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Chinese 3D Street Artist Qi Xinghua Brings Concrete to Life : “A City Needs Its Tattoos”

Chinese 3D artist Qi Xinghua (齐兴华) uses his skills to turn bleak walls in Chinese cities into stunning works of art – he brings concrete to life. But his street art often does not last, as Qi faces different forces that work against him and his work. On social media platform Weibo, Qi’s fans can admire his art online, even if it has already disappeared from the streets.

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Chinese 3D artist Qi Xinghua (齐兴华) uses his skills to turn bleak walls in Chinese cities into stunning works of art – he brings concrete to life. But his street art often does not last, as Qi faces different forces that work against him and his work. On social media platform Weibo, Qi’s fans can admire his art online, even if it has already disappeared from the streets.

“The crocodile is gone again,” – Chinese artist Qi Xinghua posted on his Weibo account on August 25. Earlier this summer, he had transformed the dilapidated part of a Beijing brick wall into a cheeky crocodile, writing: “Beijing has a well-known red brick wall that’s broken. It looks like a scar. I used the nighttime to make it more beautiful. I hope to show that what’s broken can also be interesting. A city needs its tattoos.” But now, the crocodile is gone – the painting’s layer smashed into pieces.

crocodile

On Sina Weibo, painter Qi Xinghua (@齐兴华) describes himself as “China’s first 3D artist” (“中国首位3D画艺术家”). The artist was born in Heilongjiang in 1982. He was inspired by western 3D sidewalk chalk artists, and soon developed an interest to do the same. He enrolled in the Central Academy of Fine Arts, and started focusing on multi-dimensional art in 2002.

 

“Nature confronts me with a difficult problem, and I offer her a humorous solution”.”

 

Since he fully dedicated himself to his 3D art work in 2010, Qi has become a much-praised artist and a four-time Guinness World record holder for making the world’s largest 3D paintings. He is renowned for his incredible designs that can be mind-blowing, often leaving people wondering what is real and what is fantasy.

It is especially because of his record-winning work ‘The Lion’s Gate Gorge’ (狮门峡谷) that Qi received much media attention, with the 3D effect being so strong that some people who stood on the painting even became dizzy.

According to Qi, he uses a technique called ‘reverse version’ or ‘inverse-perspective’. As he told China.org: “From our normal vision, nearby objects are big and far away ones are small. I use the opposite method to make far away objects big and close objects small. In this way, a two-dimensional painting turns three-dimensional.”

Picture1 The Lion’s Gate Gorge (狮门峡谷) by Qi Xinghua; the world’s largest 3D (anamorphic) painting on display  in Guangzhou.

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waterfall‘The Waterfall’ by Qi Xinghua is a depiction of a waterfall in a busy street, that seems to be protruding from the center.

Apart from working on his grand 3D projects, Qi also works on his street art with which he creatively turns bleak walls in the urban scenery into pieces of art, bringing messages of happiness, humour, and love of life.

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For example, Qi has turned the holes in the wall of a deserted basement into Baymax from Disney’s Big Zero.
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Or he placed two pandas on two sides of a dilapidated brick wall.
pandabears

Sometimes Qi gives his work original names, such as the project (image below) that is titled “Sharp Items will Hurt Grandpa’s Hand (尖锐物品会划伤爷爷的手)”.

grandpa
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Throughout the years, Qi Xinghuai has attracted many fans with his wall paintings. Apart from the 172,000+ followers he has on his Weibo account, many admirers also go around the city to seek for his work. Qi receives many invitations to decorate walls in different places. “I like this recreation of old walls”, Qi says on Weibo: “It is like a cooperation with nature. Nature confronts me with a difficult problem, and I offer her a humorous solution”.

 

“Seize the moment and pose with my work before it’s gone.”

 

On Weibo, Qi shares his working process with his followers. Either with paint or chalk, Qi adjusts his work to the place it is located. “I found this wall today,” he recently wrote on his account: “And I got excited. I used the shape of the wall’s broken parts to paint a face.” He then shared the results with his fans.

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Qi says he wants to “beautify the scars of the city” by focusing on broken walls and dilapidated parts of different cities within China.

“Seize the moment and pose with my work before it’s gone,” Qi tells his social media followers, who also send in their own pictures with Qi’s different pieces, from Beijing to Nanjing and elsewhere.

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Despite his popularity, however, the humor and beauty of Qi’s wall paintings usually do not last long, as Qi faces forces from within local communities and governments that work against his work and destroy it.

 

“It’s not the seed that’s lacking, it’s the soil.”

 

“I have been reported again,” Qi writes. Besides the recent removal of Qi’s crocodile, many other works have also been removed. The pandas, for example, have been “redecorated” with local advertisements. Another work titled “Sweetie, your bite is hurting daddy” (“宝贝,你咬疼爸爸了”), which depicts a baby lion biting the back of a father lion (Father and Son Lion), has been covered with paint and graffiti.

