Chinese artist Ai Weiwei sits in the courtyard of his home in Beijing, where he was put under house arrest Friday so he couldn't attend a party at his Shanghai studio, which the government is demolishing.

A few hundred supporters of Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei showed up at the site of his soon-to-be-razed studio in Shanghai in a peaceful demonstration.

The artist, who'd planned a party to protest the studio's demolition, was under house arrest in Beijing, 650 kilometres away. 

The 53-old artist was put under arrest on Friday and said authorities told him he couldn't leave until midnight Sunday, when the party would be over.

"Many had been warned by local police not to come, but they still made the effort … It is really amazing," Ai told the Guardian newspaper Sunday in an interview about the demonstration.

"Hopefully [the police] will learn from this that they cannot just use this old way to deal with new conditions."

Ai had originally been invited to design a new studio in the business district of the city, along with other artists.

However, the conceptual artist — whose activism has gotten him in trouble in the past with Chinese officials and police — was told in July that he didn't have the necessary permits for the building, something he's been working on for two years.

In protest, the artist said he was inviting anyone to a party at the studio space prior to its destruction.

In addition, he promised to serve river crabs, which in Chinese sounds like the government's catch phrase of "harmonious." It's a phrase critics use sarcastically to suggest censorship.

Ai supporters began arriving Sunday morning with some plainclothes police keeping watch nearby. The crowd sang songs and ate crabs, while also lining up to buy books and posters of Ai.

"It was very touching to see such solidarity," the artist said. "I'm also surprised police didn't do anything … [I think] they didn't want another incident because this is already bad enough for them."

Ai is an acclaimed artist who has installed projects around the world.  His current piece involves 100 million porcelain sunflower seeds, which are lying on the floor at the Tate Modern gallery's famed Turbine Hall in London.

With files from The Associated Press