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Chuangtzu project: Where art, spirituality and government policy meet

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In a previous article we mentioned the "Three Green Brands" of Yunnan's provincial policies. Government bodies at all levels aim to incorporate projects pertaining to Green Energy, Green Food and Agriculture and Healthy Living Destinations in their planning. Another spearhead — at national policy level — is poverty alleviation. The article mentioned describes how this has resulted in a plan for a shiny new development project, aimed at improving sustainable tourism and job opportunities close by Kunming, by developing infrastructure and facilities.

Chuangtzu Project

Recently, we made an excursion to another project of which the main drivers are "Green Food and Agriculture" and "Healthy Living Destination", but this time combined with art and a do-it-yourself spirit. Chuangtzu Project is a new experimental art community, founded by conceptual artist Mu Yuming (木玉明) and made up of young artists from China and all over the world.

The project is headquartered in the rural town of Bajie (in Anning Prefecture, but quite far south of the actual town of Anning) where they converted the old town courthouse — allowed by the local government — into a creative compound, with artists' studios, living spaces, offices, vegetable gardens, tea houses, a café, galleries, and performance spaces in the making. Nearby is the beautiful San He Temple, another close partner of the project.

We employ a combination of Eastern and Western philosophies and arts to learn new techniques, to create work, and to bring different people together in creative dialogue.

Chuangtzu project is interesting, in that it has a very different scale and scope from the large development mentioned before. It is an informal community project where art, provincial policies, spirituality and the international community meet, and where the "Three Green Brands" and poverty alleviation goals of the local government hope to find fruition through grassroots collaboration.

We take the ancient thinkers Laozi and Zhuangzi as inspirations: all things have their use, and nothing goes to waste. We use found materials to build our own environment as we imagine it. All by creatively using materials that others have discarded or considered useless. Our focus is the creation of art that brings people together in dialogue and gives back to the community.

Open Studios Weekend

This coming weekend they are organizing their first open studio weekend — Chuangtzu Project welcomes everyone to come and have a look and participate. Several art exhibitions will be on show, alongside works-in-progress by the artists in residence. There will be live music, group art activities suitable for all ages and refreshments from the café. It is a great opportunity to get out of the big city, experience art and conversation, sample local delicacies, and explore the countryside.

The open studio event also coincides with the annual Anning Enduro Motorbike Race, which always draws a big crowd, so there will be lots of other festivities and concerts to enjoy around the center.


Troubled Landscapes — Paintings by Mu Yuming
Conceptual artist Mu Yuming — co-founder of Lijiang Studio — presents new paintings that use the ancient Chinese art of landscape painting to look critically at environmental pollution in contemporary China, with a focus on rural Yunnan Province. Mu has created and exhibited all over the world and studied in China, Norway and the Netherlands.

Shuosan and the Dianhangcao Cultural Center — A documentary by Edward Columbia
Writer, producer, director, actor and researcher of ethnic minority culture in China Edward Columbia presents a short documentary film about a pioneering artist and his independent cultural center devoted to Hani-Akha ethnic minority culture in the mountains of Xishuangbanna. Edward has a Ba in East Asian Studies from Yale University.

Bodyclock — Performance piece by Genevieve Ameyom
Genevieve Simmons is a musician, dancer, photographer, and literary translator with a
Bs in Cognitive Science from Yale University. She presents a performance art video recording, in which she embodies a clock for 13 continuous hours, from sunrise to sunset, with one hand marking minutes and the other marking hours. By remaining silent and in place throughout the day, marking time, she examines the often-unnoticed effects that time has on our bodies, and challenges her own body's capacity for stillness. Video projection with live music by the artist.

Café and Bakery
Visitors are invited to sample fresh-baked bread, freshly ground coffee, and other refreshments from the café and bakery, prepared by Masha Ponkratova (玛莎). Snacks are free of charge. Fresh bread and pastries are also available for purchase.

Group Mural Activity
Visitors of all ages are invited to take part in painting two walls of the center — whichever way they want! Painting materials are provided by Chuangtzu Project.

Group Sculpture Activity
Visitors are invited to take part in continuing to build an "Ever-growing Tree," a vertical sculpture in the center courtyard made of found objects.

Local Flower Pastries
Bajie is the birthplace of modern rose petal farming in Yunnan, with a history of over forty years. Enjoy complimentary locally produced rose cakes and other local delicacies from Bajie friends and learn more about how these products are made.

Tea Rooms and Garden
Visitors are welcome to enjoy free, high-quality Yunnan tea in the tea rooms and adjoining garden. There will be lots of good conversation and opportunities to learn about the art of Yunnan tea from local experts.

Practical information

When: Saturday, October 26th and Sunday October 27th
Time: 12:00pm - 7:00pm daily
Where: ChuangTzu Project, 80 Qingyun Road (The Old Courthouse), Bajie Township, Anning City
Cost: free

How to get there

Take the Number 17 Bus from Kunming Xiao Ximen Station to Anning East Lake (10 yuan), and then take the Number 9 Bus to Bajie Residential District Passenger Terminal for (5 yuan). The total travel time is about three hours.

The return route is the same. For a same-day round-trip, it would be best to depart Kunming in the morning around 8am and leave Bajie in the late afternoon.

By Didi it's about 150 RMB one way from Kunming to Chuangtzu, and it takes about an hour and a half.


You can also stay overnight in Bajie. There are several basic hotels within a few blocks of the Chuangtzu Project, all of which have rooms starting around 100 RMB per night. The best of these is the Xinfujing Hotel (鑫福景宾馆) at 17 Bajing Road, which starts at 105 RMB per night.

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