After an extended period of preparation, “Long March Project—The Great Survey of Paper-cutting in Yanchuan County” (2004) was officially launched in 2004.
Over the course of one year, Lu Jie, Chief Curator of Long March Project, frequently travelled from Beijng to northern Shaanxi for research, liaison, and preparation work in light of the survey. With the consult and support of Professor Jin Zhilin from Central Academy of Fine Arts and further assistance from the People’s Government of Yanchuan county, the survey was soon in full swing. The Cultural Bureau of Yanchuan county was responsible for overseeing the execution of the project, whilst the county government provided support by selecting female cadres experienced in grassroots work from various county departments to join the cadres from the county’s Cultural Center to form a working survey committee. With further support from the local organization, “Yellow River Ecology and Culture Preservation Association,” the final survey committee was established, consisting of 5 teams, 15 sub-units, and a total of 65 members.
The exhibition “The Power of the Public Realm” was held at Long March Space, marking a key step in the development of Long March Project. The exhibition lasted for over half a year, attracting over 20,000 visitors.
Lu Jie, Chief Curator of Long March Project, became acquainted with Professor Jin Zhilin from Central Academy of Fine Arts. In the few months that ensued, they frequently met with each other to discuss issues surrounding traditional culture and folk art. Lu was deeply moved by Professor Jin, who visited northern Shaanxi every year to help Yanchuaan county build a folk art village and a folk museum, despite being over 70 of age.
January 2, 2004
Lu Jie, together with the Long March artist Xiao Xiong and Professor Jin Zhilin, flew to Yan’an from Beijing, and arrived in Yanchuan on the same day for their research trip on folk art in Shaanxi. During the trip, they reached a consensus: while the tradition of paper-cutting could still be found in Shaanxi, its future development faced many challenges. How to establish a new beginning? The answer was to launch an extensive survey. Lu Jie argued that our engagement with paper-cutting should not be confined by merely the notion of “preservation”; instead, we must come to a new understanding, that “paper-cutting is also part of contemporary art.” Lu believed we must take this understanding as the point of departure to refine folk art and contemporary art.
January 4, 2004
“Long March space” was inaugurated in Xiaocheng in Tugang township, Yanchuan county, a village by the Yellow River. Long March now had its base in northern Shaanxi.
January 5, 2004
January 6, 2004
Lu Jie and Jin Zhilin visited Longdong to do research on folk art. During the trip, they frequently discussed the importance of launching a survey of folk art. Lu proposed having Long March organize a survey of paper-cutting in Yanchuan county.
Lu Jie began doing academic research to prepare for the survey.
During his visit to Hangzhou for the international academic conference, “Edges of the Earth: Parallel Temporalities in Asia,” Lu Jie shared the recent work of Long March in northern Shaanxi with Xu Jiang, the Principal of Chinese Academy of Fine Arts. Based on his visits to northern Shaanxi, Lu suspected that out of the 80,000 women in Yanchuan, over 10,000 of them were trained in paper-cutting. It made him realize a dilemma: on one hand, paper-cutting remained the most vital, expressive, and potent strand of folk art in Shaanxi; on the other hand, it was facing a great deal of challenges. If we approached paper-cutting from the perspective of contemporary art, would it generate new meanings? Xu Jiang gave a positive review to Long March’s work, calling its approach a “bottom-up” one.
In Beijing, Lu Jie met with the chief curators of Shanghai Biennale, Zheng Shengtian and Zhang Qing, and assistant curator Gao Shiming, for several rounds of discussions about the great survey of paper-cutting and its connections with the theme of the biennale——“Techniques of the Visible.” Lu Jie and Jin Lizhi continued their discussion on the great survey.
Long March received an official invitation from the Shanghai Biennale committee. The preparation for the great survey was well under way, and this chance to debut the survey results in Shanghai seemed all the more significant: it was, in fact, the artists from Shanghai who first travelled to Yan’an to deliver the fruits of revolutionary art to the Shaanxi-Gansu-Ningxia Border Area. It is difficult to imagine how much of the literary and artistic canon of the new China was a product of the alliance between Shanghai and Yan’an. If the art of northern Shaanxi people could now be introduced to Shanghai, would it generate new meanings in the contemporary art context?
