Chinese Graffiti Stories

I found graffiti in mainland China, but it wasn’t easy. Over the years, I’ve heard many explanations for the lack of street art there, from the stereotypical (orderly Chinese society) to the sinister (fear of reprisals). We had little luck in major urban centers like Beijing, Shanghai, and Chongqing (besides tiny bits like this). So, imagine my surprise finding these big ‘ol tags under a bridge in the quaint canal town of Suzhou.

Alongside a homeless camp are two pieces. On the left is a fairly traditional western tag. At right is an angular, less traditional Chinese tag. East meets west on the same wall. (close up here)

Since the artists are unknown to me, I often wonder what the story behind this meeting is. Did two writers from opposite sides of the world meet up in Suzhou and decide to make their mark together? Or, is it a call and response, an argument, with one piece angry at the other? What story does it tell us about China and Chinese graffiti? What does it tell us about how the Chinese view the western world?

No matter the story, I love this kind of cross-pollination. Artists from one part of the world influencing another, and the other echoing it back inside out and sideways. Culture is a beautiful thing but intercultural communication — that’s something else.

For more on mainland graffiti writers, see China Daily, graffiti crew Made in Guangzhou, and Chinese graffiti forerunner Zhang Dali.

13 Responses to “Chinese Graffiti Stories”

  1. 1 Mojoey

    In Suzhou no less? I’m scheduled to visit Suzhou again in January. I’ll have to keep my eyes open.

    Thanks for the link.

  2. 2 Jason

    I wish I could go back that soon.
    If you find any good street art on your trip, I’d love to see photos!

  3. 3 Jeff juncal

    I was in chongqing with 3 french painters : Kat, Reso, Tilt. Personally I sign wain. We make some graffiti in the Sichuan Fine Art institute in chongqing and also near the Yang tse river. You can see some picture on my website at this adress :

    also a video on :

  4. 4 Jason

    Jeff: Your crew’s work is fly!
    I’ll make it a point to visit Tank Loft next time I’m in Chongqing.

  5. 5 Jeff juncal

    Hey Jason,

    if you are in Chongqing and want to see graffiti in this city ask for wang xi in Tanf loft ( He’s the best guide for that in this city. Take a look about that aloso : french hip hop people having graffiti tour in china in early 2007 ->

    Have a good trip


  6. 6 Jason

    Wow. That tour looks fantastic.
    Thanks for the pointers, Jeff. I am on it.

  7. 7 j

    high there peoples…i had lived in china for about 4.5 years and had the pleasure of meeting a couple of great artists…. if there is anyway that i could let you see some of their art for critiques i’m sure they would be thrilled. peace, j

  8. 8 Natty5

    Do you know of anyway of getting in contact with local writers like a forum or something. I live in Beijing and have put up a few pieces in 798 and Chaoyang but so far haven’t met any chinese graffers in passing. You know any spots in Beijing?

  9. 9 Jason

    Natty, I don’t know of a forum. My guess is that writers might be worried about government reprisals. The government has been cracking down ahead of the Olympics and I imagine graffiti writers have felt that. For example, access to the MiG site now requires a password. (I wish I knew it!)

    If you look at Jef Juncal’s post above, though, he has a link to a graffiti tour that might be of interest.

    J, sorry for missing your comment before. I’d be very interested to see the work you mention! Hit me via the contact page.

  10. 10 dave

    hey there,

    just wanted to say that the piece you are referring to on the left would be more of a ‘throw up’ than a ‘tag’. i bet you could find the differences defined online through a quick google search.

    peace, dave

  11. 11 Jason

    Dave, thanks for the heads up. You’re right, it is a bit more complex than your typical tag. Wikipedia lays it out pretty clearly here.

  12. 12 Paotu

    Hello, I am spending the next year traveling throughout China doing a research project on Chinese graffiti. I am very interested in the importation of Western style from hip-hop as well as the political angle. If you have any suggestions or contact information for Chinese writers I would be very very grateful for it or suggestions of places to visit that you know have a particularly strong graffiti scene. I can be reached at

  1. 1 Suzhou travel guide « Travel in Asia!

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