This unique cultural centre welcomes you to Jade Valley Winery in Xi’an, China.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

This unique cultural centre welcomes you to Jade Valley Winery in Xi’an, China.

The white horse is already a well-respected motif in Chinese mythology. A pregnant, double-height white horse, however, symbolises bountiful blessings.

Up until recently, wine tourism has mostly revolved around destinations such as Napa Valley in the US, Bordeaux in France, Veneto in Italy, and Barossa Valley in Australia. 

Now, thanks to architect Qingyun Ma, China is making its mark as a wine-producing nation as well. We are, of course, referring to the mountainous terrain of Jade Valley in the city of Xi’an, which he has spent the last 15 years transforming from a rural farmland, and the homeland of his parents, into the wine destination named Jade Valley Winery that produces what Ma says is arguably the most respected wine in China.

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Collected from nearby creeks, the boulders walls demarcate several spaces including a parking lot and events yard.

However, the vineyard is just a fraction of Ma’s vision. He sees Jade Valley as the gateway to Chinese culture and tourism, which would improve the region’s socio-economic conditions, and he has achieved this by combining wine, art, architecture, and culture in Gatehall, his latest installation.

Spanning 32,300sqf, visitors must pass through the cultural centre’s art gallery, artist’s residency, restaurant and event space before discovering the winery and the rest of Jade Valley. 

It’s a concept influenced by traditional ceremonial Chinese architecture – “in which the process of entering a building requires a passage through a sequence of welcoming interior and exterior spaces,” says Ma.

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A white palette, and paper-like cut-and-fold approach to the interiors and exteriors create a light, calming atmosphere.

The all-white Gatehall has a commanding presence. Its exterior walls comprise local boulders assembled together by local craftsmen. Inside, are an enclosed courtyard — another Chinese architectural element — and a double-height pregnant white horse by Beijing artist Wei Wang that symbolises great prosperity.

“I chose white as the main colour for its lightness and purity, and the fact that it allows Gatehall to stand out among the other buildings,” shares Ma.

By combining cultural significance with contemporary architecture, Ma has been able to bring Jade Valley to the forefront of tourism. It also encourages an appreciation for the revitalisation of traditional elements and techniques.

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Gatehall may be a large building on its own, but it takes up only a fraction of the Jade Valley terrain.

Next, Ma is planning to restore Old Town, an old countryside centre, by designing new structures that will refresh it through wine-related programmes. Visitors can expect a bustling marketplace, theatres, residences and hotels.

More about Jade Valley Wine at

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Architect and winemaker Qingyun Ma on China’s growing wine industry.

“Wine is neither part of China’s food nor its agricultural tradition, which is a key reason for the slow growth in production here. The metropolitan consumer culture has, however, pushed wine onto people’s tables, leading to a better understanding and appreciation for it,” says Ma.

In fact, Jade Valley Wine has gained much attention from wine experts — particularly from those in the West. “Wine is not just a drink, it is a holistic representation of a place. Winemakers have moved from wanting to recreate the best from established wine countries to actually producing varieties befitting our terroir.”

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So the soil is conducive to growing grapes for winemaking, Ma says it is important to ensure three main factors. One, minimise human intervention and let nature take its course. Two, to protect the vitality of the vines, ensure low yields of fruit. Lastly, cultivate other vegetation between the grapevines to harmonise the surface of the land.

Currently, Jade Valley produces cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir and a Ten Thousand Purple & Thousand Red.