a special zone avant la lettre: old shajing

If you’ve had the privilege of walking Old Shajing with anthropologist Cheng Jian (程建), you know that the Chens settled the area during the Southern Song (960-1127). You also know that the Chen family network stretched throughout Dongguan and Xin’an Counties and that when most of Xin’an was abandoned during the Qing Dynasty relocation order (迁海令1644—1661), significant sections of Shajing remained settled despite the fact that it fell squarely within an area controlled and/or influenced by Koxinga (an honorific from 國姓爺; pinyin: Guóxìngyé; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Kok-sèng-iâ, his name was 郑成功). Clan members also received special dispensation that allowed them to travel into the coastal no-man’s land to harvest sea salt. That’s right: administrative borders, cross border exceptions, and concomitant territorial reorganization have a deep history in the area.


Map of coastal areas either occupied by (red) or under the influence of (orange) Koxinga.

Below, images from a walk from the Shajing Oyster processing plant to New Sha Street, which was developed during the 1980s vis the oldest alleyway in Shajing. Along the way we pass the site of the original Chen family ancestral hall, the most recent ancestral hall, which is under reconstruction, the site of the old Tianhou Temple, the Longjin Stone Pagoda, which was built during thee Southern Song, and the first generation of local villas. Of note? Since the factories have left, so have the people. Many young office workers and creatives have taken up residence in apartments and housing closer to the Shajing metro station, zipping in to Nanshan and its high-tech parks on line 11. In contrast, the older part of Shajing, where factory workers and their families once lived has been depopulated. Service workers and their families remain, but villagers are eager to demolish the older housing and transform their property into cold hard cash.

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