Creative souls and the gurgling stream: an artist's life in quiet Longtan

Lin Riqing
Longtan Village is a place far removed from the superficialities that plague city living, where convenience stores are closer to a figment of one's imagination than reality. 
Lin Riqing

Directed and filmed by Tang Dafei. Edited by Tang Dafei. Translated by Lin Riqing and Tan Xinru. Polished by Andy Boreham.

A curious heart learns more about the world than a closed one. No one exemplifies this more than Alla, a reporter-turned-artist currently residing in what’s considered an “artists’ utopia” in Longtan Village, Fujian.

Two years ago, Alla led a typical city life in Shanghai. Even then, however, she stood out in her attitude towards life, with what could only be described as open, childlike curiosity. 

She has a thirst to learn all she can about every facet of human nature, and possesses the unique ability to talk to anyone, from world-level artists to the owner of the local fruit stall, encouraging them to divulge their deepest thoughts and desires through the frank openness she exhibits with anyone she comes across.

She is a polyglot, having majored in Russian languages and literature and studied abroad in Marseilles, and is extremely well-informed on matters across many disciplines. 

Despite being sophisticated in thought and poise, however, Alla has always quietly rebelled against anything vaguely considered to be a part of “elitist culture,” claiming that she likes “turning the most upper-class things into something low-grade.”

In 2016, Alla discovered an arts education community organization in Fujian. Intrigued by their motto of “everyone is an artist,” she gathered some friends and embarked on a journey to Fujian in order to find out what the organization was all about. 

When the course ended, her friends returned to the lights of the city. Alla, though, stayed behind and started a new chapter of her life, setting down her pen and picking up a paintbrush. 

Having always had a burning passion for art and design, Alla saw this moment as an opportunity for liberation. In her own words, “art brings me closer to freedom.”

And so, Alla settled down in Longtan Village. The life she leads there couldn’t be farther from that which she left behind in Shanghai. 

Longtan Village is a place far removed from the commodities and superficialities that plague city living, where fixations on what is on-trend for furniture or the latest internet crazes are practically unheard of, and where convenience stores are closer to a figment of one’s imagination than reality. 

Alla leaves home at around seven or eight in the morning for a stroll in the mountains, listening to audiobooks on her phone. Upon her return, she makes herself lunch, then dedicates her afternoons to drawing. 

At night, she meets with her friends in the village, where they chat about their days over dinner. This neighbourly camaraderie with her fellow artists is something she treasures, as she is able to “embark on a creative lifestyle with my designer friends and other creative neighbors.”

The village may be a hub for budding artists and creative souls, but at the end of the day, with the din of the metropolis a distant memory, Alla is left with only herself, her art, and the gurgling stream outside her door, where fish swim lazily by. 

“Only here in this place, I have found the ideal state that allows me to get along with myself.”

Alla’s recent projects all have to do with portraits. By defining the planes on one’s face through her art, Alla deciphers and explores the crevices of what it means to be human, continuing to satiate her craving to understand human nature.

These days, Alla only returns to Shanghai for work, whether that’s participating in or planning different exhibitions. The city she had once called home now makes her uncomfortable, and instead she opts to quickly finish her tasks before hurrying back to quiet Longtan.

Having lived there for quite some time now, Alla is frequently asked, “How much longer do you plan on persisting?”

"I've never felt the need to persist," Alla often patiently responds.

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