My name is Daxiong. I’m the art director for Eternal Spring. Today I live in Toronto as an exile from my home in Changchun, China. Years ago, I had to flee, so now I draw the city I love from the memories in my heart. This is my introduction to the city that I hope one day everyone knows, the city of Eternal Spring.
An iconic building in everyone’s life is the “new train station” as we called it. This is where every great adventure begins if you live in Changchun. For many of us who don’t live there anymore, this is the last building we saw, the final image of our home.
I always enjoyed the old tram though. I can still hear those rusty railcars jostling through the streets whenever I walk around a city at night.
When I grew up, everyone rode bikes. There were fields of bike racks outside every school and workplace. Even in the deep winter, you would see the hardened people of my parents’ generation pedaling their way through snow.
It got cold fast in Changchun, and being an industrial city, we didn’t have much agriculture. Our main vegetable was cabbage. Before the freeze each year, we’d harvest cabbages and ferment them to keep through the winter. I remember having cabbage wars with the other kids right as winter set in.
My fondest memories have always been in winter. Fresh snow and the cold air on my face. Playing in the snow is so simple. We’d share a sled, see how many of us could pile on, making up games as we went along.
The weather was cold, but the relations between family, neighbors, and friends were very warm.
The highlight of every winter is the Chinese new year celebration. The lion dancers always seemed magical to me. The way they move to the hypnotizing drums — it didn’t seem possible that it was just two guys under papier-mache.
We didn’t have much, but we could make a game out of anything.
Lanterns and candy vendors filled the city squares in the lead up to the Lantern Festival at the end of our New Year celebrations.
Oh, and the popcorn makers on the street. That’s what my childhood tastes like. That’s the taste of adolescent freedom, of having a few coins in my pocket and feeling rich because I could buy all the popcorn I could eat.
The corn wasn’t the only thing popping though. How could you ring in the new year without little gangs of kids setting off firecrackers on every corner.
But the most important thing about winter in Changchun, if you ask me, is that we never stop dreaming of spring. That’s where the city got its name, in fact. Literally translated, Chang Chun means “eternal spring,” and we take the meaning to heart, even on the coldest days.