luohu seethes contradictions, especially in the area surrounding the train station and railroad tracks, which connect shenzhen to hong kong (in the south) and guangzhou by way of buji and dongguan (in the north). in fact, the area immediately surrounding the railway station is frequently (and distastefully) referred to as “chaotic (乱).”
this part of the city was originally part of caiwuwei (蔡屋围), location of the previous administrative headquarters of bao’an county (once it was moved from nantou in 1953). consequently, it was one of the first areas occupied by national work units that built shenzhen. in fact, this area is one of the few in shenzhen where there are work unit residential compounds.
although shenzhen’s explosion has repeatedly transformed caiwuwei, the area’s historic importance has meant that past buildings and dreams accumulate in the shadows of upgraded versions.
i have uploaded a five minute walk through two blocks of caiwuwei. it begins in the alley next to the the ministry of shipping compound (航运大院), scuttles through the driveway entrance to the chengshi tiandi plaza, crosses bao’an south road and moves through the newer section of the mix-c mall to park lane manor.
the point of this walk is not simply to draw attention to the contradictions that structure everyday life in shenzhen, but also to emphasize that critical irony is built into the physical environment. benjamin reminds us that when innovations appear in modern life they do so by calling attention to the past. and not merely any past. but collective dreams and fantasies for completion and wholeness that have not yet been satisfied.
pay attention. the the mix-c’s name in chinese is 万象城 – “city of every phenomenon”, evoking the dao de jing, where “the way gives rise to one, the one to two, the two to three, the three to every phenomenon (道生一，一生二，二生三，三生万物). ask yourself. if the way is not capitalism (with or without chinese characteristics), what is it?