Launching the Survey
Mr.Jin Zhilin met with Feng Zhendong, the Head of Yanchuan county who was visiting Beijing for a conference, and they established partnership between Long March and the Yanchuan County Government. Soon, the Director of Yanchuan county’s Yellow River Ecology and Culture Preservation Committee and senior researcher of paper-cutting art, Feng Shanyun, traveled to Bejing for a meeting at Jin’s apartment with Jin, Lu Jie, and Exhibition Director of Long March Space who was also responsible for the survey project, Xiao Xiong, where they together worked out the details of the project.
Yanchuan county government assigned great priorities to the project and held several meetings to discuss ways to best support “Long March Project—The Great Survey of Paper-cutting in Yanchuan County.”
June 3, 2004
Yanchuan county government issued Document No.25 and Document No.29 calling for county-wide support for the survey, and established a supervising committee consisting of key leaders from the Cultural Beaureau, Education Bureau, Police Bureau, and Urban Planning Bureau in the county. The committee was led by Yan Zuchuan, the Deputy Head of Yanchuan county specializing in cultural management.
June 9, 2004
Feng Shanyun, Director of Yanchuan county’s Yellow River Ecology and Culture Preservation Committee and a member of the Cultural Bureau, gathered 15 locals in Tugang village for a leaders’ training session. The team of leaders began working in Tugang as an experimental unit the next day. They convened 5 days later for a roundup, after which they launched the official survey. The committee was divided into 6 groups, and each group was separated into 3 smaller units. Each unit was assigned with a car.
June 30, 2004
Long March team members Xiao Xiong and David Tung arrived in Yanchuan and were greeted by Deputy Head of Yanchuan county Yan Chuanzhu, Head of Cultural Bureau Yang Yan’an, amd Director of the Yellow River Ecology and Culture Preservation Committee Feng Shanyun. The same afternoon, they visited the office of the survey committee to inspect the completed results from 4 villages.
July 1, 2004
The Long March team went with survey unit No.4 to Hui Juyuan village in Yan Chasi township to conduct the survey. They stayed in the village for the night, where the female members of the research unit performed the northern Shaanxi folksong, The East is Red.
July 2, 2004
At 6 o’clock in the morning, the research unit arrived in Ma Jiaqian village to conduct the survey. It was during the busy farm season, and the unit must take advantage of the time between 6 and 8 in the morning, between 12 and 2 at noon, and from 7 to 9 at night for the survey.
In the afternoon, Head of the county, Mr.Feng, visited the Long March team and inspected the survey work. That night, he held a get-together with the Long March team in Peizhi village.
July 3, 2004
The Long March team went to Xiaocheng Folk Art Village in Tugang township and Yellow River Folk Custom Museum in Nianpan village for fieldwork. In Xiaocheng village, other than an administrative head elected through popular vote, there was a “village art leader” elected also through popular vote—Cheng Wen. The Yellow River Folk Custom Museum was a museum run entirely by local village men on a model of collective ownership. It was built and managed by the local peasants.
July 5, 2004
The Long March team followed survey team No.3 to Fanjiachuan village in Jiajiaping township to continue the survey. One of the survey subjects was an 84-year-old woman with bound feet whose last name was Zhang (she had no first name and went by her husband’s surname). The village was known as the “Village of Daoqing Drama,” and there were several amateur theater groups run by the local peasants.
July 6, 2004
The Long March team followed survey team No.2 to Tianjiayuan village and Shangdamu village in Yanggetai township to continue the survey. Only 32 households lived in Tianjiayuan village, and 28 of the local residents were women. Li Cuifang, a paper-cutting master living in Shangdamu village, was the party representative of the village.
