Site 5: Lijiang, Yunnan Province

Long March- A Walking Visual Display

Time: Jul. 23 – Jul. 27, 2002

Jul. 31 –Aug.01,2002


Curatorial Plan: Kublai Khan and Marshal He Long passing through Shangri La, the pure land on earth in the Sino-Tibetan borderlands – a comprehensive assessment of local cultural ecology and history – on national character

Route: Former Residence of Joseph Rock-Baisha Village - Black Dragon Pond (Dongba Cultural Research Institute) – Ruins of ‘Flying Tigers’ air field – Stone Drum Town – Muwangfu

Time: July 23-17; July 31-August 1, Lijiang

July 31-August 1:Lijiang

Visit the former residence of Joseph Rock 

Visit to one of the “Three Eccentrics” Dr. He Shixiu (Daoist Doctor Ho.)

Qiu Zhijie, Left and Right, performance, 2002

Villagers of Stone Drum Town, Ten Farewells to the Red Army

Guo Fengyi, Dialogue with Judy Chicago, What if Women Ruled the World

Qiu Zhijie, preparation at Dongba Cultural Research Institute

Made in Lijiang, Field Reports by an Anthropologist, Curator and Artist

the Imagined Other – New Media Art Exhibition, at Muwangfu King’s Palace Hotel

Curatorial Plan:

Kunming – Lijiang

July 23

Today the Long Marchers split up, with some flying to Lijiang and others going there by bus. They departed Kunming at 11:00, planning to reach Lijiang by 20:00 that evening. Traveling with the group were artists Guo Fengyi, He Chi, and Hu Liu of Shaanxi Province.

July is Lijiang’s rainy season. According to local residents, it had already rained for ten continuous days. The weather was cold and damp, and the marchers, most of whom were wearing just a single layer of clothing, were cold to the point of shivering. The Long March planned to stop in Lijiang for three days. Because the city of Lijiang is full of tourists, the marchers moved into several separate small guesthouses.

Lijiang, Yunnan Province

July 24 - August 1

Visit the former residence of Joseph Rock

July 25

In the morning, it continued to drizzle throughout Lijiang, and the Long March team booked two cars headed for the former residence of Joseph Rock, located below Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. The Rock residence is hidden away in a tiny hamlet, watched closely by some village elders. It is strictly forbidden to take pictures, and an exhibition was even further off-limits. Long March activities in Lijiang were to take place against the background notion of “Shangri-La,” but it was difficult to know just how to use this significance to the best artistic advantage. It was as if the group had come with a sightseeing mindset. After looking at the dental equipment Rock had designed for the villagers, and snapping some pictures of Shen Maotou with the old, obstinate guard, a torrential downpour began, forcing everyone to sit for a while. As soon as they sat down, they came up with an idea. Qiu Zhijie asked the old man minding the residence whether he had ever seen an issue of National Geographic. The man said he had not. Qiu arranged to send issues of the magazine to the man at fixed intervals from then on, turning the residence into a station for lending the magazine to nearby villagers, subverting the unilateral relationship between reporter and reported. Thus, local people would not remain solely as objects of perception and myth. They would become subjects, able to view the world beyond.

Visit to one of the “Three Eccentrics” Dr. He Shixiu (Daoist Doctor Ho.)

July 25

Around noon, a group went to Baisha village to try some local cuisine, and pay a visit to the first of the “three eccentrics” of Lijiang, Dr. He Shixiu (often noted in Western travel literature as Daoist Doctor Ho.) The doctor used English to answer questions from the Long Marchers. Lu Jie persisted in speaking Chinese, but Dr. He was insistent on this strange convention of using English to speak with his fellow Chinese.

When he heard that Lu Jie had come from New York, the Doctor grew very excited. He bragged that Joseph Rock had been an old friend of his father, and that he had taught him English. This could be neither proven nor denied, but the similarities between his story and that of Xuan Ke, another of Lijiang’s “three eccentrics,” had the group laughing. Conversation led to the story of the Flying Tigers, and at this point, Dr. He actually took out a name card of the daughter of General Claire Chennault, head of the Tigers. Lu Jie asked Dr. He to examine the young Shen Maotou. After Maotou had been examined and given a bag of strange-looking medicines, the group departed.

Qiu Zhijie, Left and Right, performance, 2002

July 25

Amidst tiny raindrops, the Long March arrived at the former site of the Flying Tigers' airport, which has been converted into a driver's license testing facility. Traces of the old runway remained visible, but more visible still were the muddy ruts of cars. On the right-hand side, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain was obscured by fog. The marchers got off the bus with the same attitude that they had toward the Rock residence, yearning to insert this place full of symbolic meaning into their own Long March narrative by piecing together a work of art. Eyes shifted to Qiu Zhijie and his specially made shoes, which say "left" on the right sole and "right" on the left. Everyone watched on as Qiu walked back and forth through the muddy ruts, leaving imprints of "left" and "right." Qiu walked the length of the runway, leaving footprints that were concealed sometimes and visible other times. General Chennault's aide in the anti-Japanese war effort and his later anti-communist stance against China were brought to mind, along with Chennault's Chinese wife, Chen Xiangmei, who was one of the few strands left to bind China and the U.S at that time. These mind-boggling past events were represented by Qiu Zhijie's confused footprints walking along the runway.

