Working with a group of artists in a ruined factory zone on the edge of Shanghai, he has created an entire traditional Chinese village from the ground up, using ancient building methods that were almost lost to living memory. The village is not intended as a tourist destination, but rather as a working center for traditional Chinese artists, craftsmen and musicians, many of whose skills only survived underground during the Cultural Revolution. “I want to see the revival of Chinese material culture,” he declared. “Four thousand years of tradition need to be kept alive.” Along with the meticulous re-creation of history, Chang hopes to restore a fading universe of Confucian values to counteract the materialism seeping through the country, which ruthlessly dismisses and discards anything that cannot turn a profit.
Many in the West are unaware that China’s ancient artistic heritage, long battered by the excesses of the Communist Revolution, is facing an even more dramatic threat today from frenzied modernization. Since the country embraced capitalism in the 1980s, development has scorched the landscape at a furious pace, sweeping away untold architectural treasures, and with them the last vestiges of art, crafts and beliefs that form a kind of collective memory.
Shock of the Old (WSJ Magazine)