#MetKids—How Many Hands Does It Take to Make a Work of Art?

Leyton and Lee interview artist Wu Jian'an about how he worked with visitors at The Met to make a work of art inspired by the Year of the Monkey.

Leyton: Hi, I am Leyton. We are here in The Metropolitan Museum of Art celebrating Lunar New Year, the Year of the Monkey.

Lee [in Mandarin]: Hello, I am Lee. We are here to celebrate the Chinese New Year. It is really nice to be here to meet an artist.

Wu Jian'an [in Mandarin]: Hello, everyone, I am Wu Jian'an. Happy New Year!

Lee [in Mandarin]: Can you tell us about what you are doing right now?

Wu Jian'an [in Mandarin]: This is an art project to celebrate the Year of the Monkey. In the novel Journey to the West, there is a hero named Monkey King. In this story, Monkey King goes through a lot of hard times. One of his major challenges is that the Buddha used his hands to trap the Monkey King under the Marble Mountains.

The Monkey King is able to handle the burden of carrying the Marble Mountains. It's not too heavy for him if it's just the mountain. But the Buddha posted a note with six characters on top of the mountain. The six characters are: ong ma ni bei mi hong (om mani padme hum). After posting the note on the mountain, the Monkey King can't escape from the mountain anymore. So he was trapped underneath the mountain for 500 years, until his master took the note away.

So what we are doing right now is, while the Year of the Monkey is approaching, we are planning to symbolically remove this seal and release the Monkey King. We are here to collect 1,000 hands, which resemble the hands of the Buddha. As you can see, there are many Buddha statues that have missing hands, so everyone will help to fix those missing hands by sketching them. We will then cut out those hands and attach them to the artwork. When we gather 1,000 hands, it will be like all these hands are helping us to remove this seal. So when there are 1,000 hands on this, we can remove this seal and the Monkey King will be released.

Leyton: But it says that you need 1,000 hands. I am pretty sure they're up to, like, maybe 100, 200 about.

Lee: He said that there is a monkey underneath. But he can't tell us what it's like, if it's a picture or it's a cutout. So he says it's going to be a surprise or something.

Leyton: I wanna see it.

Lee: I think it's very creative that he can make this. I wouldn't have thought of doing this.

Leyton: Thank you for joining us . . .

Lee: . . . at The Metropolitan Museum of Art . . .

Leyton: . . . in New York.

Leyton and Lee [in Mandarin]: Happy New Year!

Interviewer [off camera]: And now tell me what that means in English.

Leyton: Happy New Year.

Lee: It means Happy New Year.

Leyton: It means Happy New Year.

Lee: Literally.

Leyton: Happy New Year. Have a happy, happy, happy new year.

#MetKids is a digital feature made for, with, and by kids!

About #MetKids

Production Credits

#MetKids Contributors: Lee and Leyton

Visiting Artist: Wu Jian'an

Special thanks to the Departments of Asian Art, Education, and Imaging, and the Volunteer Organization's International Guides.

This activity was made possible by Carolyn Hsu-Balcer and Rene Balcer.

Lunar New Year Festival: Year of the Monkey was made possible by the Great Circle Foundation. It was presented in cooperation with Cool Culture and organized by The Met's Education Department and the Multicultural Audience Development Initiative.

Supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

© 2016 The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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