Monday, August 31, 2015

Bai Murals of Shaxi

One of my favorite things to do in a town is to meander. I have a pretty good sense of direction, enabling me to wander through even unfamiliar areas with the confidence that I can find my way back. Towns such as Shaxi are perfect for such activity.   
Just as in other towns I visited in the Yunnan area, the homes in Shaxi are surrounded by high walls. The walls are made from rammed earth and are painted with slaked lime.  Monochromatic murals, painted in black and deep blue, adorn the walls. Some of the murals were on ceramic tile.
Higher up on the walls and above the gate, one could find more colorful murals of nature scenes. Peonies, Chrysanthemums, pine trees, and various birds were common motifs. Others consisted entirely of Chinese calligraphy. 

In the peaks of many homes, one could find ornate floral, bird, and geometric motifs. The one above is so graceful, with its symmetrical design that appears to be depicting phoenixes, lotus flowers, and the serpentine body of a dragon. It feels somewhat Art-Nouveau in style to me.

Gates sometimes led to other internal gates. I loved the nearly round internal gate, pictured above.

Even though ruddied by age and dirt, this mural is still majestic. With the main scene white and surrounded by a very dark background, it feels like a photo negative. Faded colors below the tiled roof complements the scene.

I'd love to meet the artists who paint the murals and see them at work. How long do they take to create a mural? How long do the murals last before they need to be repainted? Who chooses the theme of the murals?

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