- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 15, 2007

A master sculptor from China was chosen yesterday to carve the image of Martin Luther King for a memorial to the slain civil rights leader to be built on the Mall.

Lei Yixin, one of nine sculptors considered national treasures in China, will carve King’s likeness in the memorial’s 28-foot granite “Stone of Hope,” memorial officials said.

The sculpture, depicting a determined King with crossed arms, will be carved over the next year from a beige type of granite found in China’s Fujian province.

Earlier yesterday, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, one of the groups that oversees the architecture of the nation’s capital, approved the sculpture’s design and 14 quotations from King to be included in the memorial. The project will occupy a 4-acre plot on the Tidal Basin facing the Jefferson Memorial and is expected to be completed in 2008.

Mr. Lei has carved sculptures of many national figures in China, including Chairman Mao Zedong, the father of China’s Communist Party. Several of his works are included in China’s National Art Gallery collection.

“Martin Luther King is well known all around the world. In China, everyone knows about him,” Mr. Lei said through a translator. He said he remembers reading about King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in school.

Architects with the memorial foundation found Mr. Lei at a stone-carving symposium in July 2006 and said he was recommended by many of his peers.

“When I was assigned to the task, I felt tremendous pressure and responsibility,” Mr. Lei said. “This is the most important project I have ever had.”

Ed Jackson Jr., executive architect for the memorial foundation, said he recently visited Mr. Lei’s studio in China and found all four walls covered with pictures of King.

“We said we want you to capture the integrity and the spirit of the man,” Mr. Jackson said he told Mr. Lei. “He was like a sponge.”

Quotations will provide part of the backdrop for the King sculpture. They were chosen by the memorial’s council of historians, including prominent professors and black leaders.

About $79 million has been raised for the memorial, which was authorized by President Clinton in 1998; $100 million is needed for construction.

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