Ye Lang Valley —

Pei Lun Song’s utopia in brick and mortar

Master Song does not believe he will see his life’s work completed. His dream was to create something monumental and timeless, a place for artists and visionaries, a valley of like-minded individuals. Born out of an early childhood fascination for the ancient and mystical, the seed for Yelang Valley has been planted when he was still a young man.
Now, some twenty years into laying bricks, moving rocks and unleashing uncountable workers upon the outskirts of Guiyang, Pei Lun looks at his oeuvre with complicated feelings. Overshadowed by the rapid urban development and the forcefully commercial stewardship of the government, Ye Lang Valley was not granted to unfold its full potential of wasteland turned artist utopia.  Speaking about the future, Pei Lun becomes pensive: “I don’t think I will see this project come to an end. I don’t have much time left.. so all I hope to see is the new shore  completed. ” The ‘new shore’ refers to the monumental, newly built sculptures upstream. Pei Lun takes a shallow breath and sighs “towering figures, gazing into uncertainty”. Standing on the old shore, he silently gazes across the stream that seperates him from the busy workers that continue to give shape to his giants brick and mortar.

The Ye Lang 夜郎
The Yelang people were an ancient ethnic tribe that populated the Yunnan and Guizhou Plateau. Not much is known about the Yelang, and their sudden demise around 26 B.C. remains a mystery. Ancient historians, including Sima Qian and Ban Gu, recorded the Yelang way of life—from their books, we know that the Yelang people practiced witchcraft, had unusual hairstyles, and were an agricultural society with fierce warriors. The different ethnic tribes that formed the Yelang people, referred to themselves as the Zina, lending their name to what Europeans would later call ‘China’. The Yelang people lived in southwestern Guizhou, Sichuan, Hunan and Yunnan. From an early age on, their myths and stories captivated master Song’s imagination. It wasn’t until he became an accomplished artist, that he began to create this monumental structure, dedicating it to a tribe long forgotten. ‘Yelang Valley’ is master Song’s answer to a lifelong search for a true home, something “Outside the norm and conformist ideas of living..”. Rooted in the belief that a land belongs to the people–present and past, master Song has been creating his utopia for over twenty-years. Strolling between towering rock sculptures, pagodas and streams, master Song remembers: “Back in the days, you could just start building without the government noticing. but something like Yelang Valley would no longer be possible today. It’s not just the regulations and control that have changed. It’s the people—it’s hard for them to find common ground, to work towards a shared goal.”

All images copyright
of Guannan Li