Rural Murals: Country Art on the Way to Lantian

Article by Francis Miller and Jin Zhou

In China, it is inevitable that, at some point, you will find yourself taking the “scenic” route. In this case, we were cycling with some SHIT (Shaanxi Hills International Team) enthusiasts to Zhu Guo Si (祝国寺) along the national road (国道) 210 and couldn’t help but admire the many hundreds of murals along the way (a huge shout out to Marcus and Zerary who waited for all of these photos).

While fresh air came in puffs (punctuated with the odor of manure), we wound our way through villages. There are a wide variety of political slogans, some of which you may recognize around Xi’an. We have even provided pinyin and English translations, in the event you develop a case of culturally-appropriated patriotism.

全员动员扫黑除恶 共建平安和谐蓝田
( Quán yuán dòngyuán sǎo hēi chú è, gòng jiàn píng’ān héxié lántián )
All hands on deck to fight gang crime, Build a peaceful and harmonious Lantian County

心向党 跟党走
( Xīn xiàng dǎng, gēn dǎng zǒu )
Give your heart to the Party, Walk with the Party

( Rénmín duì měi hào shēnghuó de xiàngwǎng jiùshì wǒmen de fèndòu mùbiāo )
The peoples’ yearning for a better life is the goal we fight for

( Zhōngguó mèng: Shíxiàn zhōnghuá mínzú wěidà fùxīng )
The Chinese Dream: Realizing the Great Rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation)

Others are specific to each village and encourage responsible behavior, touting the beauty of the village, or reminding people that prosperity comes from hard work. In fact, in one of the villages, some aunties were proud to tell me that several artists and students from Xi’an Academy of Fine Arts (西安美术学院) came to their village to paint the murals. Some murals contain painstaking three-dimensional detail. Our personal favorites are the electrician and the moth.

注意 安全用电
( Zhùyì ānquán yòng diàn )
Caution! Use electricity safely

( Jiéyuē néngyuán zàofú rénlèi )
Save energy, Benefit mankind

( Xìngfú dōu shì fèndòu chūlái de )
Prosperity comes from hard work

绿化环境 净化心灵
( Lǜhuà huánjìng, jìnghuà xīnlíng )
Green the environment, Purify the soul

保护水源 杜绝污染
( Bǎohù shuǐyuán, dùjué wūrǎn )
Protect water sources, Eliminate pollution

共享文明家园 建设美丽乡村
( Gòngxiǎng wénmíng jiāyuán, jiànshè měilì xiāngcūn )
Share a civilized homeland, Build a beautiful village

家和邻睦 邻里好相处 情深似手足
( Jiā hé lín mù, lín lǐ hǎo xiāngchǔ, qíng shēn sì shǒuzú )
A harmonious home: friendly neighbors treat each other like brothers and sisters

建设新农村 倡导新生活
( Jiànshè xīn nóngcūn, chàngdǎo xīn shēnghuó )
Building a new countryside, Initiating a new life

让美丽乡村 留住乡愁
( Ràng měilì xiāngcūn liú zhù xiāngchóu )
Let the beautiful countryside shelter nostalgia

Some murals are just there to cover a blank wall, to show off the skill and creativity of the artists, or to liven up their surroundings (a bus stop, a community center). They are, nonetheless, spectacularly underappreciated works of art.