July 7, 2004
A rainstorm caused a major roadblock, and the survey teams did not manage to leave Dayu Mountain Resort.
July 8, 2004
The Long March team interviewed the leader of survey unit No.3 and Party Secretary of the County Cultural Bureau, Liu Shengdong, and the unit member Feng Ruimei. They shared their thoughts on the survey and the problems they encountered during its implementation.
July 9, 2004
The survey station convened a meeting among the five leaders of the research groups. Xiao Xiong delivered a presentation as the representative of Long March and reinstated the purpose of the survey. The leaders had a heated discussion about presented difficulties and possible solutions.
July 10, 2004
A rainstorm kept the survey units from visiting more villages.
July 11, 2004
The Long March team followed research unit No.5 to Yangjiawan village located on the outskirts of the Yanchuan county town. Ma Cuilan, a 22-year-old, confessed she was grateful that she moved to this village after marriage. Because of her husband’s private problems, they hadn’t had a child after 6 years of marriage. To her, papercutting bore her hope to have a lively family.
July 12, 2004
The Long March team interviewed Gao Hexiao, a disabled paper-cut artist living in the county town. Gao was renowned in Shaanxi for his papercutting artisanship. Xi’an Film Studio once made a TV series named Red Crescent Moon about his life. He could earn over 100,000 RMB a year for his papercut work. He had taught paper-cutting in town to over 200 students for free.
July 13, 2004
The Long March team arrived in Gecao, a remote village on the outskirts of Majiahe township, for an exclusive interview with the 80-year-old Gao Guilian. The old lady’s eldest daughter-in-law suffered from mentally illness, and one of her younger granddaughters was mute, so her other granddaughter who was only 12-year-old had to take on all the housework, and the family faced serious financial burdens. The secretary of the county’s party committee who traveled with the team to the village decided to donate 200 RMB to them. The secretary said it was enough to cover the living expenses for the household for a whole year. The team returned to town in the evening and ate instant noodles together while it rained. After dinner, they had a meeting with the township secretary Zhang Xiangrong to discuss coordinating strategies, which lasted till 3am.
July 14, 2004
A rainstorm kept the project team in the village.
July 16, 2004
Lu Jie, Jin Zhilin and the photographer Wang Hongjin arrived in Yanchuan and met with the survey committee.
July 17, 2004
The survey committee convened in the conference hall located on the 3rd floor of the County Government Center for a meeting to share their experiences of conducting the survey.
July 18, 2004
Another meeting was held in the conference hall at the County Government Center, where leaders and unit members with different responsibilities reported on their progress and drawbacks.
July 19, 2004
Jin Zhilin and Lu Jie travelled to Gaojiayuan village in Wenanyi township to conduct the survey. The township leader was named Li Gao. The village consisted of 14 households, with a population just over 40; more than 20 of them were women, and 14 of them were trained in paper-cutting. Once part of the Chinese Soviet Republic, the village was historically more affluent than other parts of the region; it did not even suffer famine during seasons plagued by natural disasters.
July 20, 2004
Donggetai village in Yuju township had 80 households, and 20 percent of the population had migrated elsewhere for work. A majority of the households shared the surname Zhang, and the rest were Lis, Lius, and Fengs. The wife of the village leader, Feng Xinlian, was a paper-cutting master; interestingly, she took most of her inspirations from TV series. Whenever she saw a scene she liked on TV she would remember the imagery and would later turn the imagery into a papercut work.
July 21, 2004
Xiao Xiong, Wang Hongjin, and Yue Lupin visited Gao Fenglian’s house to film an interview.
July 22, 2004
The Long March team reviewed the survey documents at the survey station. That night, the Yellow River Ecology and Culture Preservation Association hosted a dinner for the Long March team.
July 23, 2004
The Long March team continued reviewing the documents. During a survey group leaders’ meeting, they handed out records of their survey group members and discussed strategies for the next stage. While Jin Zhilin visited Xiaocheng village, Yue Lupin returned to Xi’an. The rest of the day was spent on preparing for tomorrow’s signing ceremony.
