top of page

The Fire in Mountains

This installation brings a hidden narration to light.

The coffee studio is sited in Tangkou, Pingnan County, Ningde City, Fujian Province. And it is adjacent to Shuhua Girls' School and Women's and Children's Hospital of Tangkou which was built in 1910.


A Hidden Narration

The construction of the girls' school and the hospital was directed by Dr. Mabel Pantin, a British Church doctor, who also pioneered Western medicine in the region. She was sent to China as a missionary by the Anglican Church in 1899, returned to Britain in 1924 due to illness, and died in 1926 shortly after the publication of her memoir "flashlight on Chinese life". The Tangkou Women’s and Children's Hospital was later taken over by missionaries Dr Bing Shuhui and Dr Xu Zeshu, and they renamed Mabel Pantin Hospital to memorize her. During the Second Sino-Japanese War, the complex was requisitioned as a military site for the Sixth Regiment of the Third Detachment of the New Fourth Army.


Those buildings have been inactive for many years after being requisitioned and transformed, and the main building was partially damaged through a hundred of years wind and frost. While the church, which was rebuilt and repaired several times, has also been preserved, facing the girls' school and the hospital complex from afar.


The Shuhua Girls' School and the Tangkou Women's and Children's Hospital are vital to the "collective memory" of the Tangkou area. The construction of uildings originated from the church doctor, Mabel Pantin. She brought western science, western medicine and devout faith to Tangkou. None of those fades away with her departure, but together with traditional natural beliefs and political changes, they structured a complex context relationship of Tangkou and became a hidden narration.


Attracted by the complex culture of Tangkou, the client decided to move out of the city to live here. He led the restoration of the complex, initiated the establishment of the Mabel Pantin Art Gallery and translated and printed her memoirs. Jointly operating with the neighbouring Longtan village, the client runs a coffee workshop to provide an opportunity of learning additional skills to support their lives and businesses for those 'new villagers' and local young people who have moved to Tangkou and Longtan.

This coffee studio is designed for the preparation of courses, roasting of coffee beans and research on coffee flavours.


Architecture and Statue

The mirrored facade reflects the surroundings, the passage of time and the change of seasons, which also makes the form of the building ambiguous.

The two separate lines gather the two adjacent facades. Together with the horizontal drainage elements, it reflects a complete Latin Cross in the mirror. At some certain angles, the cross hidden in the building appears in the same view as the cross on the red roof of the church down the hill, looking away from each other.

In some specific perspective, you will see two Latin Cross: the other is on the red roof of the old church.

At night, the result is a floating Latin Cross of light, celebrating the villagers who will view it from afar and introducing a new luminous monument in mountains.


The two French windows of an arc create the illusion of 'thick walls', and refer to the colours of the interiors in the former Mothers’ and Children's Hospital.

Inside the building, the interiors were made from old wood which is replaced from the original building during the restoration. Facing the open view of the mountains, Inside the semi-circular bar is the workspace for selecting and roasting coffee beans, making coffee.


"To the Eternal Flame of the Place in Mountains”

Dr. Mabel Pantin narrated the moment of her encounter with the local traditional briefs of Tangkou in her memoirs.


"The farmer was working alone in the field on the ridge, which made him very conspicuous. He shouldered his farm tools and walked carefully along the ridge of the fields towards a small altar beside the path. It was nothing more than a granite slab with a jar of burnt incense ash on it. The farmer put down his farm tools and stood solemnly in front of the altar. He folded his hands and raised them deferentially, bowing reverently and deeply to the stone tablet many times. Then he took an incense stick from his bag and lit it, inserted it into a small jar, bowed again. After finishing, he took his farming tools home. We also had to pass this altar on our way home. We stopped here to read the Chinese characters carved into the stone slab, and the man who was with us did his best to translate them, "To the eternal flame of the place in mountains" he read.


Today, Tangkou is completely different from the "long road and streets paved with broken hearts" described by Dr. Mabel Pantin, the stone tablet engraved, which engrave "To the eternal flame of the place in mountains", is nowhere to be found. But we believe that the eternal flame is never extinguished, it is in the haze of smoke and steaming coffee, and in the heart of young people coming back to Tangkou.

bottom of page