Retirement can be hard even for retired leaders

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 March, 2012, 12:00am


Apart from some rare appearances at public ceremonies, the retirement lives of most high-ranking officials on the mainland are kept off limits to the public.

But that does not mean life is entirely easy for former politicians, as evidenced by a rare anecdotal story shared on Saturday by Li Lanqing, a former vice-premier and member of the Politburo Standing Committee, the Communist Party's most senior body.

Li recalled that, after retiring in 2003, he tried to bargain for some goods for Lunar New Year celebrations, and also applied for a job at a small restaurant, but was rejected both times because the owners recognised him, according to a report yesterday by the Chinese-language Global Times newspaper.

In the absence of being able to work among the people, the 79-year-old found his passion elsewhere - in art.

Li spoke on Saturday during the opening ceremony of an exhibition of his works, which include stone inscriptions, calligraphy and sketches, at the Guangxi Museum of Ethnology.

He said it was not too late for elderly people to take up art in their retirement years. Indeed, it was a very good way for his fellow pensioners to maintain a strong mind and healthy body, he said.

Li described how he had made 'a plan for the rest of life' that included revisiting his childhood hobby of making stone inscriptions in the Zhuan style, an ancient form of Chinese characters.

Since retiring, his passion for making stone inscriptions for seals or stamps has kept him up late many nights - he has produced 800 works in the past nine years.

'When South Korean President Lee Myung-bak visited China, I inscribed a stone for him,' Li told the Global Times. 'He was very happy because it was just made for him.'

The inscriptions could be of anything, from detailing historical events to aphorisms such as 'care for one's own principles'.

He even made inscriptions about his failed attempts at haggling over prices and finding a new job. They said 'bargaining prices failed' and 'job interview flopped'.

Li said his secret to staying fit was 'exercising the body and mind, reading and writing'. He is pushing for elderly people to stay healthy using recreational art activities.

'Now the circumstances are very good,' he said. 'There are so many books and documents available on whatever you could want to learn.'