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Besides people covering his work with their own advertisements or graffiti, Qi also faces the opposition of local land owners or city regulators. While finishing the crocodile, Qi posted on Weibo one picture of a police car and another one of himself running away from his work. Although he did not mention how and why the crocodile was destroyed, a picture of him sitting among the smashes of the painting suggests that it has been removed with force.

Qi

“Why am I reported? Nobody cares about people posting advertisements on walls, nobody fixes the walls that are broken. It grieves me. Tell me what city would like it, and I will come and paint,” Qi wrote on July 22. Faced with setbacks of him being reported and his paintings being removed, Qi recently also wrote that “perhaps it is not the seed that is lacking, but the soil”.

It might need more time before a relatively new phenomenon like street art will be accepted and accommodated by Chinese municipalities and citizens alike. In Shanghai and Shenzhen, efforts to regulate street performers were only introduced as recent as 2014. As for 3D and graffiti artists, their legitimate existence still relies on consensus between the artist, their local municipality and the residents, as there are currently no clear regulations. As The Diplomat wrote in 2015, China strictly controls graffiti that signals political dissent, but sometimes promotes graffiti that beautifies the city. But in the present situation, Qi’s work will keep on facing an uncertain future.

On Weibo, many netizens are hopeful about the future of street art. “It takes time to obtain rich soil,” one netizen writes: “It might be slow, but it will come.”

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In the meantime, Qi Xinghuai refuses to give up his street art activities. After the disappearance of his Father and Son Lion work, Qi wrote on Weibo: “I want to revive them, let them appear on the street again, with undestroyable spirit.”

-By Diandian Guo and Manya Koetse

©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Diandian Guo is a China-born Master student of transdisciplinary and global society, politics & culture at the University of Groningen with a special interest for new media in China. She has a BA in International Relations from Beijing Foreign Language University, and is specialized in China's cultural memory.

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China Comic & Games

KFC China’s Psyduck Toy is a Viral Hit

As Psyduck goes viral, KFC Children’s Day toys are deemed “too childish for children but just perfect for us adults.”

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American fast-food chain KFC recently introduced three new Pokémon toys to go with its kids’ meals in various regions across China, with one of the toys, in particular, becoming a viral hit: Psyduck (可达鸭).

The new Pokémon toys were introduced on May 21st to celebrate Children’s Day (June 1). As reported by Shanghai Daily, the toys are randomly distributed in Children’s Day meals and will be released in different regions at different times.

Psyduck is a yellow duck-like Pokémon that is known to be confused because it’s bothered by headaches. One of the reasons why the Psyduck toy might be more popular than its fellow (Pikachu) toys, is because it dances, with its arms going up and down, and because of the catchy tune that starts once it starts moving. Psyduck is also a bit more dopey and ‘uncool’ than Pikachu, which makes him all the cooler (remember the Peppa Pig craze?)

Since its release, many people have been going crazy over the KFC toy. Psyduck fans have been hunting for the KFC treasure, and some have even turned it into a side business: they offer their services in getting as many KFC meals as necessary before grabbing the Psyduck toy – you’ll have to pay for their meal – and they’ll send the toy to their ‘customers’ later on.

The #Psyduck hashtag saw the first spike on Weibo on May 21st, the day of its release, when it received nearly 135 million views.

Although the toys were released for Children’s Day, most of these Psyduck fans are not kids at all. In one interview moment that went viral, an older man was asked about the Psyduck while he was standing in line at KFC. “I’m only here because my son wants it,” the man says. When he is asked how old his boy is, he answers: “He’s over thirty years old.”

A popular comment about the craze over the kids’ meal toys said: “This toy is perhaps too childish for children, but it’s just perfect for us adults.” The comment received nearly 20,000 likes.

If you buy a set meal including the toy, you will spend in between 59-109 yuan ($9-$16), but the reselling price of Psyduck has reportedly been as high as US$200 for just the Pokémon figure alone. KFC China has stated that it does not support this kind of reselling.

Illustration about the Psyduck crazy by New Weekly (@新周刊).

Especially among students, it has become popular to stick messages to the arms of the dancing Psyduck with motivational or humorous messages. Some students say the Psyduck keeps them company while they are studying.

Since short funny videos featuring Psyduck are going viral on Weibo and Douyin, a lot of Psyduck’s appeal relates to its social media success and joining in on the hype. People post videos of themselves unboxing their Psyduck, introducing it to their cat, imitating it, or they use the Psyduck in various creative ways.

This is not the first time for KFC toys to become a national craze. Earlier this year, KFC came out with limited edition blind boxes in a collaboration with Chinese toymaker Pop Mart. To get one of the dolls, customers needed to buy a 99 yuan (US$15.5) family set meal.

