So, Hubei Old Village isn’t being demolished, but it’s not being protected from the fallout of master plans and hammer drills. I walked the edges of the demolition area in and around New Hubei Village and the former Luohu Culture Park, which used to be one of my favorite public spaces downtown. Impressions of the withering practices that encroach on the “Old Special Zone, below.”
Although the City’s relentless upgrades have transformed the lay of much Shekou land, nevertheless it is still possible to find corners shaped by early 80s dreams, technology, and capital. Yesterday, I walked to the 6-story roof of one of the buildings in an old Shekou Industrial Park along New Shekou Road.
Walked a stretch of Old Shenzhen yesterday, winding along shaded boulevards past work unit housing, 90s upgrades, and remnants of Caiwuwei finally arriving at the KK 100. Should you wish to retrace my steps, head north through the Caiwuwei entrance just behind Shenzhen’s latest landmark.
Walking Shekou today, I remembered that not only are urban villages subject to Shenzhen’s cultural industry inspired renovations. Older areas of Shenzhen, especially factories and housing estates are also being razed and/or remodeled to conform to different aesthetics and economic plans. Views on the process near Seaworld and the e-cool area, which used to be Sanyo factories (pictures of area, 2008).
Episode 4 of the Transformation of Shenzhen Villages focuses on Nanling Village, which became famous throughout the country as the “争气村 (hardworking village)”.
Nanling’s [Shenzhen] story begins in 1979 with the last mass exodus of Baoan economic refugees to Hong Kong. That day, Shaxi Brigade [Nanling’s collective predecessor] Vice Secretary Zhang Weiji came home to discover that his wife had joined several hundred other villagers who had decided to make the run for Hong Kong. Zhang Weiji went to the border and called for his wife and fellow villagers to return home with him. One of the runners looked over his shoulder and shouted, “Even after I’m dead my ashes won’t return to this place.” In the end, 50 villagers and his wife returned with Zhang Weiji to what had become another of Baoan’s ghost villages. The secretary vowed to transform Nanling into a village where people would stay and live out decent lives. Over the next decade, Nanling became one of China’s most important symbols of Reform and Opening as a means of achieving rural urbanization. Indeed, both Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao have visited the village on inspection tours to promote and confirm Nanling as a model for other village urbanization projects.
This weekend walked around the Xinxiu area. Located just east of Caiwuwei, Xinxiu was part of early, early Shenzhen development. However, as the SEZ developed in a westerly direction (away from Wutong Mountain), Xinxiu got stuck in mid 80s architectural forms, with occassional circa 1992 eruptions. And yes, Shen Gang New Village recalls the early days of cross border investment and like “xiao kang” has vanished from everyday conversations. More importantly, these impressions suggest the human scale of early Shenzhen. Look closely and note the clear water, the open neighborhoods, and low cost housing options that are scheduled for upgrading. All this to say, unlike many other built, rebuilt and razed again housing developments, Xinxiu feels like a neighborhood, in the old-fashioned sense of the term.
The thirtieth anniversary brought with it all sorts of interest in Shenzhen’s history. In addition to the Shenzhen Original Inhabitants website, 深圳维度 also came online. Shenzhen Dimensions is a group dedicated to enlivening public debate on and about Shenzhen. The site also provides links to all sorts of useful images and histories about Shenzhen. Recommended.
From a walk through one of Shenzhen’s older areas, Hubei New Village and slightly north of Dongmen.
Just had an interesting talk with a young man, who grew up in Yuanling. Of note was his comparison of Yuanling New Village, an example of 80s work unit housing (单位房) with Beijing’s hutong. When I pressed for an explanation of why Yuanling was to Shenzhen as hutong to Beijing, he said because Shenzhen people come from all over.
But, I countered, what about the local villages?
He insisted that Shenzheners began to be Shenzheners in the Reform era, no matter whether their anscestors came from outside Shenzhen or were Baoan natives. Moreover, he was taking pictures and recording the history of Yuanling because he’s afraid it will be gentrified, much like the hutong.
Hopeful conversation because it shows a commitment to embracing Shenzhen’s past as a source of common identity, rather than basing a common Shenzhen identity on what we will build and buy in the unsettled future.