The First Line of China Project

The First Line of China is an ongoing project launched in 2017. Currently, it consists of three sections:

1) a series of photo juxtapositions named “Sheep Pen Town” (2017);
2) a photobook “Zhong Guo Di Yi Xian” (2018);
3) a film entitled “The First Line of China” (2019). 

Each component is connected by subject matter: an isolated industrial town attached to a local state-owned cement factory in Northeast China. I was born in this town and haven’t returned for almost two decades.

Throughout each section, the work presents and examines the current status of this area while discussing multiple topics, especially the relationship between images and memory. 

The title is a phrase disinterred from local oral history to describe this place in 1990s China. While having lost its initial context of socialist collectivism, it has turned into a floating signifier of ideologically constructed grand narrative, a haunting symbol of nostalgia.


Film Project — The First Line of China (2019)

The First Line of China is a 45-min essayistic documentary in first-person narrative, which presents and examines the current status of my birthplace, an isolated industrial town in Northeast China, as well as my relationship with it. The town was constructed simultaneously with a local state-owned cement factory to feed and host the workers who migrated here. I consider this factory-town model as a combining result of the urban planning scheme and the radical industrialization of China in the 1980s, while the communal living experience serves as a bearer of both collective memory and individual sentiments.

During the shooting process, I repeatedly heard this town described as “The First Line of China” and became curious about its provenance. Throughout the film, viewers are led tracing this clue to reveal a half-buried story and reflecting on other related topics, such as the relationship between space, ideology, memory, and images; my nostalgia for the town as an imaginary hometown or a utopia; the ideological and cultural transformations of China derived from its economic reform, etcetera.


An excerpt from the film


Screenshots from the film, 1920p×1080p


Photobook Project — Zhong Guo Di Yi Xian (2018, ongoing)


2018 First Edition, Paperback, 108 pages, 9.6×12.3 inch (244mm×313mm)


Photo Project — Sheep Pen Town (2017-2018)


Archival Inkjet Print, 17.5×17.5 inch (45×45 cm)


Install Shot


This is an ongoing project