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99 Footprints for Int'l Friendship
Post Time: 27/09/2017

        “Oh, it's finished, and it looks so cool! At 11:30 am, the hard work of the Fairy Tales Trail group came to an end when Liu Gentu, a 93-year-old local, pressed his foot into the concrete of the spiral-like path completing “99 Footprints of Shangjing.

        At the entrance of Yuanji Hall in the village of Shangjing, the ground was filled in and paved with cobblestones, and on the morning of September 13, 99 local leaders; participants, volunteers, and staff members of the Shangjing session of the JH; and media and village representatives participated in the creation of the installation designed by the Fairy Tales Trail group. A spiral path was created on the cobblstone pavement, originating from the center and leading to the entrance gate. On the path, the 99 left their footprints and signed their initials, consecrating the construction of the International Fairy Tales Garden portion of the Fairy Tales Trail project.

       The Fairy Tales Trail group is one of the foci of this session and is one of the most demanding tasks for the 48 particpants. During the first week, members of the group not only took part in regularly-scheduled activites -- including folk, gastronomic, and cultural activities -- and salon discussions but spent a lot of time and energy at their primary worksite, the ruins of Yuanji Hall. In a short time, the tumbledown walls, a withered tree, broken bricks and tiles dispersed in mud, and scattered stones underwent a major transformation: under the combined effort of group members and local workers, the ground was cleaned and leveled, the walls were given new shapes and a fresh coat of paint, and a golden garment was designed for the withered tree, which is to become the Singing and Clinging Tree.

       The first footprint was impressed by Zhang Hong, the director of Jinhua FAO. Two hours later, the 99th footprint was left by Liu Gentu. As the artist who envisioned the installation, Robert Frenzel, a German sculptor at the Academy of Fine Arts Dresde, was both nervous and excited:

       Last week, I met Mr. Liu here at the site, and he told my partners and me the story of Yuanji Hall. So we decided to impress 99 footprints as a symbol of the everlasting friendship on Earth. I was very worried about whether or not we could actually fit the right number of footprints on the spiral-like path, but now we’ve done it, and it's perfect to me.

 

 

As a matter of fact, “99 Footprints of Shangjing is just a tiny part of the Fairy Tales Trail project, but as it will serve as the entrance to the International Fairy Tales Garden, the completion of this piece is a significant step that demonstrates the progress of the project as a whole. Apart from the “Footprints, participants are working on a fairy tales trail, an installation called “The Long Walk from Shanjing to Beijing” in the bamboo forest, and the “Pavilion of the Frog King.”

We wanted to create the entrance to the garden by mixing eastern and western features and integrating traditional and contemporary techniques, so we combined a traditional Chinese cobblestone paving with modern construction techniques; our initials are written in roman letters, and four Chinese characters – blessing ( ), wealth ( ), longevity (寿 shòu), and happiness ( ) -- are inscribed in the four corners. It's perfect!"

That day, the oldest person who impressed his footprint was 93, and the youngest was 3. As it presents footprints spanning over 90 years, the installation may also be considered a ‘leap through a century.’ Zhang Hong thinks of these 99 footprints as ‘Shangjing’s marks’; every one of them represents an individual’s unforgettable memories of Shangjing. As has been true of each session of the JH, Zhang hopes that during these 21 days, the participants will also be able to leave behind something special, thus contributing to the preservation and recreation of the history and culture of this village in a modern and international manner.

After many years of planning, the tourism development office of Shangjing sees potential and hope. Liu Yesheng, mayor of the village, claimed that before the arrival of the JH participants, no one in the villages had an idea of what the Fairy Tales Trail project could possibly be. Even harder to imagine was how such a project, which is mostly unknown even in the cities, could reach the village and become the name card of Shangjing’s tourism. Actually, mayor Liu explained that before the JH, there were few ideas on how to develop local tourism.

“Finally, when the work started, I gradually began to understand what their plans were and gained confidence in the project,” Liu said. As a matter of fact, the realization of the Fairy Tales Trail project is particularly difficult: first, the bamboo forest is on a land owned by several different families, and permission to work on that land must be granted by all of them; secondly, no one here had an idea of what ‘these strangers’ had in mind, so there were many doubts. “However,” he went on to say, “over the past few days, we have noticed how the participants come over and work really hard any moment they have some time; additionally, they actively communicate and explain to us what their intentions and needs are, so the villagers have became completely supportive.”

In Liu’s opinion, the JH not only represents the opportunity to realize the Fairy Tales Trail project, but also -- and particularly -- provides the village with a general plan for the comprehensive growth of Shangjing’ s tourism. For instance, there are plans to link the project with the local tourism economy, including the sale of cultural items related to the fairy tales presented and the opening of a cake and pastry shop. These are just few minor ways in which the villagers might take control and work to develop a long-term growth plan for Shangjing. (By Wang Lei, translated by Marco Lovisetto, edited by Xiamara Hohman)

 

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