WeChat hermit's post spreads to 1m people

Updated: 2015-02-05 07:41

By Ma Lie in Xi'an(China Daily)

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Artist tells of his quiet life in farmhouse on remote mountainside

An artist and poet, who intrigued and delighted Internet users with a colorful account of the simple life he leads at a remote old farmyard on a mountainside, is having to ward off attention from his many new fans.

Zhang Dong, who lives alone, was bombarded with phone calls and online questions after posting photos and details of his rural retreat on WeChat on Jan 2.

"Never ask me the exact place where my yard is located," said Zhang when China Daily contacted him. "I do not want to be disturbed, I do not want my yard to be a hot tourism spot. Please let me stay alone quietly."

His post, titled "Living in Deep Mountains in 2014", was viewed by more than 100,000 people. It then spread rapidly as others posted it on their WeChat accounts, and it is estimated that more than a million people have now seen the story.

"So many people read my story because they, like me, yearn for the old, simple days, yet live in the busy modern world," said the 28-year-old from Xi'an, the capital of Shaanxi province.

Zhang, whose WeChat account is called Mu Xuan Tang Notes, illustrated his story with 127 photos. He told how he rented the yard with a derelict house and a cowshed from a farmer in early 2014, paying 4,000 yuan ($643) for a 20-year agreement. He then set about creating his remote mountain hideaway.

WeChat hermit's post spreads to 1m people

"I chose Zhongnanshan, part of the Qinling Mountain Range near Xi'an, as the place to build my own world for many reasons that would take too long to explain," he said. "The main reason was my love for Xi'an, a city with a long and brilliant culture and history."

Settling in required a lot of hard work because the house had been abandoned for many years and needed extensive repairs.

"The first project was to tear down the cowshed because it was in danger of collapse and blocked out the sunshine from the house."

With the help of a farmer, Zhang spent more than a week dismantling the shed and digging out its foundations.

"I removed more than 300 pieces of stone from the foundations," he said. "I used to work on farmland as a teenager, but I got blisters on my palms as I had not used a pickax and shovel for many years."

Zhang used the stones to build a path from the front door of the house to the yard gate, making it easier for him to go out on rainy days when the ground turns to mud.

He then started to decorate the dirty, dilapidated and smoke-blackened interior of the house, turning one room into a bedroom and another into a studio.

"I'm a graduate of the Xi'an Academy of Fine Arts, where I learned oil painting. I'm very good at painting, and this gave me the confidence to paint the house by myself," he joked.

Zhang completed the restoration of the property within two months at a total cost of 10,000 yuan, including the rent.

"My story proves that having a paradise with a house and a yard is not so difficult," Zhang said as he sat at his gate and admired the imposing mountain view.

Even so, living alone in such a remote area is not without its hardships.

"The house does not have a heating system. I have no water supply, and have to carry water up from a brook in the valley. I have to plant vegetables, feed poultry and cook by myself because there are no restaurants here."

Despite having to fight the winter cold, he says his quiet life away from the urban bustle helps him to achieve the calm mood he needs to paint and write poetry.

Yan Zhou, an artist and close friend, said Zhang is someone who has a number of dreams and ideals - and has the courage to realize them.


(China Daily 02/05/2015 page7)