yuehaimen village

When I first arrived at Shenzhen University, Yuehaimen was the urban village where I rented a conveniency apartment for 600 rmb a month. Located at the southeastern border of the SZU campus, there was an open gate between the village and the campus. However, by the time of SARS (2003) the gate was sealed off and students took to clambering over the wall between the village and campus in order to get to school. The university built dormitories at its southwestern border in Guimiao campus. That small, backdoor gate was the easiest to slip through during the SARS quarantine.

Piece by piece, urbanization near the SZU campus isolated Yuehaimen from the city. On its eastern border, Yuehaimen abuts the southern section of the Shenzhen Science and technology park. During construction of the park (from mid to late 1990s), another wall was built between the village and the white-collar work and residential area. The village’s southern border was the coastline that is now Houhai Road, and yes, a wall was built to separate the village from land reclamation, and has remained in place to cordon off ongoing construction of SZU’s southern campus.

These successive construction projects (SZU campus, Science and Technology Park, and reclamation of Houhai Bay) meant that Yuehaimen was an important home for construction workers, SZU students, and office staff. Having limited land resources, villagers built early and tall; these 6-8 story buildings are not prototypically “handshake” buildings, which emerged in the mid-1980s. Instead, Yuehaimen buildings resemble early 1990s work unit housing. More importantly, given land constraints and building styles, villagers did not own individual property, but units within jointly held buildings.

Yuehaimen is scheduled for razing by the end of the calendar year, or early next year. Most of the residents have been evacuated. What remains is an urban ghost village, where a few stragglers wait until the very last-minute before slipping into another urban enclave. In turn, Yangguang Real Estate developers promise to build another gated community on the footprint of Yuehaimen — this one shiny, modern, and meant to house Shenzhen’s technocratic managers and leaders.

Impressions, below.

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