Art empowers rural revitalization in Shaanxi village

By Dong Senhe | | Updated: 2024-06-21 13:57
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The entrance of Caijiapo village of Xi'an city, Shaanxi province. [Photo provided to]

Nestled at the northern foot of the Qinling Mountains, Caijiapo, a village in the Huyi district of Xi'an, the capital city of Shaanxi province, is full of artistic atmosphere, with various styles of art pieces adorning the fields, houses and country roads.

Once impoverished, Caijiapo has now transformed into an art hub, where the village history museum, art gallery, and rural theater have been built, along with the opening of numerous cafes and guesthouses. Local residents are embracing an artistic lifestyle in which they can enjoy dramas and visit art exhibitions right at their doorstep.

This remarkable transformation began six years ago when Wu Xiaochuan, a professor from the Xi'an Academy of Fine Arts, led a group of students to the village to create art. Upon his first visit to Caijiapo, Wu was captivated by its charm. So he and his team decided to rent 5 mu (0.33 hectares) of wheat land and create various artworks in the fields, such as a giant bird's nest built high up from branches and straw.

Initially met with confusion by villagers as avant-garde art forms were displayed without context or relevance to their daily lives, Wu realized that integration was necessary for acceptance and resonance within the community.

Then a breakthrough came in hosting the first "Guanzhong Mangba Arts Festival." The word "Mangba" originally referred to a period after busy work originated from an ancient custom in Guanzhong region, the central part of Shaanxi province, and the Mangba Festival is usually held after summer harvests when villagers exchange production experience while visiting relatives during this busy-and-idle time.

Integrated with the Mangba Festival, Wu and the students set up a 100-square-meter stage in the fields after the summer harvest. They invited Qinqiang Opera troupes, aerobics teams, and folk music groups to participate in the art festival and perform on the stage. Immersed in the moving Qinqiang singing and folk songs, the locals were delighted, and the entire village came alive with energy.

This event struck a positive chord. In 2018, the first year of the festival attracted a large number of tourists, providing a new market for the village's agricultural products. From then on, villagers volunteered actively to improve greening efforts, renovate old houses, and open guesthouses.

From mere spectators to active participants, residents in the Caijiapo village, together with artists and the local government, made joint efforts to build this artistic community to achieve rural revitalization.

In 2023, the village's collective economic income hit 718,000 yuan ($98,897), with a per capita annual income increasing to 22,918 yuan compared with that of 8,655 yuan in 2013.

The construction of the art village has also catalyzed the emergence of fresh consumption scenes in Caijiapo and its neighboring areas, including coffee shops, art galleries, camping retreats, and more, which has given rise to a spectrum of industries such as guesthouses, agritourism, cultural and artistic craftsmanship, as well as rural recreational excursions.

Nowadays, numerous urbanites have been drawn to this locale to launch ventures and settle down, while more and more talents are progressively rekindling their ties with rural life.

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