On May 25, 2019, Handshake 302 was honored to have Cheng Jian lead the fifth tour of Urban Flesh and Bones—Local Flavor: Shajing.
Anyone who thinks that Shenzhen’s history began in 1979 has never been to Shajing, where centuries of human history have shaped the local cultural geography. What’s to discover in Shajing? The Longjin Pagoda, for example, was erected during the Southern Song Dynasty and is the oldest above ground construction in the city. The recently renovated Chen Ancestral Hall asserts the social influence of clans during the Ming and Qing dynasties. In turn, a small Guanyin Temple reminds us that when men went to sea or worked the oyster beds, it was women who prayed for their safe return.
From an anthropological perspective, all of these sites are exciting discoveries.
Nevertheless, it is the stories of these places that breathe life into the landscape. The Longjin Pagoda was built to suppress the river dragon that once lived in Longjin River. The Shajing Chens once controlled the Pearl River Delta oyster industry, accumulating wealth and honor for their family. The small Guanyin Temple was renovated with anonymous gifts, a neighborhood harbor against life’s uncertainties.
No one narrates Shajing’s stories of like Cheng Jian. In fact, he may know the cultural history of Shajing even better than many young residents! Cheng Jian studied anthropology at Zhongshan University and has lived and worked in Shajing since 1999, exploring the past through Shajing’s rich cultural history. Not surprisingly, Cheng Jian has published several books on the cultural history of Shajing, while his interpretation of Shenzhen’s history through ancient poetry is a delightful introduction to ancient experiences of local cultural geography.
Impressions from our rediscovery of Shenzhen’s cultural geography.