Abe Lincoln in China?

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“Before the Day of Decisive Battle” by Yuan Xikun, 2009, cast bronze, is on display at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, Illinois. Photo by Howard Fielding.

The president who held together the North and South is admired in the East as he is in the West.

Abraham Lincoln was the first to open formal diplomatic relations with China by establishing a ligation in Beijing in 1862. The promise of noninterference made him a hero in that country.

The sculpture pictured here is a small study of “Before the Day of Decisive Battle” by Yuan Xikun, 2009, in cast bronze. This one is in the lobby of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, Illinois.

The original of this sculpture stands 7 feet tall in Beijing, China. It depicts Lincoln as a military leader, with spyglass in hand. He never commanded troops in the field during the Civil War, but the intent is to convey Lincoln’s strong presidential leadership. This cast was made specially for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in 2009 and presented as a gift by the artist himself, renowned Chinese sculptor Yuan Xikun.

Placard in lobby of Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield, Illinois.

President Obama received a similar casting, valued at $9,800, in 2011 from visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao. It was accepted because “non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to donor and U.S. Government.” Obama turned it over to the National Archives.

Brotherhood of the traveling Abes

The Jintai Museum in Beijing lists the full-size Lincoln sculpture in its collection. But it may not be the only one.

The Chinese government gave an 8.3-foot Yuan Xikun bronze Lincoln to Philadelphia in 2009 to honor Lincoln’s 200th birthday. The city could not—or would not—accept the gift. It was eventually auctioned in 2012 for $550, well under its market value. The buyer was an international art dealer who “repatriates fine art” to buyers overseas.

And the National Park Service has one at the Lincoln in Indiana Museum (scroll to the bottom of that page). It was a gift to the park and dedicated in 2016.

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