July 24, 2004
3pm, the “Long March Project—The Great Survey of Paper-cutting in Yanchuan County Signing Ceremony” was held in conference room 202 of the County Government Center. The ceremony was hosted by Li Mantao, Deputy Secretary of the County Party Committee; Feng Zhendong, the County Head, and Lu Jie from Long March Project, both signed the documents and exchanged their copy. The ceremony was attended by the survey group leaders, representatives of the team members, and key leaders from the county departments. At the meeting, Mr.Feng encouraged the county departments and township leaders to actively support the survey. Mr.Feng held a dinner party in the evening, after which they had a calligraphy contest in Jin Zhilin’s office.
July 25, 2004
Due to the rainstorm, the survey was on hold for the day, and all survey team members stayed at the Dayu Mountain Resort.
July 26, 2004
As Lu Jie returned to Beijing, Xiao Xiong and David Tung stayed in Yanchuang for further survey work.
July 27, 2004
The team visited the five nature villages located in Yongping township. Located on the northwest side of the county, the villages were over 40 miles away from downtown. Home to one of the largest oil refining companies in the county, the area was given the moniker “Little Hong Kong” by local Yanchuan people for its booming economy. Ma Haiyan, a 31-year-old resident of Yongping village in Yongping township, picked up papercutting when she saw it on TV and became convinced she could also excel in it. Due to her husband’s job in the oil fields, most of her works depicted their life in the oil fields and seemed to fall under the doctrine of social realism. One of her works depicted how lower-class workers flattered the leaders when they came down to the fields for inspection. During an interview, she said that if we found her work good she would continue paper-cutting; if not, she would never touch the scissor again in her life.
July 28, 2004
While David continued his fieldwork wth Mr.Feng, Xiao Xiong stayed in the survey office to organize files and discussed the remaining schedule for the survey with Feng Shanyun.
July 29, 2004
The Long March team arrived in Hedong district in Yanchuan township to visit Hao shuzhen, a 66-year retired teacher and a paper-cutting master. Born in a red family, her grandfather was an underground party member during the Chinese Civil war and was killed by the Kuomintang in Qingjian county. Her husband volunteered to join the army in 1950. In the afternoon, they visited Suya village in Yanshuiguan township to see a dance performance by the local yangge dance group. Here they met Liu Sannv, a local villager who knew how to cut the classic pattern of the “suffering person.”
July 30 – 31, 2004
The team stayed in the survey office to review the survey documents.
August 1, 2004
The team visited Gao Fenglian’’s home, where they re-ordered her large-scale papercutting work, The Grant Archway, photographed it, and mailed it to Beijing. That night, the team helped rescue someone at Dayu Mountain Region, and the whole procedure was filmed by Xiao Xiong.
August 2, 2004
The Deputy Chief of the County Police Bureau visited the team with reporters from the county TV station and asked for a copy of the video documentation of last night’s rescue. The Deputy Chief insisted on taking the Long March team out to lunch, but the team kindly refused.
August 3 – 5, 2004
August 6, 2004
Xiao Xiong had another intense argument with Feng Shanyun about the survey.
August 7 – 25, 2004
The team compiled and reviewed all the survey documents. David returned to Beijing, whilst Xiao Xiong stayed to continue working on the project.
August 26, 2004
The team assorted the 15,006 surveys and stored them in 8 red wooden boxes with the character “Xi” (happiness) printed over each of them. The County Water Conservation Bureau provided the team with a 1.25-ton pickup truck to ship the documents along the Beijing-Zhuhai Espressway to return to Beijing. The return trip was accompanied by: Yang Fei, the leader of one of the research groups; Feng Fen, the survey team photographer; Young Zhang, the County Water Conservation Bureau driver; and Xiao Xiong from Long March.
August 28, 2004
At 11:53pm, all the survey documents was returned safely to the 25,000 Cultural Transmission Center. Lu Jie led the entire Long March team to welcome the delivery team upon their arrival.