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San Yuan Li

Ou Ning

Release year: 2003

Run time: 45 mins

Film type: Documentary


Armed with video cameras, 12 artists present a highly stylized portrait of San Yuan Li, a traditional village besieged by China's urban sprawl.

China's rapid modernization literally traps the village of San Yuan Li within the surrounding skyscrapers of Guangzhou, a city of 12 million people. The villagers move to a different rhythm, thriving on subsistence farming and traditional crafts. They resourcefully reinvent their traditional lifestyle by tending rice paddies on empty city lots and raising chickens on makeshift rooftop coops.

Directed by acclaimed visual artists Ou Ning and Cao Fei and commissioned by the Venice Biennale, San Yuan Li explores the modern paradox of China's economic growth and social marginalization.


Director biography

Ou Ning’s cultural practices are multidisciplinary. As an activist, he founded U-thèque, the independent film and video collective, and Bishan Commune, the intellectual community dedicated to rural reconstruction in China. As a graphic designer and editor he is known for his book, New Sound of Beijing. His curatorial projects include the festival Get It Louder (2005, 2007, and 2010), and the sound project “Awakening Battersea” in the China Power Station exhibitions co-organized by the Serpentine Gallery and AstrupFearnley Museum of Modern Art. As an artist he is known for San Yuan Li (2003), commissioned for the 50th Venice Biennale, and Meishi Street (2006), commissioned by the Kulturstiftung des Bundes.