Since 2000, Chinese artist Wo Ye has been designing new stained glass windows for Shanghai’s St. Ignatius Cathedral. The country’s largest Christian church hosts 3,200 square feet of stained glass- a task assigned to one young visionary to redesign. Her creative brief was basically this: we want our cathedral to be contemporary and reflect our culture. Hardly sounds like someone’s design for a Catholic church right? More like a trendy restaurant. Ye saw this as an opportunity to do something radical. Reflecting the Trinity and Chinese culture alike, Ye incorporates a visual style based on ancient Chinese paper cutouts in order to retell the life of Jesus in a 44 scene stained glass spread.
The project is only 20% done- talk about a labor of love! Believe it or not Yo We has no experience with stained glass. She started as a magazine art director and then studied Catholicism in Minnesota. No woman or Chinese person in history has been invited to design windows for a cathedral. It is a well respected tradition and taken quite seriously. St. Ignatius’ bishop Jin Luxian open mindedly says, “We are Chinese, and if the church is to grow, then it must be Chinese too.” The design is targeted to attract a younger crowd to the religious scene. Among religion and politics, maybe this kind of art makes the list of taboo dinner party topics? In China at least .