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Cicheng 1938

It was the autumn of 1938. China had already been at war with Japan for more than a year. The ancient town of Cicheng, near Shanghai, was far from the front, but the shadows of war could not be missed.

A teenage boy - call him C - walked each day that autumn from his home near the hospital to the junior high school outside the north gate. The school's auditorium had been completed just months before. During his walk, he could read the anti-Japanese slogans painted on the city gates. He knew that the railroad tracks running past the city had been torn up by the Chinese government to keep them from falling into enemy hands.

What C did not know was his new junior high school would be destroyed by Japanese bombs the next year. Soon after that, the city walls, hundreds of years old, would be torn down to allow the population to evacuate more quickly during air raids. So in the end, the brand new school auditorium, and the walls that had surrounded the city for hundreds of years, would co-exist in the golden wheat fields for only a short time: the autumn of 1938.

73 years later, Mr. C, by then an old man, laid down his brushes after completing his six-year project: a 6-foot by 8-foot Chinese painting of his home town, Cicheng, as it would have appeared in the autumn of 1938.

This painting depicts not only the city streets and the surrounding landscape, but also countless vignettes of daily life: children playing soccer, a street theater, a harvesting contest, people boarding a bus, men towing a canal boat, a traditional wedding procession, and more.

Based on Mr. C's memories, the memories of his childhood friends, old maps and photographs, historical journals, and his imagination, the painting that he created brings us not just the city of Cicheng, but the life of its people.


View the painting

To appreciate this painting, use the controls in the upper left of the viewing window to zoom in on interesting areas, or click on any of the small snapshots at the base of the viewing window to zoom in to them. You can see more snapshots by clicking on the arrows on either side of the snapshots.

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Compare to the modern city

This is a Sogou satellite photograph of modern Cicheng. Note that in the painting, south is at the top (the traditional Chinese style), while in the satellite photo, north is at the top.

So in the satellite photo, the lake is at the top and the river is at the bottom, which is the opposite of the painting.


To contact us: info2@cicheng1938.com

The painting is copyright © 2011 by Mr. C, all rights reserved. This website is copyright © 2011 and 2021 by its author, all rights reserved. Zoomable image implemented using the OpenSeadragon package.