British Council Creative Economy

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22 June 2018

Inside the Chengdu maker culture

Explore the local ecosystem of makerspaces, craft studios and technology hubs giving life to the new maker culture in Chengdu

Maker Circle in Chengdu | Photo: Jon Flint

Our delegates started their research trip in the city of Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan province located in the Southwest of China. With a population of over 14 million, Chengdu is China's fourth largest city and host to a vibrant creative industry of artists, designers, technologists and makers.  

Since the emergence of numerous makerspaces, arts and design studios over the last five years, there is a renewed public enthusiasm for creative practice across the city.

The trip included a whistle-stop tour of more than 15 organisations across Chengdu’s making sector with in-depth visits and interviews, as well as public facing events to engage with the wider community. The week ended with a mapping session at Chaihuo makerspace, in which a selection of people met during visits to informally discuss their network and help map out their practice and connections.  

SWJTU Makerspace, the first makerspace in Chengdu |Photo: Ingrid

A short history of the maker movement in Chengdu

Chengdu has a rich craft culture with many techniques listed in the Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage. Whilst making is part of the daily practice in China, the emergence of open access spaces and structured maker communities is still recent. For Chengdu the starting point can be linked to the opening in 2013 of the SWJTU Makerspace, located inside the Southwest Jiaotong University Makerspace.

SWJTU attracts many students to join the makerspace to collaborate with teachers and alumni on projects. The first makerspace to set up in the centre of the city was Chaihuo Makerspace, created in 2015 by the Open Hardware innovation platform Seeed Studio. Specialised in maker education, Chaihuo organised the first Mini-Maker Faire the following year. Since then countless open access spaces have opened their doors across the city, covering a range of activities, but focusing on hardware innovation and maker education.  

Chengdu maker map

Here is an overview of the maker ecosystem mapped by our delegates. Click on the icons to display makerspaces or organisations and discover their activity. From high tech robotics to bamboo weaving, Chengdu offers a wide range of maker practices. This map is a work in progress that we aim to keep up to date thanks to your contributions. Please use this form if you would like to submit a new entry or suggest an edit.

For Kat Braybrooke, one of the academics taking part in the research trip, “Chengdu has a distinct maker style which is infused into the relaxed tea house spirit of the city itself. Its locals have more time for leisure activities than in other cities in China, and its craft community is especially strong and thriving, with members constantly chatting with one another across a diverse variety of WeChat groups. This makes for a richly-connected local scene that everyone is tapped into in some way."

Our next blog presents a network map that details the relationships and connections within the Chengdu maker ecosystem.

The Living Research: Making in China programme is a partnership between the British Council and the Arts and Humanities Research Council. 

In China, the British Council has partnered with MakerNet to co-develop the project in Chengdu and Xi'an.