gaoling: shenzhen’s eastern periphery

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.