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.
( 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
( 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.
( 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
( Lǜhuà huánjìng, jìnghuà xīnlíng )
Green the environment, Purify the soul
( Bǎohù shuǐyuán, dùjué wūrǎn )
Protect water sources, Eliminate pollution
( 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
( Jiànshè xīn nóngcūn, chàngdǎo xīn shēnghuó )
Building a new countryside, Initiating a new life
( 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.