Paintings help change farmers' fate in Chongqing

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CHONGQING, May 2 (Xinhua) -- When Li Chengzhi, a 59-year-old artist in woodcut prints, recalled the old days, she still felt surreal about how woodcut prints changed her life path from a farmer to an artist working in Chongqing Qijiang Farmer's Print Fine Art Academy.

In the 1980s, Qijiang District in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality launched woodcut prints training courses for local farmers. Amazingly, farmers' unhinged imagination and strong rural style have made Qijiang Farmers' woodcut printings win popular appeal both at home and abroad.

Not only been exhibited in more than 30 countries, Qijiang's woodcut prints also make Qijiang be vaulted into the "Home of Modern Chinese Folk Painting" awarded by the national culture authorities in 1988.

However, while the local culture center mobilized farmers to grasp the technique, Li's parents showed strong opposition and prohibited her from going to the workshop.

"They thought painting is some useless leisure work and also there was a load of farm work for me to do," said Li. While seeing her neighbors making progress in woodcut prints from scratch, she couldn't hold her eagerness and went to the workshop without telling her family.

Having not learned painting before, Li felt embarrassed at first to show her work to the teacher. However, the teacher showed great surprise and told her that the boldness, casualness and carefree style were exactly what they wanted.

Since then, Li has not been separated from the woodcut prints anymore, even facing lots of difficulties all along the way.

"While I was working as a temp in the township culture center from 1986 to 1992, I endured lots of pressure from my family due to the meager income I got. Also seeing other people earning money via working in big cities, I sometimes pitied myself," said Li.

Li added that there was a time when the attention to woodcut prints faded away, but she persisted in creating and spreading this culture. Until the Chongqing Qijiang Farmer's Print Fine Art Academy was established in 2006, she finally felt assured and buried herself into creating, teaching woodcut prints.

At that time, when Li heard someone's painting could be sold for 400 yuan (about 56 U.S. dollars), she felt it was a peak she could never achieve. However, now, her paintings have been collected by so many art museums and the most valuable one is priced at 35,000 yuan.

Huang Yuanyuan, deputy director of Chongqing Qijiang Farmer's Print Fine Art Academy, said that groups from over 40 countries visited Qijiang to see the farmers' prints. Until now, over 2,000 works of prints have been collected by the National Museum of China, Chinese embassies, foreign museums and collectors abroad.

"I am glad that I hold out to the last. I am not the best painter among the trained farmers, but I am the one who didn't abandon this thing," said Li. Enditem

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