China's 9/11 Nirvana Rose Memorial is a Tribute to Life and Loss

A memorial to the victims of the September 11 attacks by a group of Chinese artists recreates the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in handcrafted lacquer and rose petals.    

The project, known as the 9/11 Nirvana Rose, is an unofficial undertaking conceived by Wang Hong, a professor at The China Academy of Art in the city of Hangzhou who established the Hangzhou LIJI Institute of Chinese Lacquer Art. In order to complete the project by September 11th, 2011, Wang assembled a group of 30 lacquer artists from the ICLA that includes Kathy Matta, an artist from Alaska who has spent the past 11 years researching Chinese lacquer art.

According to Wang, “the artists of China want to give a dedication for the 10th Anniversary of 9/11,” adding that the 9/11 Nirvana Rose Memorial is meant to be “a gesture of our understanding that such an event touches us all.”



Such sentiments contrast with a general air of indifference over the 10th anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks from the Chinese government and its official media organs. Unofficial organizations are, in some cases, even more blind. Take the “Fly Over America” section of the Window of The World theme park in the city of Shenzhen, where a miniature Manhattan built before the 2001 tragedy (above) still features the Twin Towers.

The 9/11 Nirvana Rose, on the other hand, is designed to be rich in symbolism and although the central theme of the sculpture is a representation of the iconic Twin Towers, they're rendered as a tribute to their memory and a homage to what once was.

The basic form of the 9/11 Nirvana Rose is a double-stack of handcrafted lacquer trays (220 in total) resting on a black lacquered table base. The trays have been finished in black and red lacquer: black represents destruction,desolation and loss while red symbolizes the fire of the burning buildings and the blood of the nearly 3,000 victims.

Chinese tradition dictates that forces which may seem to be contrary are actually  interconnected: yin and yang. As depicted in the 9/11 Nirvana Rose, the juxtaposition of red and black combine to represent hope for a brighter future. “The Phoenix rising out of the ashes,” as Wang relates, “which has always been the way of America.”

Each of the 220 lacquer trays used to make up the Twin Towers has been painted with roses representing the victims who died that day. In addition, each tray is open at the front so that visitors can place rose petals within them. Lastly, the lacquered surfaces “will be polished to a smoothness that will be reminiscent of the touch of skin, stirring deep emotions of those lost.”

Even at this late date it's unknown whether Wang Hong was able to complete the 9/11 Nirvana Rose. In this case, however, the concept alone serves the noble purpose of provoking thought and remembrance of the events of September 11th, 2001, and of those whose lives ended far too soon as a result. (via 911 Memorials)