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Arts in China Special (2) - Art on the Assembly Line (21 Aug 2007)


With its relatively cheap labour, combined with its hunger for economic expansion, China is becoming a factory to the world. But the kind of mass-production emphasised by industrialists can seem light-years removed from artistic creativity. That's not entirely the case. In China, art and the assembly line are not necessarily at odds with one another. In part one we look at the small town of Xiqiao in Northern Jiangsu province, which once mostly grew barley. Today the town itself contains 49 violin factories. Xiqiao now makes 70% of China ’ s new violins and other string instruments, and 35% to 40% of the world's. We visit the Taixing Fengling company, which makes 350,000 violins and 500,000 guitars a year, and has annual sales of 1.8 billion renminbi. For the locals, many of whom were former farmers, the violin is the new, and far more valuable harvest. In part two of this episode, we look at Dafen, a 4-kilometre square village in the Longgang district of Shenzhen. The village has become an oil painting factory, home to more than 8,000 painters who create more than five million hand-painted works every year, 60% of the world ’ s replica oil paintings. We talk to Hong Kong-resident Huang Jiang, the man behind the story of Dafen. In 1989 Huang took a business trip to the mainland, looking for talent to help him produce as many as 50,000 hand-painted copies in one and a half months. His decision remade the town. But times are changing. Many of Huang's former workers have now set up their own companies, the government has designated Dafen a "cultural village" and a tourist destination, rents have gone up, and many have been forced to move to a cheaper nearby location.

The Works
Publish Date: 
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
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