In our rush to celebrate Shenzhen’s transformation from a fishing village into China’s fourth city, we emphasize a nets-to-riches fantasy. However, this origin story ignores the inequalities that structured coastal society before the establishment of the People’s Republic in 1949. In this episode of the Shenzhen Book of Changes, we visit Nan’ao and speak with the local fishing people, who before 1962 were not allowed to come on land. They floated from port to port in Dapeng Bay, relying on the fish that they could catch and the protection of the goddess Mazu to warn them when storms were rising.
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.