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Nostalgic murals help village paint a future

Images depicting rural life have become a tourist attraction, boosting local incomes and pride, Yang Feiyue and Li Yingqing report.

By Yang Feiyue and Li Yingqing | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2024-04-08 07:39
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A villager walks past a mural by cartoonist Li Kunwu, 69, who has injected an artistic vibe into Duqu village, Kunming, Yunnan province. [Photo provided to China Daily]

A wall painting of happy villagers playing musical instruments, accompanied by an attentive dog, draws the eye the moment one sets foot in Duqu village. The mural graces the wall of a power distribution room near the entrance to the village on the banks of Dianchi Lake, about 50 kilometers to the southwest of downtown Kunming, capital of Yunnan province.

Walking a bit farther inside, two larger wall paintings reveal themselves. They face onto the village square, which doubles up as a parking lot and as a place to dance.

One features scenes of residents singing and dancing together, and the other a panoramic view of the village that highlights landmarks, such as its lotus flower pool and an old temple.

Others telling the story of Duqu's origins, the local way of life, as well as folk culture, are scattered around the village.

They are all the work of Li Kunwu, 69, a well-known cartoonist, who won the 2010 best history cartoon award at the Les Rendez-vous de l'Histoire in France, one of the largest historical book fairs in Europe.

"When I was young, I also lived in a village next to Dianchi Lake, and the first time I entered Duqu, I felt its rustic, quaint atmosphere, untouched by commercialization, which I really liked a lot," says Li, from Kunming, who was named a cultural ambassador for Dianchi by local authorities in March last year.

The role has since given him incentives to conduct research and field trips to villages along the banks of the lake.

Li's original plan was simply to hold an art exhibition in Duqu, but upon arriving in the village, he decided to paint directly on its walls, so his work would be better integrated with the village setting.

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