seeing Van Gogh’s sunflowers and starry nights, Zhao’s eyes moistened. He understood Van Gogh’s artistic philosophy: a love of life and reverence for nature, expressing views and emotions not necessarily for “reality” but for personal truth. This trip changed Zhao’s outlook on life and art. No longer content with mere replication, he sought to create original works that revealed his inner world. Like Van Gogh, Zhao wanted his paintings to reflect his perspective on life and emotions, aspiring to be a “Van Gogh” in people’s hearts. Returning to China, Zhao embarked on creating original works, blending Van Gogh’s artistic philosophy with his unique style and character. Influenced by Van Gogh but deeply rooted in his own inner world, Zhao hoped his art would share the dreams and aspirations of a Chinese village boy. **The Power of Art: Living True to Oneself** Zhao’s story tells us that art is more than colors and lines on a canvas; it’s an attitude towards life, an understanding and response to the world. It has the power to illuminate every corner of life, allowing an ordinary village boy to feel his worth and meaning from deep within. To many, Zhao might seem just another young man in a vast world, without higher education or urban sophistication. But in the world of art, he found his place, his own universe. His every stroke is full of life’s power, his love and insight into the world. When Zhao says, “My life is my art,” he is no longer just a rural boy painting out of necessity. He has become a true artist, daring to chase his dreams and confront his inner self. Art isn’t elitist; it belongs to everyone, regardless of background or origin. With a heart that loves life and seeks truth, anyone can be an artist. Zhao’s story exemplifies how a village boy, through his efforts and the power of art, found his life’s value and direction. He reminds us that art isn’t about catering to the market or chasing fame; it’s about expressing oneself and finding

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