People have many ways to honor the dead. No one way is better than the other as long as the people are respectful of the dead. But a Chinese artist out of Beijing is honoring his father in a way that many are calling “inappropriate” and “shameless.” On Tomb Sweeping Day in China, an annual festival to respect the dead, 33-year-old Siyuan Zhuji exhumed his dead father, got naked, and lied next to the skeleton, according to Shanghaiist.
Siyuan Zhuji documented the experience and named it “My Father and I” and uploaded it to Weibo. He explained that his father died at the age of 27 due to liver cancer 30 years ago when Siyuan was only three. Due to the fact that his father died when he was so young, Siyuan never got to know his father. This left him with a hole in his heart wanting to get to know his father more. His relatives told him stories and showed him pictures of his dad but it wasn’t enough.
Every year Siyuan Zhuji would go to his father’s grave on Tomb Sweeping Day to pay respect to his father. But through all this time his grave had become beat up and he decided that he would move his father to a new grave.
This would give him an opportunity to be literally physically closer to his father and give him a chance to fulfill his dream of taking a photo with his father’s skeleton.
The experience of laying naked next to his father’s bones moved him. “I am lying with my father, life and death, flesh and bone, father and son. As the sun shines on me and my father, I feel wonderful feelings that I have never felt before,” he said, translated by Shanghaiist.
“It was an amazing feeling. This was the closest I’ve ever been to my father,” he told the Beijing News, translated by the Daily Mail. “I am expressing my feelings to him in a personal way.”
“It was necessary for me to be naked in the photos as this is how we enter and leave,” he said. “We shouldn’t be afraid to show real art to the world.”
After he got permission from the cemetery’s caretaker, his wife, Lin Shan, took the photos.
After he posted the shots on Weibo, his pictures went viral to 28 million people before Weibo shut the account down.
The photos caused a lot of controversy as people took sides. One side argued that what he did was wrong and that Siyuan Zhuyi was only doing it for fame.
“You’re digging up your ancestor’s grave clearly for the sake of fame,” one user wrote.
“You’re using your father like a tool for your so-called work of art, against all rules and traditions of filial piety,” he said.
While the other side thought it was unbelievably touching.
“I was overwhelmed with emotion after seeing the photos. This is so touching,” one user commented.
All photos by Siyuan Zhuji.