China loves superlatives. Biggest; longest; most expensive; fastest growing. Whatever it is, they strive for the extreme. But the name China doesn’t really resinate as a hub of creative freedom, which is why we were surprised to find that Chongqing—”the largest city you’ve never heard of”—has what’s touted as the world’s longest graffiti street.
And at 1.25 kilometres, the Huang Jue Ping Tuya Street (graffiti street) is definitely long. Huang Jue Ping is a sleepy, old-fashioned neighbourhood near the Yangtse River, with a vibe that is seemingly eons away from the gigantic tower blocks, glass skyscrapers, and abundant commercialism that makes Chongqing such a throbbing and modern city. Here, kids play badminton on the pavement outside of their apartments while old men gamble on the street and women chat while hanging up the laundry. It would be a nondescript neighbourhood, and definitely not on a tourist itinerary if it wasn’t for the monumental and vibrant artwork beaming down from the sides of otherwise ugly Chinese buildings.
The Huang Jue Ping neighbourhood is lucky enough to be the home of the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, one of China’s most prestigious art universities. The graffiti street project was organised by Luo Zhongli, president of the institute, and was executed over 150 days by 800 artists, including students. It wasn’t exactly what we were expecting when we heard about a “graffiti street”, but the results are impressive and rather reminiscent of the favela painting project in Brazil.
Colourful designs and murals stretch several stories up the sides of 37 buildings, many of them ageing apartment blocks and old shopping arcades. There was less graffiti-style artwork here then we had expected, but the cartoony designs definitely add a whimsical and funky vibe to the neighbourhood that make it feel more earthy and “alternative” than other earthy Chongqing. While most of the artwork seemed to be about five to seven years old, the humid climate and rampant pollution has taken its toll, and many of the murals felt a bit neglected. Huang Jue Ping isn’t exactly a hub of modern street culture, but it’s great to see these crazy bursts of colours in contrast to the constantly grey sky.
Aside from just oogling the artworks on the street, there are a few different places on Huang Jue Pin to connect with local artists and check out their work. There’s the 501 Art Warehouse, a large building housing artist studios and exhibition space that is open for the curious to have a poke around, as well as the nearby 19 Original Art Gallery. What we liked best was the Tank Loft Arts Center, another space for studios and exhibitions inside the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute campus. Here we found some of the best graffiti-style art as well a cool old tank and a wine bar called Muse.
Huang Jue Ping can be easily reached by taking the metro to Yangjiaping (Line 2) and then hopping on any city bus headed towards 黄桷坪. Routes include the 223, 233, and 823.