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Qijiang Farmers' Prints: Portraits of Rural Life and Urban Impressions

By HU HUI|Mar 25,2024

To the south of the main urban area of Chongqing lies a city born by the river - Qijiang. The Ministry of Culture of China awards it as the “Hometown of Modern Chinese Folk Painting” and the “Hometown of Chinese Folk Culture and Art.” The most representative is the Qijiang Farmers’ Prints.

On March 20th, at the special event of Perception of Chongqing: Listen to Chongqing held in Qijiang District, think tank experts and international students visited the Qijiang Farmers’ Printmaking Institute together, experiencing the urban literary style and vitality depicted by this traditional art form.

At the Listening to Chongqing event in Qijiang. (Photo/Zhao Guogan)

Long and profound history

When you walk into the Qijiang Farmers’ Printmaking Institute, you will be amazed by the simple, fresh, and colorful farmers’ prints. The institute’s director, Liu Yue, explained that Qijiang Farmers’ Prints originated from the wooden New Year prints of the Ming and Qing dynasties. They are a type of handmade artwork in which images are first carved onto wooden blocks and then printed. In 2011, they were listed in the Intangible Cultural Heritage Protection Directory of Chongqing Municipality.

Liu Yue introduces the history of Qijiang Farmers’ Prints. (Photo/Zhao Guogan)

“The printmakers are all native mud-legged people (farmers). They work in the fields during busy farming seasons and pick up carving knives and wooden blocks to depict life scenes during their leisure time. Therefore, these prints are full of ‘Bayu flavor’ and represent the life of farmers. “After listening to Liu Yue’s introduction, Wang Yongqiang, a think tank expert from Sichuan International Studies University, gave a thumbs up in admiration.

Innovation with greater vitality

On the third floor of the printmaking institute, 57-year-old Li Chengzhi is in her studio, which is filled with piles of prints outlining the latest sketches. She is a representative inheritor of Qijiang Farmers’ Prints and has been devoted to print creation for over 30 years.

Li Chengzhi talks about her printmaking career. (Photo/Zhao Guogan)

From “small scenes” that show individual life experiences such as going to the market, autumn harvest, raising chickens, bullfighting, and cooling off to the “big themes” and “big scenes” of the “Top Ten Folk Festivals” and “Filial Piety Culture” series, in Li Chengzhi’s works, the guests saw the continuous expansion of the themes and expression forms in Qijiang farmers’ prints. Wang Yongqiang believes that the painters’ spirit of constantly pursuing innovation and breakthroughs in artistic creation has given Qijiang farmers’ prints more vitality.

Development and industrialization exploration

Walking into Huang Yuanyuan’s studio, deputy director of the Qijiang Farmers’ Printmaking Institute, she spread out paper to start her personal creation. In addition to artistic creation, Huang Yuanyuan also has a more important task: promoting and popularizing Qijiang farmers’ prints so that more people, especially the younger generation, can understand and master the traditional skills of printmaking.

Huang Yuanyuan introduces the creative process of printmaking. (Photo/Zhao Guogan)

It is heartening to see more and more young creators joining the Qijiang Farmers’ Printmaking Institute, including the current director, Liu Yue, a member of the “80s generation” who graduated from the Printmaking Department of Sichuan Fine Arts Institute. “Young talents from different backgrounds continue to join the creative team, greatly enhancing the creative vitality of farmers’ prints art,” Liu Yue said. Not only that but there is also a group of young people dedicated to designing cultural and creative products related to prints. They have developed hundreds of artistic and creative products, including scarves and phone cases featuring print patterns.

Thanks to the efforts of many people like Liu Yue, Qijiang farmers’ printmaking has been passed down from generation to generation. Public welfare training and cultural festival activities have been conducted on campuses, communities, villages, and courtyards. Printmaking works have also been invited to the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, and France. It has been exhibited in more than 40 countries, including Australia, and thousands of works have been collected by the National Art Museum of China, provincial (municipal) museums, Chinese embassies abroad, and foreign art museums.

Printmaking cultural and creative products. (Photo/Zhao Guogan)

After the visit, think tank experts and international students also experienced printmaking with great interest and completed their printmaking works. Wang Difei, an international student from Laos, said that she hopes more international students and foreign tourists will come to Qijiang to experience it and export Qijiang farmers’ prints all over the world.


A Tour in Chongqing, A Gain in Vision

A Land of Natural Beauty, A City with Cultural Appeal

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