Artistic transformation of an ancient village in China

Photo shows the transformed Chengyang village, Dongqianhu town, Yinzhou district, Ningbo city of east China’s Zhejiang province. (Photo/WeChat account of Wenming Ningbo)

Chengyang village in east China’s Zhejiang province has taken a brand new look because of artistic transformation, based on which the local people have explored tourism and become better-off.


Embosomed by hills and with two brooks winding through, the village located in Dongqianhu township, Yinzhou district, Ningbo city of Zhejiang, has magnificent scenery, yet it used to have a weak industrial foundation and collective economy.


Changes to the village began in July 2020 when officials in Chengyang invited Cong Zhiqiang, an associate professor at the School of Arts of the Renmin University of China, to the village, hoping Cong can give it a brand new look, just like he did with Gejia village, Ningbo city of Zhejiang.


Since 2019, Cong’ team has stimulated the enthusiasm of residents in Gejia village for artistic creation by providing guidance and assistance for them, and helped them with the transformation of their village. Within about one year, the team and local residents built over 40 public art areas in Gejia village, turning it into an Internet-famous village featuring artistic glamour.


Now Gejia village receives over 100,000 tourists a year. It has accumulatively increased the income of local residents by 2.5 million yuan ($385,910). Meanwhile, many villagers who were working away from their hometown have been attracted to starting their own businesses in the village, with their investments totaling over 20 million yuan.


Officials with Chengyang have always wanted to develop it into a high-quality tourist destination, and yet failed to come up with a feasible plan, which is why they decided to seek advice from Cong.


After a tour around the village for investigations and careful consideration, Cong decided to make an effort. Although some locals doubted the idea of turning the village into a tourist destination by adding artistic charm to it, as they considered the village totally unrelated to art, Cong hoped to change their mind with his actions.


Encouraged by Cong’s team, the village established an art work group made up of villagers, graduate students, cadres sent to the village by the Dongqianhu township for poverty reduction. The art work group then took charge of the construction and transformation of the village.


Believing that villagers should be the main force in the transformation, Cong asked some villagers who were willing to join the endeavor to take the lead in bringing changes to the village, while he provided guidance and demonstrations for them.


At the invitation of the art work group, a local resident named Yu Zhenfei, together with two other fellow villagers, weaved a giant hat with a diameter of 6 meters from 750 kilograms of moso bamboos within two months. After that they made a seven-meter-high “wine bottle” with bamboo strips. The two pieces of artwork are now a must-see for tourists.


Besides, the village has motivated skillful craftsmen, including carpenters, plasterers, and painters, to redecorate public spaces, idle land and amenities.


One minor change after another has led to practical improvement to the village and enriched every corner of Chengyang.


Yang Jiyue, a carpenter in his late seventies, made his house a “museum” that exhibits the precious woodwork he made during a dozen years of production of miniature redwood furniture and pavilions. Local villager Ying Mingju, who is skilled at making straw hats, changed the place where she used to keep firewood in her house into a “display stand” for her handiwork, which has become a tourist attraction of the village. Meanwhile, an abandoned farm in Chengyang has been turned into a livestreaming studio ingeniously by the art work group.


In less than one year, local people improved 60 spots including market, park and exhibition hall. They have witnessed huge changes to their living environment and production space.


Today, the brand new Chengyang village, which is picturesquely decorated by ancient trees, grey walls, green waters, gallery bridges, large-scale artworks, exhibition halls, and woodwork workshops, is filled with a cultural atmosphere.


Art has made residents in Chengyang village more passionate about revitalizing their hometown. Because of the participation of villagers, enterprises, and experts in cultural and tourism industries, Chengyang has witnessed more and more changes, with an increasing number of villagers contributing to the revitalization of the village through artistic creation.


The beautified village has also generated investment and business opportunities. As tourism in the village thrives, businesses related to catering, special and agricultural products, handicrafts and agritainment are booming, and the villagers are living a more prosperous life.

more recommended stories