I had the chance to explore China’s magnificent Yunnan province in January, when tourists are fewer and the sun is out. It was a beautiful voyage, and a beautiful way to start 2014.
One of the highlights of my trip was a short but inspiring stay at Rhizome-Lijiang Art Centre, a residence for artists which also operates as a guest house. Located in the north-eastern part of Lijiang Ancient Town and perched 2400 meters above see level, Rhizome is a peaceful retreat surrounded by high mountains, a perfect option for those in quest of calm and authenticity. The house itself is gorgeous, built with a respect to local ‘naxi’ architecture and tastefully decorated. Art is all around, with several small galleries displaying local Chinese artworks (mostly contemporary).
Surprisingly, the owners of Rhizome are not Chinese, but French! “The idea behind Rhizome-Lijiang Art Center is to promote local culture and support local artists” Odile and Mikaël told me. In 2005, the art-loving couple embarked upon a nine-month journey throughout China that marked the beginning of their unique relationship with the Middle Country. When they came back to France in 2006, they invited fifteen Chinese artists (among them, the Gao brothers, Or Ning, Cao Fei, Wei Qing Ji, and Wang Rui) to participate in their art festival Un peu d’Alice in Aix-en-Provence, further enhancing their bond with China. In 2007, they welcomed artist-sculptor Shi Jindian, and in 2008, when China had undeniably won their hearts, Odile and Mikaël moved to Lijiang. Rhizome was born, becoming the only W.O.F.E (Wholly Owned Foreign Enterprise) in Southwest China.
Odile and Mikaël have been living on site with their three children since then, welcoming artists and travelers from all over the world.