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Painting the Lives of the Bai Ethnic Group

Popularity 1Viewed 7739 times 2013-7-31 11:46 |System category:News
Yang Yan works on a painting. [ Yihe]

Yang Yan works on a painting. [ Yihe]

When visitors enter artist Yang Yan's studio, the first thing that impresses them is the small but gallery-like layout. In the center of the studio, there is a long table where a 4-meter long painting is laid out --- her current work in progress. On the walls hang a dozen of her completed paintings, all depicting the customs and landscapes of Yanghe Village in Dali, southwest China's Yunnan Province.

"I've been working on this painting for a while and I am planning to add some marigolds to symbolize long life and happiness," Yang says.

Like many of her fellow villagers, 36-year-old Yang is from the Bai ethnic minority group. Her artistic skills have made her an influential figure among the villagers.

"She is the big painter in our village. Anyone in the village who wants a mural painted on her house is honored to invite her to paint. Her paintings are always vivid and beautiful," says one villager. Painting murals on their houses is a tradition of the Bai group.

"Although she lives in our rural village, her paintings are as good as those painted by artists living in the cities," says another.

When asked about Yang and her paintings, the villagers are always ready to praise. They are proud of their resident artist and her skills.

When asked about how she started painting, Yang says, "Art comes from life and my painting career started from a passion for painting."

According to Yang, her mother was a rural woman who was skilled in handiwork. When she was young, her mother often painted and made embroideries. She was regularly invited to embroider pillows and quilts for her fellow villagers.

Influenced by her mother, Yang began learning to paint simple patterns and embroider handkerchiefs for her friends. While in primary school, she began copying pictures from comic books. In several years, she had perfected her painting skills to the point that the copies she made of paintings were almost as good as the originals.

Realizing that she had a valuable talent, Yang's father registered her at the China Calligraphy and Painting Teaching University. In her two years there, Yang studied sketching, coloring and seal carving, and refined her painting skills.

In 1994, she returned home to work on her family's farm. At night, she continued painting.

In 2004, one of Yang's relatives invited her to paint murals for his new house. Her work was praised and admired by the fellow villagers. Since then, more and more locals have turned to her to help them paint murals on their homes.

Two years later, she was invited to participate in the painting exhibition celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Dali prefecture. Her painting, Golden Flower in Embroidery, won a consolation prize and was selected to be featured in the Dali Poetry, Calligraphy and Painting Collections.

Over the next several years, her paintings appeared at many exhibitions across Yunnan Province. In April this year, her painting, Affection for Mount Cang and Lake Er, won second prize at the Dali Ethnic Travel Artwork Design Competition.

Currently, Yang is a member of the Yunnan Provincial Association of Poetry, Calligraphy and Painting. She leads a busy life. During the day, she paints murals and at night, she works on the paintings that her customers commission her to create.

Yang also has a lot of plans for the future. She hopes to hold a solo exhibition of her work and also open an art class for the children in the village.

(Source: and edited by

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)




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Reply Report voice_cd 2013-8-1 12:35
This has been recommended to the front page. Thanks for writing.

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