Shenzhen has beautiful coastlines, especially in Dapeng District, where the coastline hasn’t been over-reclaimed and recreational areas still remain. Here’s the the thing, however. In order to generate income, most Dapeng beaches have been stutter-stepped developed within the city’s tourist industry. I know, this is what capitalist inclinations do to coastlines–remake water’s edge into commodity. So, in a manner of speaking, nothing new here. Why then visit Shayuchong 沙鱼涌 and/or Xichong 溪涌? Well, two reasons (in addition to going for a swim). First, these beaches make visible what a 涌 is, allowing us to imagine life before agriculture, when coastal dwellers first settled the area 7,000 years ago. Second, capitalism packages history and geography in order to profit in the present. So, when we’re visiting Shenzhen beaches, we’re not only looking at what sells, but also what is allowed to be sold, trying to figure out how red capitalist tides have restructure the coast since the late 1980s.
Both Shayuchong and Xichong are located in Kuichong Subdistrict (葵涌街道), which traverses the Dapeng isthmus, facing Dapeng Bay in the south and Daya Bay in the north, map above. Impressions from yesterday’s trip to Shayuchong and Xichong, below.
For those who doubt that once upon a time Bao’an County was coastal, I offer images from Baguang, one of the more beautiful sections of Dapeng New District. The majority of Baguang villagers have been relocated, while land and coastline have been red-lined for environmental protection, green living and research. At the moment, Baguang shimmers at the cusp of redevelopment–not yet remade, but yet already under erasure. Boom!
I have this longing to believe that somehow what came before was less fragile and much less fleeting, more easily touched and grasped than is the present. The irony of this longing caught up with me in Nan’ao, where three generations of fishermen live side by side on a beach front urban village (that, yes, is scheduled for partial demolition and redevelopment). Continue reading
Yesterday, I visited the newly renovated Mazu Temple of Nanyu (南渔), which is located in Nan’ao, Dapeng (大鹏新区南澳). The temple is interesting for (at least) three reasons and the questions they beg.
- The temple is a local renovation of a previous existing temple. The icons from the previous temple have been moved into a nearby exhibition of the history of the village;
- Although the temple and the exhibition were built on land that Nanyu has claim to, the project was promoted and funded by donations from a successful Chaozhou businessman, and therefore;
- He contacted artisans in Chaozhou to design and build the temple according to “proper” requirements.
Questions that the temple raises include:
- How is “tradition” being remade at the popular level, now that long-term residents are contributing to the reconstruction?
- What has been the role of Chaozhou people in this reconstruction?
Chaozhou people have been involved in the reconstruction of Shenzhen tradition at two levels. First, Shenzhen is known for the shift from the planned to a market economy, but many of the people who built the literal markets (the Hubei fish market, wet markets in many villages, and the dried fish market at Nan’ao, for example) have been from Chaozhou. Secondly, many of the traditional crafts that appear in Shenzhen ancestral halls and temples have been contracted from Chaozhou, which is considered more “traditional” and therefore “authentic.”
The next post will talk about the relationship between the temple and the village. Impressions of the newly constructed Mazu Temple and the exhibition.
Guanhu (官湖) and Shayuchong (沙渔涌) Villages are within walking distance to each other along the Dapeng coastline. Guanhu is the village that has developed Jiaochangwei. A small settlement at the mouth of a river, Shayuchong is undergoing a complete renovation that is reminiscent of the horrific universidade paint-overs. Both villages are in various stages of redevelopment. And in the details I trace Shenzhen’s complicated preservation ecologies, where beauty, kitsch desires, and too much money take strange and curious form. Impressions from today’s walk, below.
Almost one year ago, I posted on the development of Jiaochangwei, which is probably best understood as Atlantic City or Coney Island on speed, Shenzhen speed. Continue reading
Almost seven years ago to the day, I posted thoughts on cultural history. The prompt for my speculations was Dapeng Garrison, which at the time was the lack of recognition for the site, which is Shenzhen’s only national level cultural relic. Two days ago, I returned and the space was hop, hop, hopping in all sorts of telling ways. What changes had allowed Dapeng Garrison to suddenly attract students, busloads of tourists, and random day-trippers? Like most Shenzhen stories, the answer is a twisting, convoluted story of profits, grey economies, the allure of accomplishments, and the real consequences of administrative failure. Continue reading
Episode 13 of The Great Transformation, takes us to Gaoling Village (高岭村), which is located on Qiniang Mountain at Shenzhen’s eastern most edge on the Dapeng Peninsula.
The story of Overseas Chinese Chen Jiageng (陈嘉庚) opens the episode, connecting the history of Shenzhen’s eastern periphery to early modern Chinese nationalism. An ethnic Hakka, Chen Jiageng raised funds among to construct the Jimei School in his hometown Jimei Xiamen. For his nationalist efforts, Mao Zedong referred to Chen Jiageng as being “the banner of Overseas Chinese, the glory of the race (华侨旗帜，民族光辉)”.
Settled over 400 years ago by Hakka migrants, the layout of Gaoling reflected the founders need for safety and arable land. The village houses were located deep in the mountains, while village fields were located at the foot of the mountain. Every morning, villagers went down the mountain to work their fields and every evening, they returned to the relative safety of their homes.
The architecture of Gaoling reflected the agonistic relations between Hakka and local (本地 boon day [H], bendi [M], pundi [C]) peoples during the 19th Century. In fact, between 1855 and 1867, relations disintegrated into open conflict during the Punti-Hakka Clan Wars. During the early 20th Century, the village housed anti-Japanese troops, who were led by Hong Kong born Liu Peidai.
As in Xiamen, Gaoling villagers who lived overseas donated funds to build a school in their hometown. Over the course of the village’s history, Gaoling villagers immigrated to Singapore, Holland, the United States, and Canada, and many more lived in Hong Kong. Importantly, the Overseas Chinese funded improvements to their hometown, including modernizing the water system. The Euro-Chinese style of the school architecturally reflected these migrations and returns.
This morning while wandering in China Town, I stumbled upon the “Dapeng Hometown Association” or the hometown association for Dapeng villagers. The Association was established in 1982.
Curious, I went in and ended up speaking briefly with an elderly woman, whose life trajectory speaks to the twisting connections that constitute possible Shenzhen identities. Or outlying identities, as the case may be. Mrs. C explained that she was born in Indonesia, but in 1960 returned to her father’s hometown, Dapeng to escape anti-Chinese policies. In 1964, she swam to Hong Kong, finally settling in NYC in 1985. Mrs. C said she had joined the association because Dapeng was her father’s hometown, although her mother was Indonesian.
I mentioned Xichong and Dapeng Suocheng. She agreed that there was great seafood to be had. We smiled at each other. Mrs. C then took a phone call pausing long enough to suggest that I return to talk with the man in charge of the Association.
Uncanny moment that has me thinking all sorts of thoughts about fated encounters and entwined destinies…