The Artist is flexing: A brief note on the stained glass windows of Shanghai’s cathedral

The three leading reader questions received via the Shanghai Scrap contact form are:

  1. Can you get me into the Expo grounds? [What do I look like? A ticket broker? No.]
  2. Will you ship your large inventory of e-waste to me? [I don’t have any e-waste (except for that Dell in the closet). So, no.]
  3. What is the status of the project to restore the stained glass windows of St. Ignatius Cathedral in Shanghai, and can you put me in touch with the artist?

Well. Long-time readers of this blog may recall a series of posts that I wrote back in late 2008 covering the installation of several dozen new stained glass windows into Shanghai’s century-old Catholic cathedral (here, here, and here, among others; my lengthiest treatment of this project in traditional media is this 2006 piece for the now defunct LA Times Sunday Magazine). As commissioned by Shanghai’s bishop Jin Luxian, these windows aren’t restorations of the windows destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, so much as they are an entirely new cycle of stained glass that merges Chinese characters, idioms, and artistic traditions with Western liturgical art and stained glass. The artist entrusted with this unprecedented commission is Wo Ye, Beijing born and bred, trained as a traditional Chinese painter and, later in life, trained in Catholic liturgical art in Italy and the United States. There’s really nobody else with her background, and training, anywhere, and that not only explains the commission, but why she is – best as anybody knows – the only woman or Chinese to ever get such a commission.

In any event, not long after completing that late 2008 series of windows, Wo Ye took a one year leave of absence from the project for personal reasons. Her leave – and the absence of visible progress on the cathedral’s windows – led many to wonder if the project was halted. It wasn’t, and it’s not. As proof: this morning I paid a visit to Wo Ye in her studio not far from People’s Square, where I found her as strong as ever (the photo, below, is meant to convey that), and getting ready to resume work in earnest:

With a little convincing, she submitted to an exclusive interview. Here it is:

Shanghai Scrap: Do you want to say anything about your upcoming plans for the cathedral windows? Designs, anything like that?

Wo Ye: [laughing] No!

Rumor has it that the second level nave windows are next. More when I have it.


  1. I visited the cathedral in June 2009 and I was blown away by what she has done. I am glad to know that she is continuing the work. Thanks you for this post.

  2. She looks great! And what a ham! Many many people around the world hoping and praying for her good health and success in this project.

  3. Terrific news and glad to see that she is doing so well. Ditto to Padrel’s comment. We’ve seen the windows in person, too, and we believe that they are landmarks in the making.

  4. I used to see Wo Ye at St. John’s many years ago. She is a unique person and I am happy to know that she is doing so well. We are all proud of her.

  5. Go Wo Ye!!!!!! So glad to see you in full Rocky Mode! Da da da, da da da, da da da’ da da!

  6. Glad everything is going great , Go WOYE! From the race Lehn’s SCOTT,LORI,ALEXA

  7. It’s great to see the picture of you. You look strong and healthy. Can’t wait to see more finished panels, what you’ve done so far is stunning!
    Becky and Jim
    at the lake

  8. Wonderful to see you looking so good! Remembering the good times we had in MN. Best to you always.
    Shirley Miller

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