Building on public affection

Updated: 2015-12-25 09:37

By Zhou Wenting in Shanghai(

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Building on public affection

A child stands in front of a wall graffiti that depicts an astronaut holding a bunch of flowers on Tian'ai Street in Shanghai's Hongkou district on Dec 16. [Gao Erqiang / China Daily]

Shanghai district uses graffiti to promote love-themed street

A love-themed graffiti wall stretching 100 meters is expected to add new romance to a renowned road in downtown Shanghai dubbed "the city's sweetest street".

A group of eight artists has been invited by the district government of Hongkou to create graffiti that interacts with the surroundings and passers-by on the street named Tian'ai, or "sweet love" in English.

With its romantic name, the narrow, tree-lined street has been attracting couples for decades. In recent years, the district has equipped the street with carved art, love poems, sculptures of sweethearts, and a mailbox, where people can post letters with a love-themed stamp provided by the nearby post office.

The efforts are geared toward creating a greater sense of romance, and perhaps cut down on freelance painting and heart-shaped carvings by admirers. Three pieces of graffiti had been completed by Dec 16. One shows a man riding a bicycle with his ponytailed girlfriend and a kite, reminiscent of what a date might have been like 20 years ago.

The second depicts a floating astronaut holding a bunch of flowers. "In this way, I want to express that love is ubiquitous and everybody's affection for their loved one is special," artist Shi Zheng said.

Shi posted dozens of postcards of the graffiti on the wall on Dec 16. "Residents flock to take pictures in front of the graffiti these days and it's gaining popularity on social media. I want to share the postcards with those who love the creation," he said.

In the third piece, dark clouds fold around a cluster of abutting skyscrapers that are doused with heavy rain. The caption reads: "Never forget love".

"It refers to the love of the environment here. The theme of the graffiti wall is expanded. Apart from romantic relationships, love for people, old and young, as well as nature are also represented," said Wang Wei, leader of the artists' group and a member of the Chinese Culture Promotion Society.

"One of our artists is dedicated to recording children's lives at those charity elementary schools in impoverished areas with a camera, and he will reproduce one picture on the wall to express love for the kids," Wang said.

The people who come to visit street have changed over the years. "It doesn't only serve as a witness of the love of sweethearts," Wang said. "More people, young or middle-aged, in threes and fives, stroll down the street and take pictures with the graffiti."

The graffiti may be expanded to the pavement and walls of the residential buildings on the street to make it more interactive with its surrounding.

The graffiti wall may also discourage residents and tourists from painting or carving messages on the walls, which has been a headache that damaged the look of the street for years, said Long Gang, a district publicity officer.

"We hope visitors show their love for the street by protecting the graffiti and the surroundings, instead of carving their names or that of a loved one on the wall," he said.

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