In a city of over 20 million, I was bound to come across some street art. It surprised me that the Chinese word for graffiti is tuya (涂鸦), a word used to describe “scribble”. Traditionally, graffiti is viewed as criminal art or vandalism in China. If caught painting in non-designated areas, artists will be fined, arrested, forced to paint over their work, or possibly held in jail for a few days.

Street art in Shanghai

A beautiful mural I found in Pudong, Shanghai.

In an attempt to reverse the negative connotations of graffiti, some artists refer to themselves as aerosol artists. Also to development of graffiti in China all the materials must become popular and cheap for everyone as spray paint is a rare commodity in Shanghai.

At the moment the government allows street artists to only paint in certain designated places and are often supervised while doing so.

Street art in Shanghai

Artist at work under the supervision of the police

Despite the ambiguity of the law against graffiti the phenomenon of graffiti is on the rise. I look forward to seeing what other pieces I can find in this bustling city.