Ai Weiwei announces publication of memoir 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows

Photo: Weiwei Studio

Internationally renowned artist and human rights activist Ai Weiwei shared news today on social media that his long-awaited memoir, 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows will be published on 2 November 2021, alongside a first look of his stunning original design for the book’s cover.  

In1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows, Weiwei gives us an astonishing portrait of China over the past hundred years, while illuminating his artistic process. Weiwei explores the origins of his exceptional creativity and passionate political beliefs, and powerfully reveals the story of his father, Ai Qing, once an intimate of Mao Zedong and China’s most influential poet.

"The idea for this book came to me during the eighty-one days I was held in secret detention by the Chinese government in 2011," says Weiwei.

"During those long weeks, I thought often of my father, a poet who had been exiled during Mao Zedong’s Anti-Rightist Campaign. I realised how incomplete my understanding of him was and how much I regretted the unbridgeable gap between us. I did not want my son to suffer the same regret. I resolved that if I was released I would write down what I knew of my father and tell my son honestly who I am, what life is like, why freedom is so precious, and why autocracy fears art."

During China’s Cultural Revolution, Ai Qing was branded as a rightist and sentenced to hard labour. His whole family, including Weiwei, was banished to a remote and desolate part of the country known as “Little Siberia.” In his memoir, Weiwei describes his childhood in exile and his difficult decision to leave his family to study art in America, where he befriended Allen Ginsberg and was inspired by Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol.

Ai Weiwei’s sculptures and installations have been viewed by millions around the globe, and his architectural achievements include helping to design the iconic Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium in Beijing.

The book also details Weiwei’s return to China and his rise from artistic unknown to art world superstar and international human rights activist—and how his work has been shaped by living under a totalitarian regime.

His political activism has long made him a target of the Chinese authorities, which culminated in months of secret detention without charge in 2011. At once ambitious and intimate, 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows offers a deep understanding of the myriad forces that have shaped modern China and serves as a timely reminder of the urgent need to protect freedom of expression.

Alongside the publication of 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows, Vintage Classics will publish a new translation of Selected Poems by Ai Qing whose free verse was influential in the development of new poetry in China. This new edition will feature a forward by Weiwei and an original cover designed by Weiwei’s son Ai Lao.

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