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Rural China turns its hand to artistic field

By Ye Zizhen and Ma Zhenhuan in Hangzhou| China Daily| Updated: October 11, 2021 L M S


The village of Shishe in Tonglu county, Zhejiang province, is rising in popularity among tourists because of its burgeoning reputation of art. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Creative approach taken to vitalize the countryside

Xing Weibin likes nothing more than to have breakfast in nature. A cup of coffee and a good book in the early morning sunshine at his Saxiu art space is Xing's idea of bliss.

Rural China is attracting an increasing number of urbanites like Xing, luring them away from the hustle and bustle of the city for the quiet life in the countryside.

Xing, a lifelong lover of the countryside, visited the village of Shishe in Tonglu county, Zhejiang in 2015. The 56-square-kilometer village has around 900 residents and sits among a serene natural environment.

"It is quiet but not deserted, it is not overdeveloped and the architecture and population size is perfect to create that idyllic model village people picture in their minds," said Xing.

To chase his dream lifestyle in rural China, Xing decided to create an art space and chose Shishe as the ideal location.

"I wanted to create an art space here with cultural characteristics. Artists can share their ideas in the space and residents and visitors can enjoy the art," Xing said.

"I hope the space can spread the spirit of the rural lifestyle to the people who come and become an incubator for more such places in the future."


Xing Weibin (middle) chats with his friends at his Saxiu art space in the village of Shishe. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Xing thinks the village of Shishe can be an entire economic ecosystem in itself with art at the center of increasing the village's economic output.

In his plans, people from different walks of life not commonly seen in rural China, such as artists, would come to the space to work or exhibit and the villagers and visitors can also participate in the activities.

Xing started his project in 2016 shortly after his first visit, acquiring the relevant permissions and renting some local residences to transform into his art space.

Now identifying himself as a curator and a practitioner of rural vitalization, Xing invested 2 million yuan ($310,000) in the renovation project, and invited his friends-artists, scholars and entrepreneurs-to Saxiu art space for its opening ceremony a year later in 2017.

"Apart from holding exhibitions and lectures, the space also functions as a rural library, operating in connection with the provincial library in Hangzhou," Xing said.

"It is also my intention to hold book readings here and provide a cozy reading environment."

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