Ai Weiwei is a Chinese contemporary artist and activist who was born in Beijing on August 28th 1957. His father, Ai Qing, was one of the finest modern Chinese poets who was known under the pen names Línbì, Kè'ā and Éjiā. Ai Qing passed away on May 5, 1996. Weiwei's mother Gao Ying was born in 1931 and continues to this day to be one of her sons most vocal supporters. She was the third wife of his father and worked at China's Writer's Association.(4) Weiwei also has a sister, Gao Ge and half-brother Ai Xuan, who is also a painter.(1) His wife, also an artist is Lu Qing with whom he has a son, Lao Ai. Weiwei has been accused of bigamy and fathering a child out of wedlock.(5).
Shortly after Weiwei was born Chinese communist officials accused Ai Qing of being a rightest and exiled the family to remote locales, first to the Northeastern province of Heilongjiang and then to the northwestern autonomous region of Xinjiang. They were allowed to return to Beijing in 1976, at the end of the Cultural Revolution after Mao Zedong died.(2) During his time of exile he was sentenced to clean communal toilets for his village of about 200 people. He was made to do this physically demanding job for five years while he was then in his sixties. Weiwei recalls his father losing vision in one of his eyes due to the malnutrition he suffered. Along with this abuse, he was not allowed to publish any of his works including Return Song or Ode to Light until he was reinstated in 1979, in which he was vice-chairman of the Chinese writers association. On a lighter note, he returned to France for a second time in 1980, and in 1985 French president Francois Mitterrand awarded him the title of Commander of the Order of the Arts and Letters.(3) Ai Qing was an early and major influence on Weiwei both in life and art.
Something most people don't know about Weiwei is that he is regarded as a top tier blackjack player amongst gamblers.