Young artist turns village in central China into ‘gallery’
By Bi Jingjin, People’s Daily
At a village in central China’s Henan province, Shang Qinjie, a young art enthusiast, was busy spraying oil paint onto a wall, drawing the attention of many residents.
“I’m painting an anime-style picture of a pastoral scene. It’s merely a one- or two-day job,” said the post-90s man, standing on a scaffold.
Shang Qinjie (left) poses for a photo with Li Junchen, a resident in Xitouying village, Chengde city, north China’s Hebei province, in front of a wall painting of sunflowers he has made. (Photo/Shanghai Observer)
In May 2019, at the invitation of a schoolmate, he began to paint pictures on walls at Xiaotun village, Zhangcun township, Xinxiang city of Henan, also his hometown, before which he worked in big cities.
At first, Shang merely did it for fun. It is his interest in painting that has kept him doing the job to this day.
Shang wanted to draw paintings on the exterior of houses in the village in a more fashionable and interesting way that differs from the formerly seen idyllic style. The village has given him enough space to realize his ideas. As a result, many brightly colored and lifelike drawings appeared on the walls of Xiaotun village.
Shang didn’t expect that his paintings could make Xiaotun village a famous tourist destination. After villagers shared the pictures of Shang’s artworks on WeChat and short video platforms, tourists from neighboring villages and even faraway places were attracted to Xiaotun village.
Visitors come either to take photos with the creative paintings on the walls, or relax in idyllic surroundings, or learn about the wall-painting project in the village.
As the characteristic paintings on the walls become more and more widely known, Xiaotun village is winning increasing popularity with tourists.
Residents weren’t used to seeing so many visitors in their village initially. However, they gradually learned to grasp the opportunity.
Some villagers started to sell snacks and run diners, and their business is booming thanks to tourists flocking to the village. A parking lot has also been built in the village for the convenience of visitors who drive here.
The steady stream of visitors has made the village see broader development prospects. It decided to seize the opportunity and build B&Bs and improve its catering services to form an integrated tourism model.
“During this year’s week-long Spring Festival holiday in February, the daily turnover of my shop reached more than 2,000 yuan ($312.8),” said Zhao Haiqing, owner of a small shop in the village, who is very satisfied with the changes to the village.
“My relatives and friends who came to visit all said that Xiaotun village has taken a more beautiful look,” Zhao added.
Shang has posted many videos about the drawings he made on the Chinese short video platform Douyin under the account name “Daxin,” which have received hundreds of thousands of “likes.”
Netizens from other villages left messages to him in the comment sections of his videos, inviting him to paint in their villages. Residents in Xiaotun village also raced to ask Shang to paint pictures on the walls of their houses, and Shang has agreed to their requests willingly.
He has so far finished decorating more than 80 percent of the walls in Xiaotun village with creative pictures and intends to speed up his work and continue to paint for other villages.
“I started to paint for fun but gradually became aware of the significance of the job,” Shang said, adding that he will pursue the career as a painter in rural areas to bring wall paintings to more villages and make more people become attached to the countryside.
Shang feels a sense of achievement as Xiaotun village becomes more attractive and widely recognized with each passing day.
In fact, besides the well-decorated walls, many other changes are happening in Xiaotun village. The once bumpy unsurfaced roads have been turned into clean and flat cement ones; the living environment of the village has become cleaner and tidier; many villagers even redecorated their houses.
Few people outside knew about or visited Xiaotun village before, recalled Shi Lei, first secretary assigned to fight poverty in Dawangzhuang village, which has administration authority over Xiaotun village.
Xiaotun village now enjoys increasing popularity, Shi noted, adding that it is advancing cultural tourism projects including an insect museum.