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In Du Fu’s garden

Paul van der Stap Elisa Veini documentary projects ChinaSo what’s in the name? Material Life Noisy may seem a weird title for a documentary project – but it is also one that calls for a story.

A story indeed. On a leisurely day in the Sichuan capital, we visited the Chengdu Du Fu Thatched Cottage Museum. It is a pleasant garden-like area that feels secluded from the busy city.

Fitting in the athmosphere of calm and contemplation, poetry lines are displayed on man-sized signboards. The awkward Chinglish translation on one of these goes: “The Quite [sic] Environment Can Usually / Wash the Material Life Noisy”.

There is a good deal of irony in the message. Outside the well-protected walls of Du Fu’s cottage, cars and buses of all sorts race by at a dwindling speed, chaotic and polluting as ever. Central Chengdu is one of our worst experiences of congested traffic jams.

It is painful and at the same time fascinating to see how, on the broad ringway around the city, billions of cyclists are pushed to a narrow marge by the motorized vehicles. But the cyclists are calm as ever, although their environment is all but quiet.
Read more about Du Fu’s museum and Chengdu in the Material Life Noisy magazine.