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Art in the Field: Can Art Help China’s Villages Prosper?

Art festivals try to bring visual culture to China’s villages, but are they being put to good use?

For centuries, the sprawling terraced fields above Hanxi village, Fuliang county, had nurtured the highland region’s famous black tea: “The merchant cared more for money than for me, one month ago he travelled to Fuliang to purchase tea,” goes the poem “The Pipa Player” by BaiJuyi (白居易) in the ninth century, describing the attractions of the tea from the viewpoint of the merchant’s wife.

Yet in May of 2021, Hanxi’s tea terraces had new company—a huge lantern-like installation standing at the top of the hill made of see-through fabric. By daytime you could see the tree encased within it, while lighting up with ambulating contours at night.

This is The Light of the Earth, created by Chinese architect Ma Yansong and inspired by Fuliang’s mountainous landscape. Located outside China’s porcelain capital of Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province, Fuliang was once where artisans gathered in the Song dynasty (960 – 1279) to produce porcelain directly for the emperor’s stores. But today, artists, architects, and musicians are flocking here under a different sort of invitation: to turn Fuliang’s unremarkable village buildings, abandoned warehouses, barren land, and empty tea gardens into an open-air gallery.

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Art in the Field: Can Art Help China’s Villages Prosper? is a story from our issue, “State of The Art.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.


author Zheng Yiwen (郑怡雯)

Zheng Yiwen is a contributing writer at The World of Chinese. She was a political journalist at The Paper and Phoenix Media, now she writes mainly about society and culture, for sharing fresh voices from China.

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