Sand painting artist presents beauty of Chinese-style romance to world

(People's Daily Online) 14:48, November 30, 2022

Since the start of 2022, sand painting artist He Sudan has created sand paintings telling stories of the 24 solar terms of the Chinese lunar calendar. Her latest work is about Minor Snow, the 20th solar term, which falls on Nov. 22 this year.

He's works have attracted widespread attention on Chinese and overseas social media platforms, reaching hundreds of millions of viewers.

Photo shows a screenshot of a sand painting by He Sudan about Minor Snow, the 20th solar term on the Chinese lunar calendar, which falls on Nov. 22 this year. (yangtse.com/courtesy of the interviewee)

"The ceremonies that Chinese people perform on the 24 solar terms reflect their sense of romance," said He, adding that the 24 solar terms embody the knowledge of traditional Chinese agricultural society, obtained over time by Chinese farmers.

He, 34, is currently pursuing a doctorate degree at Wuhan University of Technology, with her area of study being the application of artificial intelligence (AI) in sand painting. The artist revealed that these days, she uses a robot developed by her research team to assist her in creating her sand paintings.

He said that sand painting dates back to the Song Dynasty (960-1279). The idiom "Hua Di Jiao Zi" tells the story of the mother of Ouyang Xiu, a famous poet in the Song Dynasty, who taught her son how to write and paint by using a stick to draw and write on the ground covered in sand. This idiom indicates that sand panting has a long history in China.

“That was the early form of sand painting in China," He said. She also noted that during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), folk artists would use sand to perform on the ground while selling their products.

He said that it took roughly one week to create a sand painting about one solar term.

Photo shows a screenshot of a sand painting by He Sudan about Minor Snow, the 20th solar term on the Chinese lunar calendar, which falls on Nov. 22 this year. (yangtse.com/courtesy of the interviewee)

"First, I search for materials about the solar term to find out how it has evolved over time and learn about its characteristics. Each solar term is divided into three pentads. People in ancient times carefully observed how flowers, birds, insects and fish changed during different pentads in a solar term and would then come up with a summary of these findings to help people in later generations carry out farming activities better," He said. She added that she likes to reflect the changes the solar terms have undergone in modern times so that viewers of her works can feel the change of the times through them.

He’s sand paintings, which incorporate elements of traditional festivals, including the Dragon Boat, Double Ninth, and Mid-Autumn Festivals, have been forwarded and liked by Chinese foreign ministry spokespersons Hua Chunying and Wang Wenbin, as well as Chinese ambassadors overseas.

A sand painting by He Sudan is forwarded by Wang Wenbin, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson. (yangtse.com/courtesy of the interviewee)

"In terms of communication effects, I think I've realized my goal of introducing Chinese-style romance to the world through my works, but I don't think I've done enough. In the future, I will create more sand paintings to promote traditional Chinese culture," He said.

He was born into an artistic family in central China's Hunan Province and was admitted to Wuhan University of Technology when she was 15 years old, taking up sand painting when she was a sophomore.

He said she is one of the first people in China to study sand painting. Back then, sand painting was not a discipline, so she learned it by teaching herself. When she was 19 years old, He was admitted to the graduate school of Hainan University to study fine arts. After graduation, He started travelling around the country putting on sand painting performances. At that time, she usually carried a platform that weighed more than 5 kilograms whenever she went to put on shows.

He has also explored ways to preserve sand paintings, including spraying the works with glue.

Photo shows a screenshot of a sand painting by He Sudan about “Chushu”, which means “end of heat” in Chinese. “Chushu” is the 14th of the 24 solar terms in the Chinese lunar calendar. It falls on Aug. 23 this year. (yangtse.com/courtesy of the interviewee)

In 2011, He became a member of the art troupe of the Hainan Provincial Public Security Border Defense Corps.

"The time that I spent in the military was an important period for me to establish my own sand painting style," He revealed. For nearly 10 years, He frequently put on sand painting shows for soldiers stationed in Hainan, creating a series of works on military topics.

In 2019, He left the army and became a teacher at Hainan Normal University. As a teacher, she won four top awards in the sand painting industry, including "Ten Best Achievements in Chinese Sand Painting," becoming a representative sand painting artist in China. He also established a sand painting education base at Hainan Special Education School to teach the art form to students with special needs.

Nowadays, He works in researching the applications of AI in sand painting. "The development of any art form, especially modern art, is definitely the result of the integration of various disciplines. I need to become more sensitive in creating my works so that they can be deeper and more appealing," He said, adding that she wants to bring more people into the world of sand painting and solve teaching staff shortages in the future.

He Sudan teaches students how to create a sand painting. (yangtse.com/courtesy of the interviewee)

He's team has developed a robotic arm that can assist her in creating sand paintings. "The participation of AI can help greatly lower the threshold of learning sand painting, thus enabling sand painting enthusiasts to experience the glamour and fun brought by the art form in an in-depth manner," He said.

The robotic arm can move flexibly and control the amount of sand used to create a sand painting. (yangtse.com/courtesy of the interviewee)

(Web editor: Hongyu, Du Mingming)


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