But the blind box sales also sparked criticism from China’s Consumer Association for promoting over-purchasing of its food and causing food waste. In order to get all of the six collectible dolls, including the rarest ones, customers would start buying many meals just for the dolls. As reported by SCMP at the time, one customer went as far as to spend US$1,650 on a total of 106 meals to collect all six dolls.

KFC is the most popular fast-food chain in China. People outside of China are sometimes surprised to find that KFC is so hugely popular in the mainland.

As explained in the book written about KFC China’s popularity (“Secret Recipe for Success“), its success story goes back to 1987, when the restaurant opened its first doors near Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Some reasons that contributed to KFC’s success in China are the popularity of chicken in China, the chain’s management system, the restaurant’s adaptation to local taste, and its successful marketing campaigns.

Now, Psyduck can be added as one of the ingredients in KFC China’s perhaps not-so-secret recipe for success.

By Manya Koetse

With contributions by Miranda Barnes

Featured image via @Baaaaaaaaal, Weibo.com

Image via Weibo

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China Arts & Entertainment

Chinese Elementary School Textbook Triggers Controversy for Being “Tragically Ugly”

This elementary schoolbook by the People’s Education Press went viral for being ugly.

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The illustrations in a Chinese schoolbook series for children have triggered controversy on social media platform Weibo, where the hashtag “People’s Education Press Math Teaching Material” (#人教版数学教材#) attracted over 860 million views by Thursday afternoon, with the “People’s Education Press Mathbook Illustration Controversy” (#人教版数学教材插图引争议#) garnering over 190 million views.

The illustrations went viral after some netizens spotted that the quality of the design in one math textbook series stood out from other books in how ‘aesthetically displeasing’ it is.

The children depicted in the teaching material have small, droopy eyes and big foreheads. Some commenters think their clothing also looks weird and that the overall design is just strange and “tragically ugly.”

Some images depicting little boys also drew controversy for allegedly showing a bulge in the pants. Adding girls sticking out their tongues, boys grabbing girls, a reversed Chinese flag, and some depictions of children’s clothing in the American flag colors, many people think the books are not just ugly but also have “evil intentions.”

Besides the people who think the design of the textbook series is so ugly that it must have been purposely drawn like this, there are also those who are angry, suggesting China has thousands of talented art students who would welcome a project like this and do it much better.

Some parents are also concerned that such poor quality design will negatively influence the aesthetic appreciation of the children using the books.

Fueling the controversy is the fact that the textbook in question has been published and designed by a team of relatively influential and experienced designers and publishers.

The design was done by, among others, Lu Min (吕旻) and Zheng Wenjuan (郑文娟) of the Beijing Wuyong Design Studio (北京吴勇设计工作室). The book is published by the People’s Education Press.

The People’s Education Press (PEP) is a major publishing house directly under the leadership of the Ministry of Education. Founded in 1950, it is responsible for compiling and publishing all kinds of teaching material for elementary education.

The textbook already caught the attention of some parents in early May. One parent shared photos of the textbook illustration on Q&A site Zhihu.com, writing: “This textbook is so ugly! How did it ever pass the review?”

The ugly textbook design has made many netizens look back on their own childhood textbooks, suggesting that more traditional Chinese design is much better than what is being produced nowadays.

Old textbook design shared online for comparison.

On May 26, the People’s Education Press responded to the controversy on Weibo. In its statement, the publishing house said it would reevaluate its elementary school mathematics textbooks illustrations and improve the quality of the design. In doing so, the publishing house said it would welcome feedback from the public. The statement soon received over 600,000 likes.

Professional graphic design artist Wuheqilin also weighed in on the discussion (read more about Wuheqilin here). In a lengthy Weibo post, Wuheqilin argues it is too easy for people to share their old textbook covers and images to show how much better they used to be, blaming poor design on the quality of illustrators in modern times.

According to Wuheqilin, it is not so much a matter of illustrators who have become worse, but of publishing houses saving more money on illustrations. Publishers do not prioritize design and are still offering the same prices to illustrators as they did a decade ago.

“The market has expanded, illustrators’ prices have gone up, but the philosophy of publishing houses hasn’t kept up with the times. This has led to them not really raising their budgets. When I entered the industry some 12 years ago, publishers could still a good artist for 500-800 RMB [$75-$120] to do a fine cover illustration, but now it would be difficult to find an artist to do it for 8000 RMB [$1188]. Around 2015 I was asked by a publishing house to do the cover of a sci-fi novel series they produced, and the process of our talks all went smoothly, but when I quoted my price they looked displeased and told me that even if they would do their best to give me the highest budget possible, it would still only be one-tenth of my quoted price. The price I quoted was just the normal price for a game poster illustration at the time. I never spoke to that publisher again afterward. And this was 2015, let alone how the situation is nowadays.”

This is not the first time Chinese school textbooks trigger controversy online. In 2017, an elementary school sexual education textbook caused a stir for being “too explicit” (read here).

UPDATE TO THIS STORY HERE.

Read more about (controversial) Chinese children’s books here.

By Manya Koetse

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