Mingwei Lee

Many years ago, in a mountaintop Buddhist monastery outside Taipei,
a student announced to his master that he was leaving for America
to start a new life. ‘Before you go,’ the master replied, ‘I have a
gift for you.’ He left the 14-year-old boy in a small wooden room.
In the room was a beautiful box. In the box was a dead bird atop a
pile of dirt. The boy meditated, seeking to understand what his
master was trying to teach him. After seven days, he noticed a foul
odor coming from the box. He opened it and discovered hundreds of
maggots wriggling in and out of the bird. He snapped the box shut.

The boy continued to meditate. One day he heard a strange noise
coming from the box. He opened it and hundreds of tiny flies
escaped into the room. As they flew up from the box, the boy lifted
his eyes and saw his master standing in front of him. ‘Good luck,’
the master said, smiling. ‘You can go down the mountain now.’

That boy was Mingwei Lee, now a 33-year-old conceptual artist
whose powerful, healing work blurs all boundaries between East and
West, the spiritual and the earthly, art and life. ‘Whenever I’m
stressed out or depressed, I remember my master’s gift to me,’ says
Lee. ‘It was about transformation of energy, of material, of life,
from a dead bird — which used to fly — to hundreds of these
flies. And it

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