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Nostalgic murals help village paint a future

Images depicting rural life have become a tourist attraction, boosting local incomes and pride, Yang Feiyue and Li Yingqing report.

By Yang Feiyue and Li Yingqing | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2024-04-08 07:39

A cow, part of the village's legendary narrative, is among many inspirations that Li received from residents about rural life. [Photo provided to China Daily]

"I have published many books abroad and organized art exhibitions, in the hopes of making our culture and customs known to more people. But I have always had a wish, which is to bring my comics about nostalgia back to my hometown. So, these murals can be considered as fulfilling that wish," Li says.

The endeavor was something of a challenge, as Li had never painted on walls before. The biggest difficulty was the difference in perspective.

"When I draw on paper, I can see the overall effect at a glance, but with murals, you need some distance to see clearly. It was difficult to grasp this at the beginning, such as how large a figure should be drawn, which required me to adapt constantly," Li says.

Other challenges included needing to rely on his intuition without making drafts, and improvising as he went along.

His goal was to convey a sense of nostalgia, which he says is "a complex, yet rich sentiment that needs diverse content and formats to express".

In order to save time commuting back and forth, Li decided to stay in Duqu, immersing himself in the daily lives of the villagers.

"After I arrived, they were very happy and welcomed me with open arms," Li says. "They felt a sense of familiarity seeing their lives depicted on the walls."

At the beginning, he leaned more toward rural landscapes, without much of a narrative, but in the process of painting, he says he came to understand that there were many interesting aspects about the village.

"For example, some people told me about a legendary white cow in their village, which is very rare for locals. The villagers are proud of it, so I painted an image of it," he says.

He also drew inspiration from the villagers themselves.

"While I was painting, an elderly couple holding hands walked past me. I found this very moving, and conveniently, there was a wall nearby, so I painted this real-life scene on it," he says.

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