Villagers of Stone Drum Town, Ten Farewells to the Red Army

July 26

The curatorial team split into two groups. Lu Jie led several comrades to see the famous dance Ten Farewells to the Red Army, which required a two-hour drive into the mountains outside the city of Lijiang. During the drive, the troops passed Golden Sand River, the area where the Red Army originally crossed the Yangzi River for the first time. Finally, the curatorial crew reached the famous Stone Drum Village. The Red Army used door panels from nearby homes as paddles to reach this village during the original Long March. Ezra Pound has also written a poem, “Stone Drum Village” based on his interpretation of the place. Pound never visited the site.

The curatorial crew and comrades climbed a steep slope to reach the peak of the city, overlooking the mountain landscape and streets below. This is where the annual Red Army dance takes place. Women from mixed generations – the oldest dressed in traditional costume, the youngest dressed in jeans and sweaters – dance together while a thirteen year-old boy plays a traditional wooden flute in the center. The women dance before lush mountains juxtaposed with the city below, and framed by a monumental fifty-foot high Cultural Revolution-era bronze sculpture. During the dance, the curatorial crew erected a Long March flag that bore the New English Calligraphy logo designed by Xu Bing. After the dance, Lu Jie distributed propaganda to the dancers. Town officials quickly intervened so Lu Jie quickly collected the propaganda and the troops headed back to Lijiang.

Guo Fengyi, Dialogue with Judy Chicago, What if Women Ruled the World

The curatorial team led by Qiu Zhijie met comrade Judy Chicago and Donald Woodman at Muwangfu, located deep inside the old town of Lijiang. As a hotel and alternative art space founded by two artists this past February, it is one of many recent attempts in China to bring art and community together. They planned on realizing an artist-in-residence program by the end of 2002. Their emphasis on locality was evident in their planned policy of bringing invited artists directly to Lijiang, without the usual stop in Beijing or Shanghai. Judy Chicago was stunned by such a grassroots approach thriving in this small regional tourist town of Lijiang. She took it as a sign of the innate energy of the contemporary Chinese art scene.

After an introduction to the space, Chicago met Guo Fengyi in the hotel lobby, where the walls were brightened by Guo’s paintings. Born in 1942, Guo is a self-taught artist who began painting in 1989. Since hearing about the Lugu Lake project and If Women Ruled the World, Guo had been engaging herself, through her paintings, in a dialogue and an imaginary journey to Lugu Lake with Chicago. The ten paintings exhibited bore titles such as Lugu Lake, Lijiang, The Mosuo, Kunming, and If Women Ruled the World. Guo expressed her vision of a world ruled by women to Chicago as “beautiful and complete.”

The meeting reaches a climax when Guo presented a painting especially done for Chicago. Chicago warmly accepted the work and commented, “The work makes me think of a woman powerfully emerging from underneath the shoes which have been stepping upon her.” Before closing the meeting, Guo gave a demonstration of her painting in public, revealing the fascinating creative process behind her work. In the middle of a blank sheet of paper, she first wrote the title of the work, Black Dragon Pool in calligraphy. The work then spread outward with this word as its center. Chicago saw a parallel with many other works by women artists in other parts of the world that position the center of the work as its centripetal force. After the painting demonstration, the two artists exchanged a warm hug, a moment which connected an internationally renowned artist from the United States, who has been working strenuously on cultivating a new horizon for women, with a regional artist from Xi’an, China.

Qiu Zhijie, preparation at Dongba Cultural Research Institute

Earlier in the day, in order to prepare for the exhibition at Lugu Lake, Qiu Zhijie found time to call on the Dongba Cultural Research Institute located at Black Dragon Pond. He asked teachers and students of the Dongba language to help him translate the important menus in the Microsoft Windows operating system into Dongba. This historically unprecedented translation project seemed quite difficult to the teachers and students. This was the first time that ancient Dongba pictographs had been used to write such expressions as “My Documents” or “Modem.” The students and teachers entered into heated debate, which was often resolved only by using homophonic characters. For example, the “yin” sound that begins the Chinese expression for “adjust volume” was rendered as the Dongba pictograph for “eagle,” which is pronounced “ying” in Chinese. This method had Qiu Zhijie very excited; a task that he had previously deemed impossible was in fact a way for these two cultures to interact. At last, Qiu snuck off to buy a few works of calligraphy to give to the students and teachers as gifts, and returned home, hands full of Dongba translations of Windows.

Location: Muwangfu

August 1

10:30. Judy Chicago and Donald Woodman left Lijiang to return home via Shanghai, leaving behind a letter addressed to all participating artists in the Lugu Lake project.

11:00. Lu Jie received a phone call from an undisclosed individual in Kunming, warning him to act with caution in Lijiang. Apparently, the visit to the Red Army Dance on July 26 had drawn extra attention from the local officials. Qiu Zhijie spent the whole morning and afternoon locked in his room finishing work to be exhibited in that night’s Lijiang Fieldwork Report exhibition. Meanwhile, Lu Jie continued to buy faux-indigenous souvenirs.

