I’ve been thinking about luxury because it permeates Shenzhen advertising, especially that for new housing estates. The definition of luxury that appears in these advertisements invariably links high-end consumption, images of happy elites, and the idea of homecoming. The strip of reclaimed land that stretches from Shekou Gongye 8 Road to Dongjiaotou, for example, is thick with malls and advertising, as well as littered with evidence that such lives don’t come cheap.
The characters for luxury 奢侈 reveal the extent to which inequality threads through and often sustains our desire for these objects. 奢 deconstructs to the characters 大者, or “big one”. Likewise, 侈 becomes 人多, or many people. Thus, the literal definition of shechi is big one many people, leaving the question of the verb that links big ones and the many open to interpretation. Is a luxury item something that all want but belongs to the big one? Or perhaps, it takes many to produce a big one?
Another way of answering the question is to lift the advertising phrases that have been strung between Shenzhen Bay construction sites and create a found words poem, below.
A Mind as Vast as the Sea
Hand in hand we leave drugs behind, hearts entwined we create a prosperous society
We strengthen quality management, we improve the ideological quality of all workers
Remember: vigilance secures our safety, lethargy causes accidents.
Here, the habit of luxury consumption is normal and coastal living is an attitude;
Here, appreciating knowledge nourishes the soul and our habits create the future.
The country holds land in reserve, the Emperor’s court imagineers our future lives —