Deng Zuolie: From civil servant to gallery operator

Deng Zuolie, born on January 18, 1962, was a civil servant with a decent salary and a promising future in Guangzhou, southern China's Guangdong province, before he left for Seattle, the US in 1989.

As a newcomer, Deng did not get accustomed to the American lifestyle, social culture and language, so he had to start from scratch in an unknown land.

"In the US, I have had a miserable life before, which is a painful memory for me," said Deng, calling that period of time as his "culture shock period".

In the early years in the US, Deng worked as dishwasher, handyman and cook in Chinese restaurants in the hope of saving enough money to start his own business.

At the peak of his American life, Deng operated four restaurants with his friends, but the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, which caused a downturn in the US catering industry, forced him to shut down his restaurants.

In order to fulfill his dream of being an artist, Deng later opened a gallery in Seattle, named Leyazhai, which was the first of its kind run by a Chinese immigrant in the city. At that time, almost everybody was pessimistic about the success of the gallery, with some even scoffing that it would be closed down within three years.

So far, Deng's gallery has organized several painting exhibitions in China and the US over more than 10 years, contributing to the artistic exchange between the two countries. In order to commemorate Deng's contribution to promoting Chinese culture and art in the US, Ron Sims, former King County executive, set February 28 as the "Deng Zuolie Day" in 2009.

Deng has also received many titles, such as the former president of China Artists Association of Washington State and president of Sino-US Economic and Cultural Promotion Association of Washington State. Besides painting, writing poems and doing business related to art, Deng also invests in the US property market.

Deng did not consider doing humble jobs in the US as a painful thing. Instead, he was troubled by the alienation and culture shock, which had turned him into a member of a vulnerable minority group in the US from a member of Chinese mainstream society.

Having faced a series of problems including employment, housing, language barrier, children's education, and medical security that all the minority groups have to face in the US, Deng concluded, "In order to overcome the culture shock, we should do as the Americans do in the US. What's more, ambition and hard work can help us live a better life and gain spiritual happiness."

(The article is translated and edited by Ding Yi)

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