Augmented Reality Installation / Shadow Play: Tales of Urbanization of China

Lily & Honglei Art Studio: Urbanization of ChinaIntegrating mobile phone augmented reality technology with traditional Chinese art and storytelling, the AR installation of Shadow Play: Tales of Urbanization of China portrays a society undergoing an unprecedented process of urbanization. The narrative of the 'Family of the Village Head' is based upon a series of real-life incidents that have taken place during this time of tumult; clashes over land eviction, kidnapping of children, suicides of migrant workers, and man-made environmental catastrophes are among them. In executing the piece, Lily & Honglei created a number of characters whose visual forms draw inspiration from traditional Chinese shadow play. Utilizing the capabilities of augmented reality technology, the audience may then experience the installation in real time and space through their mobile phones. The classically-inspired shadow-puppet characters are superimposed upon real-world locations in the rural and urbanizing regions in northern China. Through phone cameras, two layers of imagery are merged; the foreground comes to life in a digital application atop the background of reality. It is this dynamic between the new and the traditional, between modern realities and the age-old human condition that embodies the implications of the work. A collection of screenshots from the piece is presented here.

How to Experience the AR installations in Real-Time: First, download and launch the AR browser application Layar on your iPhone/iPad or Android phone. Since the AR work is a site-specific installation, you need to visit the actual physical location for the real-time experience. At the site of the AR installation, aim the device’s camera around to view the 'virtual sculptures' surrounding you. To take a step farther, you may also capture the artworks with your mobile device's camera. The Shadow Play AR is currently installed at two sites: Gougezhuang Village 苟各庄镇 in Hebei Province and Tongxian County 通县 in Beijing, China. If you have questions locating the AR work, please email us at:

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Village Head
Guan Gong, household god

Lily & Honglei Art Studio: contemporary Chinese art

Urbanization of China: new media art by Lily & Honglei Art Studio
Four Demons
Dark Spirit
Factory Worker



Shadow Play: Tales of Urbanization of China

Chapter I. The Land : Death of the Village Head
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Family of the Village Head

'Protect us, Guan Gong!'

Fighting the Bulldozer

"I saw four demons hold him down..."

That winter, the village head died..

'Home's gone...'


Chapter II. The Ruins: Lost Children
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Another winter day...

Sweet treat of the Dark Spirit

In a strange city...

the little wanderers...

... and the ill ones


Chapter III. The City: Into the Void
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“At train station...looking for my kid...”

“Workers on their way...”


“Lost direction...”

“at McDonald's...”

“Constructions everywhere...”

“The police!”

Traffic Sign: “Slow Down!”

“From the top of TV tower...”


“gossips of Tea House...”

... ...


Chapter IV. The Maze: No Exit
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The city is growing...

also destroying...

Old City


lily & honglei: urbanization of china

Royal Garden

Lotus Pond

Mountain and River

The Sky

“No exit...”