The distinction between the golf course (or “high ball field – 高球场” as it is now abbreviated) and the nearby urban villages is clearer in English than in Chinese, because the gulf course is known as Guanlan Lake High Ball Field, while the surround area is simply “Guanlan.” These fuzzy language borders matter. I know, for example, many Chinese people who use English translation to more strongly express ideas and aspirations that remain muted in Putonghua. I will be exploring these tensions–between art and craft, between hand and machine, between service and consumption, and between local and outsider–over the next two months as a participant in the Guanlan Mission Hills International Material Art Camp. Below are impressions from my first few days walking the area.
Off the beaten track (or at least a 15 minute bus ride from the Longhua subway station), Dalang remains one of the manufacturing centers of Shenzhen as well as one of the few spaces where it is still possible to see container trucks of various sizes trundling about. The landscape itself is a dense mix of industrial parks, proper urban villages, collectively held property, and limited public and commercial property. In other words, the area retains much of its morphology from when Longhua was officially a market town (镇, 1986-2004) and the entire area was developed through rural institutions.
Walked around the qinghu station, which for the moment, is the last station on the longhua line. in its underdevelopment, the area reminds us that Shenzhen’s “villages in the city (城中村)” began as “new villages (新村)”, as locals took advantage of their land, proximity to Hong Kong, and cheap labor to jump into global chains of production. Nevertheless, with the subway, bourgeois taste has begun to restructure the landscape and upscale housing developments now push Longhua factories and dormitories further inland. Pictures below.