In the afternoon, the marchers prepared the exhibition at Muwangfu. Muwangfu is located in the heart of Lijiang’s old town, the residence and office of a Naxi prince through the Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties. Muwangfu Guesthouse was a guesthouse built in the style of a traditional Naxi home. It has a natural well in its courtyard, and through modern design, has been supplemented with a downstairs restaurant, an upstairs bar, and a small hotel. The owner is a middle-aged man from Beijing, Zhu Yiguang. The other owner is Pan Xiulong, a painter, who was then in Beijing preparing for the upcoming Snow Mountain Music Festival.

Made in Lijiang, Field Reports by an Anthropologist, Curator and Artist

18:00-24:00 The long-awaited exhibition entitled Lijiang Fieldwork Report was held; it included a display of three “un-art” projects initiated by a curator, an anthropologist, and Lu Jie’s work that explored the idea of “made in Lijiang,” or rather the making of Lijiang. There was also a Long March video installation that did not belong to a single artist. Its raison d’etre was to create the visual effect needed to begin a discourse. (A “Long March Installation” was supposed to subvert the value system of art/non-art.)

Lu Jie laid out his newly acquired collection of Lijiang products on the long table in the center of the room: a fake coin with faces of China’s four famous beauties, an exotic wooden sculpture which looked more like African craft than Yunnanese, a straw Marlboro hat, a beaded bag, a T-shirt, a pencil case bearing Mao Zedong’s face, and various other desk ornaments, many of which seemed neither Chinese, Naxi, nor Western. A label was placed in front of each object stating the product’s name, where it was manufactured, and the hometown of the storeowner from which it was bought. It became clear that many of the products and the storeowners were actually from Fujian province, Lu Jie’s home. One of the few goods that were made locally, the straw hat, had little to do with Lijiang identity and instead bore the logo of an American cigarette brand.

The next section of Lu Jie’s work introduced the famous “three eccentrics” of Lijiang: He Zhigang, Doctor He, and Xuan Ke. The exhibition displayed medicines from Dr. He, a ticket to one of Xuan Ke’s performances, and calligraphy written by He Zhigang. Unraveled were the complex realities and sign-systems at work in creating the myth of Lijiang as Shangri-La.

American anthropologist Sasha Welland also displayed her project, in which she had asked all sorts of people to draw a map of Lijiang. These included local Naxi as well as foreign tourists and Chinese from Beijing and Shanghai. Each person used a colored pen to draw the old town from memory. In addition to exhibiting already completed maps, the display also offered the viewer a chance to draw such a map using paper and pens that had been laid out.

On the bar’s public computer, Qiu Zhijie presented Windows ME – Dongba Version, in which he converted the menus and icons of the computer’s operating system into Dongba pictographs. The bar owner thought his computer had come under the spell of a strange virus when he saw this.

On a back wall next to the window overlooking the old town of Lijiang, the curatorial team had set up the Long March Video Installation. Projected on the white screen was the classic American movie Flying Tiger starring John Wayne. It tells a heroic story about the legendary General Claire Lee Chennault and his pilots in the American Volunteer Group who were stationed at the Flying Tiger airport in Lijiang to fight against the Japanese during World War II. At the center of the white screen was an opening with a television monitor showing a documentary video work by Qiu Zhijie. It covers the controversy over Huang Yongping’s proposed work EP-3 Airplane for the Shenzhen Contemporary Sculpture Exhibition in 2001. The work’s alleged over-politicized nature led Huang Yongping to be omitted from the exhibition under French and American pressure. The juxtapositions between the two pieces filled the exhibition space with a sense of tension: ardent air-fighting scenes were in contrast to the stillness of Huang Yongping’s EP-3; the highly idealized portrayal of American soldiers in the film clashed with the expressions of French curators caught off-guard.

The Imagined Other – New Media Art Exhibition, at Muwangfu King’s Palace Hotel

A selection of multi-media work was shown in another corner entitled The Imagined Others. Interactive works by Chen Shaoxiong (Scenery 3), Qiu Zhijie (The West, CD-Rom / Power Point, 2000-present), and Shi Qing, (An Apocalypse to Save the World, CD-Rom, 2001) were accessible to any visitor. Due to pouring rain, there were not too many visitors, but those who had come, stayed around for a while, comfortably interacting with the works over snacks and drinks. Two viewers entered the room, inspecting the exhibition thoroughly. They had some familiarity with contemporary art and they knew about the incident in which Huang Yongping’s sculpture of the American EP3 spy plane, which went down in Hainan in 2001, was removed from the Shenzhen Sculpture Exhibition. They had also read Qiu Zhijie’s well-known article “Meat is Not the Important Thing.” They asked questions about the computer works they didn’t understand, which made the Long March team quite happy. When they departed, they left behind their own map of Lijiang.

The exhibition lasted until midnight. The following day, the curatorial team would depart Lijiang for Kunming. The Long Marchers separated into a few groups to unwind, celebrating the successful completion of the last few stages of the project.