Wang Yongchao is not your ordinary billionaire, spending indiscriminately on cars, houses and private jets.Instead, the Chinese mogul, who never attended high school but made his fortune running seven companies in sectors from real estate to municipal drainage, has made it his mission to buy homes destined for the wrecking ball and old relics bound for trash heaps, according to China Daily, which ran a long profile on Wang last week.
Some of the items may be cultural relics, but they haven’t made Wang richer. In fact, thanks to his prodigious spending, he’s no longer a billionaire.
He used his collection to found Guanzhong Folk Art Museum in rural Xi’an, the capital of Shaanxi. The 11.2-hectare plot contains 33,600 items and more than 1,000 rooms of 40 courtyard homes: in sum, it is China’s largest private folk art museum, China Daily writes.
Since the museum is private, it doesn’t receive help from the government and runs on the cost of admissions tickets and Wang’s remaining cash. It costs around $4.75 million a year to operate, according to China Daily.
So what possessed the billionaire to blow his fortune on mementos?
According to China Daily:
It was a trip to Guanzhong’s Weibei area in the late 1980s that changed the businessman’s life.
He saw urban reconstruction turning beautiful old homes into rubble. And it upset him.
He also saw 2-meter-long stone posts crowned with sculptures sawn in two. The sculptures were sold to antiques dealers at very low prices, while the posts were thrown away.
“I didn’t know what these posts were, but I knew they were irreplaceable historical relics,” Wang recalls.
So he paid the locals twice the price offered by the dealers and bought all the remaining posts.
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