hubei: bearing witness

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.”

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new traditions: nan’ao mazu

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.


  1. 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;
  2. 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;
  3. He contacted artisans in Chaozhou to design and build the temple according to “proper” requirements.

Questions that the temple raises include:

  1. How is “tradition” being remade at the popular level, now that long-term residents are contributing to the reconstruction?
  2. 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.

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czc entr’acte

The entr’acte between a thriving urban village and its gentrification into mall-burbia occurs as developers scramble to get the last hold outs to sign compensation packages. To ensure that noone moves into buildings that have already been acquired by the developer, windows and doors are often cemented over and 拆 the character for “raze” is painted in bright red stencil.

In Nanmendun, Buji (布吉南门墩), for example, the entr’acte has been in progress since May 26, 2011, when the Kaisa Group announced that it had begun the renovation project. According to the announcement, 18,879 people lived in 479 buildings (mostly handshakes, but some early 80’s and Mao era dormitories). Of this population, roughly 10% were Nanmendun residents and entitled to relocation and compensation. Roughly two years later, the process of getting holdouts to sign and stragglers to move on is still in progress.

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Nanmendun is one of five renovation projects in Buji and the usual suspects — Vanke, China Merchants, Huarun, and Xinyi are also busy gentrifying the area. What the map below makes clear, however, is how extensive rural urbanization has been in Buji. Indeed, it is hard to speak of an “urban village” when handshake buildings and unregulated development have been the dominant form of urbanization for over thirty years.

Lay of the land:

4 renovationsin buji

The Value of Urban Villages

US American real estate developers chant, “location, location, location.” In Shenzhen, primary locations open for development are actually urban villages slated for old village renovation — redevelopments that involve the final transfer of village held property to the Municipality.

In a Jingbao article on the future of Nanshan District, Li Xiaogan, recently appointed Nanshan District Secretary, noted for example, “In constructing a global district and promoting urban renovation, Nanshan District will have several advantages over the next few years. First, the largest urban renovation project in Guangdong Province – Dachong Urban Village, with a total project area of 683,000 square meters; second, the urban renovation project for the five villages of Baishizhou in Shahe, which is currently being planned, also has an area of over 650,000 square meters, and is again one of the largest in the Province; third, located in the north of the District, the three Shuiyuan villages are within the water conservation and ecological conservation red lines, and are thus relatively backward, however, they are also now in the planning stage of development; forth, the old Xili Market, which we are planning to convert to an urban complex; fifth, the banks of the Shahe River, where we will take international bids to create an ecological cultural corridor, and; six, Nanshan Old City, which with everyone’s support we hope to return to its status as Shenzhen’s historical and cultural root, by resituating all residents and completely rebuilding.”

Recent impressions of Baishizhou, below:

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Xiasha “Old village renovation”

In point of fact, the phrase “village renovation (旧村改造)” is a misnomer. What many Shenzhen villages are renovating is not the old village, but a village that was “new” in the mid-1990s. Images from Xiasha’s recently completed renovations suggest possible tradition-socialist-early reform-contemporary mashups or postmodern post-villages, so to speak.

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