History and Culture

GIFs give China's solar terms a modern twist

2017-04-18 08:58:00 (Beijing Time)         China Daily

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Moving art helps people understand ancient calendar in more direct way

The 24 solar terms, a complementary calendar system invented in ancient China, has been brought to life by a creative designer in Guizhou province.

On the eve of Qingming Festival this month, Shi Changhong released his version of reproduced and packaged characters for each solar term in the form of "moving art", or Graphics Interchange Format, known as GIFs.

Since their initial release on March 29 on Zcool, a professional website for designers, the GIFs have won acclaim from the general public and rapidly engulfed social media, with millions of hits during the festival period.

"In my mind, the 24 solar terms represent a complicated social practice system that is formed through observations of the sun's annual motion, and understanding of the year's changes in seasons, climate and phenology. But this is a textbook definition. After looking at the GIFs, I can understand them in a clear and more direct way," Wang Xiaoqian said on Sina Weibo.

To maximize publicity, Shi released his work in three forms - video, animation and graphics - while background sounds add to the brilliance.

"When I watch the short video, I can feel the Chinese-style elements hidden in them. It is really cool to rejuvenate traditional Chinese culture in such a unique way," Xiao Feifei said on WeChat.

Shi told China Daily: "It is comforting for me to see that so many people like my latest work.

"The 24 solar items is a deeply rooted concept that encapsulates the essence of Chinese wisdom. However, only a small number of people know all the names or the correct order of those terms. My intention is to increase Chinese people's desire to learn more about our traditional culture."

Last year, the 24 solar terms were added to UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage List, and many people have asked Shi if it was the UNESCO listing that inspired him to design the GIFs.

"Actually, the 24 solar terms work is only a part of my whole design program Charm China, which I started over a year ago," Shi said.

"I grew up in a small village. When I was a child, I noticed that my family would do farm work in accordance with the solar terms, which really means a lot to Chinese in rural areas. Therefore, designing the GIFs allowed me to recall happy childhood memories."

Born in Liping county's Qiandong village, Shi is a member of the Dong ethnic group. When he was a child, everything around him, from hats and shoes to embroidery and daily necessities, was embedded with a strong ethnic influence. Shi developed an interest in designing pictures and was responsible for updating the school notice board during high school.

In 2004, he was admitted to Guizhou Normal University and majored in graphic design, laying the foundations for his future career. After graduation, Shi joined Guizhou Sunshine Brand Design and became a professional designer.

In 2011, he won a competition by creating two artistic Chinese characters for "Guilin", the name of a popular city for tourists in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. His initial success prompted him to produce many more Chinese regional logos.

He first gained public attention in September, when he released his full set of Chinese regions to celebrate the National Day holiday. Shi's internet fame has helped him to gain business opportunities.

He said that with investment from other business partners, he would have more control over his work, adding that the 12 zodiac signs and China's 56 ethnic groups are potential projects. "But I will not be a sellout and forget my principles," he said.

Online celebrities have become increasingly common in China, with many people seeking fame in this manner, but Shi has his own priorities. "I would like to be known as a consistent designer rather than an online celebrity. My work does the talking and this is how I intend things to remain," he added.