Artist Song Peilun is being hailed as “The Father of Yelang Valley” after spending the last two decades turning a forested patch of land into an artistic village as a tribute to the ancient civilization that once thrived in the area.
Yelang was an ancient political entity first described in the 3rd century BC centered in what is now western Guizhou province, China. Experts believe that many ancient cultures were rooted here, but there are unfortunately no architectural remnants left standing in the great valley. Inspired by Crazy Horse, a mountain monument dedicated to a Native American warrior, in the US state of South Dakota, after visiting the United States, Chinese artist Song Peilun dedicated his life to building a memorial to the artistic heritage of Yelang Valley and restoring part of its former glory.
It all started in 1996 when Song quit his job as a professor and purchased a 200,000 square meter patch of land in an isolated mountainous forest area. He had been studying the colorful minority cultures that have existed in the Guizhou region for years, and was saddened by the loss of age-old traditions and heritage due to cultural infiltration. After visiting the Crazy Horse monument, he took it upon himself to build something similar in the mountains of Guizhou.
When he first arrived in the area, most of the locals were working as masons or mining in the mountain and selling the stones to make ends meet, but he convinced many of them to help him in his quest to restore the artistic glory of Yelang instead. “It’s not fun selling them, let’s build blocks,” Song remembers telling the villagers. They listened, and together they started creating all kinds of beautiful stone artworks on his land. They became a close-knit artistic community, and although some of the original architects died or moved away, their collective dream thrived. Locals got deeply involved in Song’s project and when he ran out of money, they all pitched in to help .
In the last twenty years, the forested land Song Peilun bought has turned into an artistic village full of stone sculptures inspired by Chinese Nuo culture. It is now a relatively popular tourist attraction and a testament to the Chinese artist’s ambition and perseverance.
When he first started this project, Song dreamed of of creating a village far from the hustle and bustles of city life, but now signs of modernization are seeping into his rural community. That doesn’t seem to worry him though, as he says that if modern life ends up destroying his dream, he will simply spend another 20 years rebuilding his village in the other end of Yelang Valley.
Photos: CCTV News