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The man covering Beijing in 100 dragons

By Dominic Morgan | | Updated: 2016-11-24 14:27
The man covering Beijing in 100 dragons

Qi Xinghua at his studio in Beijing. [Photo by Qin Yue/China Daily]

"I think there's a close connection between me and the dragons," says Qi Xinghua, smiling shyly.

Looking around the street artist's Beijing studio, that is clear to see. A dozen of his trademark shaggy dragons are swooping across the huge canvases covering the concrete floor, while another gazes somberly into the distance from an easel by the sofa. Yet another stares out from Qi's black T-shirt.

Like the British street artist Banksy and his rats, dragons have become Qi's calling card since he emerged as the dominant figure in Beijing's nascent street art scene earlier this year.

The 34-year-old has sprayed eight dragons on walls around Beijing so far, and he recently declared his intention to cover the Chinese capital with a hundred of his hairy serpents over the coming months.

These few works have been an immediate hit with Chinese netizens, with Qi's posts about his latest works regularly amassing thousands of likes and hundreds of comments on Weibo, the Chinese microblogging site.

Interviews with the Wall Street Journal, Guardian and Global Times soon followed, and the label "China's Banksy" has already been applied to him more than once.

Qi's stratospheric rise is all the more amazing when you consider that until March, he had never sprayed on Beijing's streets before. He had never even considered it as a possibility.

A chance conversation with a graffiti writer in Dubai this February provided him with the light bulb moment.

"Before, I thought that street art was permitted in other countries. I thought the environment in China for street art was very unfriendly, but then I realized that it is actually very friendly compared to many countries," Qi tells China Daily.

That was all the encouragement Qi needed, and before long his works were popping up around Chaoyang district on a regular basis.

Much like his British counterpart, Qi's work often has a playful feel to it, his paintings incorporating the urban environment around them to allow viewers to see the city with fresh eyes.

Crumbling brickwork is transformed into a crocodile; a demolition notice sprayed onto a local building becomes a Street Fighter-style fireball thrown by a kneeling panda.

"Nature gives me a difficult question, and my work offers a humorous answer," Qi explained in one Weibo post.

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