Eternal Garden, Back to Zhong Guo – Fools Move Mountains
Nanling, Chine, 2005

Fools Move Mountains
Back to Zhong Guo – Fools Move Mountains

1 The story of “fools move mountains”

“Yu Gong Yi Shang” comes from an old Chinese phrase (in idiomatic usage, Yu Gong means ‘Foolish Old Man’, Yi means Move and Shan means mountain). Every day, an old man tries to move a mountain and everybody thought he was mad. But he believes that, even though he cannot move the mountain, his children, grandchildren and decent will continue doing it. Eventually, more and more people came over to help him move the mountain. Ultimately, the spirit of heaven was moved by what he had done, and this spirit decided to move the whole mountain. This story is about human will, and about collective power.

In modern China, the phrase became a metaphor for man’s ability to overcome nature. In this sense, the great leap forward, and the urbanization of China became the ultimate ‘realisation’ of this metaphor.

What we would like to do in this project is to rethink and debate this Maoist slogan, and the ancient idiom from which it derives, in the present context.

2 Objective

This is a site-specific (Nanling) art project which is provoking a response to the physical space within the context of immigrant community, history, architecture, economic developing, urbanization and nature landscape. Artist uses these contexts to make site- specific artwork in Ruyang which is on the border between Guangdong province and Hunan province in south of China.

3 Background of the site

3.1 Location


Nanling (Southern Mountain) area (around 300 square kilometers) is located on the border between Guangdong Province and Hunan province. It also marks the periphery of Lingnan culture (the culture in Guangdong province). In this area, there is one of the biggest and best-preserved primal forests in Guangdong. Fifty years ago, there was almost nobody there. In this region today, apart from the beautiful landscape, there are very rich layers of culture, including the history and culture of immigrant communities since 1949; economic development of the area since 1949; and architectural development, that provide a range of materials and possibilities for artistic practice.

The Nanling area has never separated itself from the rapidly-developing urbanization of Southern China but engaged with it directly, and so – alongside the natural landscape – this area reflects Chinese development in all its various aspects, since 1949(immigrants started the forest industry in 1949, after 80′s the economic goes to marketing direction and the capital from private company goes to this area to develop tourist industry since last year), Ruyang is thus a place in which, and with which, contemporary art can make dialogue.

3.2 Contexts

The following aspects of Nanling will comprise the context for the artists:

A multi-layered dialogue:

1 with the natural landscape;
2 with the community;
3 with history;
4 travel between Guangzhou and Ruyang, and the dialogue with the extended urbanization of the Pearl River Delta area;
5 tourist industry, mainly focuse on the people from Pearl River Delta area.

4 Realisation of the Project

The realisation of the project will take the form of a series of residencies. Four French artists will be invited, one after the other, to research between Guangzhou and Nanling, and ultimately to realise a site-specific work in the Ruyang area. Each artist will stay from 6 till 8 weeks in Guangdong province within the duration of the project.

There are two studios available; one is in Guangzhou and the other one is in Nanling.

©Vitamin Creative Space 2005

Note: “Fools Move Mountains” is part of program of France en Chine year (France in China Year, 2005) and Guangzhou Triennial 2005.

Time:                                 February-November 2005
Artists:                              Mathieu Briand, Shen Yuan, Sylvie Blocher,
Marc Boucherot
Concept & Organiser:    Vitamin Creative Space
Curated by:                      Hu Fang(China) , Evelyne Jouanno (France)
Producer:                          Zhang Wei
Partners:                           Nanling Zhongheng Ecotourism Development Co.,Ltd.
Special Thanks to:          College of Design, Guangzhou Fine Arts Academy