By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
When a golden pig ventured into Chinatown recently, she had no identity and no future. Some assume this was Rachel, the Piggy Bank, Pike Place Market’s famous mascot. It’s close, but not really…
The bronze Rachel is still at the Market. Miss Golden Pig is Rachel’s sister. This is the first time that the Market collaborated to design an art pig in collaboration with a Chinese artist for the Lunar New Year.
Miss Golden Pig, the life-size art pig, has now earned a Chinese name, Ju Ju (meaning precious pearl in Chinese). She has become a hit in the Chinatown-International District in just 11 days. Under the magic hands of artist Deng Zuolie, owner of Deng Studio, Ju Ju looks gorgeous with multiple colors, symbolizing good fortune. People have literally stopped in the middle of the street in the Chinatown-International District, to touch her and take selfies with her.
Currently, she has a busy schedule with several exhibits arranged to celebrate the Lunar New Year.
In Chinese astrology, the pig is the last of the 12 zodiac animals, symbolizing prosperity, success, and fortune. If you were born in the Year of the Pig, including 1947, 2031, 1995, 1971, 1923, 1935, 2007, 2019, 1983, 1959, and would like to read your fortune, you should check the Northwest Asian Weekly’s special issue next week.
The unexpected pig gift was offered by the Pike Place Market Foundation, whose pig mascot has been installed at the Market since 1986.
Significant gesture of the Market
“This is the first time we’ve collaborated with a Chinese artist to create a pig special for the Lunar New Year,” said Patricia Gray, Pike Place Market Foundation’s community relations manager. “The special pig is to honor Lunar New Year and its traditions, and work with the community.”
The foundation, aware that the Year of the Pig was coming up, reached out to Felicity Wang, owner of Asia Pacific Travel and president of the Washington State Sichuan Friendship Association, last November to make things happen. Although the agreement doesn’t include financial compensation, it stipulates a $5,000 damage clause for liability, a vigorous design process, and organizing exhibits of the pig in different community events and businesses. That’s the actual value to make a replica of a pig, said Gray. However, adding all the design and labor cost on the golden pig, it would be priceless.
Wang then approached artist Deng to come up with a cultural design.
After the Market approved the design, Deng contributed not only his design for free, but labor to paint the whole pig for 11 days, over 10 hours every day to transform the pig.
“You can’t just paint the pig, it has to be sprayed with all kinds of paint, architectural lacquer paint (so it can’t be rubbed off easily),” said Deng, an immigrant from China, who has received several awards and has run the studio for over 17 years. Deng asked his friend Tom Dang, owner of International Model Toys, to help with the project. The two contributed all the labor and bought the paint.
The colors on the pig include pink, purple, red, green, yellow, and hues of blue. Many of the symbols represent wealth and fortune in Chinese culture. Deng said Rachel, the Market’s pig, is a western pig.
Is there a difference between a Chinese pig and an American pig?
Deng pointed out that Ju Ju’s nose is much longer. To camouflage Ju Ju’s long nose, he painted peony flowers on both sides of the nose. To Wang’s delight, Deng was the one who suggested naming the pig Ju Ju, which is the Chinese pronunciation of pig and same for pearl.
Wang’s Chinese name is Ju, pearl. “That’s why I love the name,” she said. “It’s also my personal motive to make this happen.”
So Ju Ju’s name is also Miss Golden Pearl.
Not the Market’s pigs
The original pigs of the Market, Rachel (close to the Market’s entrance) and cousin Billie (on the new MarketFront expansion of Pike Place Market) are still on site. Ju Ju is a replica of Rachel. But there are differences. Made of bronze, Rachel weighs over 550 pounds. Ju Ju is made of fiberglass, and weighs only 55 pounds, making her easier to lift. Ju Ju’s last official duty was on the rooftop of the Market stores, promoting Christmas. So if you saw a pig being moved around in the ID last week, yes, that was Ju Ju.
Created by Georgia Gerber, Rachel was the result of a nationwide contest. The Market has a lot of pride in its mascots. They raise a lot of money for the Foundation, a nonprofit, for its community services. A piggy bank, people deposit all kinds of currency inside Rachel, and it’s estimated that much as $20,000 is collected each year. When pigs were auctioned off to benefit the Market in 2007, the bids were as high as $15,000 per pig.
Ju Ju’s new destiny
With the Market’s track record of raising money, Ju Ju may exceed what sister Rachel has done — bringing prosperity and fortune to the ID, and most importantly, representing the Market to spread goodwill and partnerships with diverse communities.
I hereby proclaim Ju Ju’s new title to be Ambassador Ju Ju. Welcome to the Asian community!
Assunta can be reached at email@example.com.