三洲田村:Narrating the Shen Kong border

So, review of Thirty Years of Shenzhen Villages continues from Episode 7 because for some yet-to-be-ascertained reason, episodes 5 and 6 aren’t available on youku net.

In 2005, construction workers unearthed a 10 kilometer section of the ancient tea route (茶马古道). This road once linked eastern Shenzhen to the new territories, more importantly (for the sake of narrating the Shen Kong border), this road connected to Sanzhoutian Village (三洲田村, literally “Peninsula Paddy Village”), where Sun Yat Sen (孙中山) lead the Sanzhoutian First Uprising (三洲田首义). In retrospect, Sanzhoutian became known as the first explosion of the Gengzi Incident (庚子事件), protesting the Boxer Indemnity that the eight colonial powers imposed on the Qing Dynasty.

Sanzhoutian is a rich symbol in Shenzhen history because it provides deep historic links between the SEZ and Hong Kong at multiple levels. First, over 1,000 years ago, the area was one of Guangdong’s ten large salt fields. This history lingers in the District name Yantian (盐田), which literally means “salt field”. Archaeologists speculate that the Sanzhoutian Ancient Road may have been built on the old salt road.

Second, Sanzhoutian was a Hakka village and not Cantonese. The ancestors of current villagers immigrated from the central plane roughly 400 years ago, centuries after the salt trade had faded in importance. These ancestors  were deep sea fisher men. As such, Sanzhoutian was vulnerable to and/or part of the network of pirates that roamed the south China Seas during the Ming and into the Qing Dynasty. In order to protect villagers and remove coastal support for the pirates, the Qing ordered all coastal villages to move inland 30-50 kilometers. Sanzhoutian was one of the villages forced to retreat from the coastline.

Third, Sanzhoutian was cut off from Shenzhen Market and the Pearl River Delta by Wutong Mountain. This meant that Santoutian was integrated into Hakka trade by way of Huizhou City in the northeast and Shatoujiao Market in the southwest. Significantly, the only market-level non-rural area in Mao-era Baoan County (other than Shenzhen Market), Shatoujiao was an important site linking Mainland Hakka trade to that of the world by way of the Hong Kong New Territories. Indeed, the Sino-British border ran through one of Shatoujiao’s commercial streets. Consequently, during early Reform, this street was reopened (with a travel pass of course) to Mainland residents who could go shopping on “Sino-England Street (中英街)”.

Now, there are all sorts of interesting reasons why Sanzhoutian is even less well know than Nantou in terms of Shenzhen history. But one of the main reasons is precisely the cultural division between Cantonese and Hakka villages. In fact, the area of Shenzhen near Dapeng Bay was once part of Huizhou (a major Hakka city), only becoming part of Baoan County in the late 1950s. Indeed, in official narratives about Shen Kong eastern Shenzhen plays an interesting role. On the one hand, it demonstrates regional integration. On the other hand, it reveals fissures within accounts that assert the primacy of Cantonese culture in both Shenzhen and Hong Kong. Thus, this history tends to focus on “national” issues, leaving aside “local” details. Instead, western Shenzhen at Nantou becomes the symbol of “local” culture.

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