人才公园: the new new coastline

Several days ago, I walked from Coastal City (海岸城) to Shenzhen Talent Park (深圳人才公园). Previous walks–now long ago and far away, and besides that was a different city–had me wandering the reclaimed land behind Coastal City. However, the new coastline is as firmly in place as anything on shifting sands. What’s more, its a popular destination for families and this popularity deserves comment. After all, people are walking from the old new coastline (at roughly Houhaibin Road) to its newest coastline, a walk that takes at least fifteen minutes one way. Below are images that give a sense of the layout of the new park. In the maps, the purple line is Houhaibin Road, the approximate old new coastline. Continue reading

shajing oysters

Today I learned about cultivating oysters. I also visited Shajing, the town that oysters built even though oysters are no longer cultivated here. Instead the oyster babies are sent to Taishan where they are raised and returned to Shajing for processing. It’s almost like assembly manufacturing, except its agricultural production. Continue reading

fishermen’s wharf, shekou

First day of 2015, I walked Fishermen’s Wharf, Shekou where they’re still selling fish. The oysters cultivated on the Hong Kong side of Shenzhen Bay are sold in Dongguan and Guangzhou. Impressions, below.

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“evolution” in progress

Lei Sheng and I have worked together with a team of craftsmen from a Shenzhen factory to create “Evolution”, a site specific installation for the Shenzhen Public Sculpture Exhibition. The show opens tomorrow in Shenzhen central park, along side the Futian River. Comments and thoughts tomorrow, along with images of finished sculpture and other installations. To contextualize project, please click houhai, land reclamation and/ or oysters in the tag cloud. Below, pictures of evolutionary progress.

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more about oysters

Anyone who has crossed from Shekou to Tun Mun via the Shenzhen Bay Western Corridor Bridge has seen the clear line that demarcates the Shenzhen-Hong Kong borridor. South of the border are floating oyster beds. North of the border, it has been illegal to raise oysters since 2006. However, at the remnants of what was once Shenzhen Harbor, those oysters are sold by the men and women who raise them — all of whom live in Shenzhen. Today’s impressions from a walk that stretches from the upscale neighborhoods of the Peninsula Estates and the Shenzhen Bay Park to the impromptu docks, where oysters were being unloaded and sold, along with a yellow fish.

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海湾村: land locked futures

The Transformation of Shenzhen Villages (沧海桑田深圳村庄30年), Episode 9: Haiwan Village tells the story the Nantou Peninsula and the reclamation of land in Houhai (the southern coast facing Hong Kong) and Qianhai (the northern coast facing Guangzhou). This was the platform from which Hong Kong entered China and Baoan villagers once launched themselves to Hong Kong.

During the Mao era, Wanxia Village was divided into two production brigades, one land based for agricultural cultivation and the other water based for oyster farming. Eventually, the Wanxia Oyster Brigade was renamed Haiwan Brigade, creating two administrative villages through the division of one natural village. This division points to the importance of production — rather than history — in defining Maoist administrative units, especially in rural areas, where villages were integrated or split depending upon production needs. Importantly, however, these administrative categories were not naturalized in the same way during the early years of Reform and Opening, when some administrative villages re-instituted traditional boundaries while others did not. Haiwan retained Maoist status and began building village level factories.

Access to the sea shaped village demographics, with a population gap of people, ages 45-65 who escaped to Hong Kong in the last large flights in 1968 and 78, respectively. Nevertheless, traditional land rights enabled Haiwan to prosper. In addition, we learn from an older, Cantonese-speaking villager that Haiwan Village is an Overseas Chinese village, with many descendants scattered throughout the world with village association buildings in the United States and Hong Kong, representing support, ranging from monetary to knowledge to investment connections. The village has also maintained its identity through traditions and ritual that centered on a small Tianhou Temple.

Watching this episode, I suddenly realized something that was clearly obvious to the filmmaker: Deng Xiaoping’s 1992 Southern Tour coincided with the establishment of guannei villages as stock-holding corporations and urban neighborhoods. In other words, the second tour did result in new policies or breakthroughs as they are known. My a-ha moment was in seeing the connection between politics and the radical restructuring of the south china coast.  The episode ending rhetorically juxtaposes images of Wall Street with Houhai, asking if Shekou can become the next Manhattan. The question is illuminating not for its booster-hype pretensions, but rather because it clearly reiterates the primacy of investment and real estate over traditional livelihoods such as oyster farming. In such a world, insofar as the sea becomes a factor in determining property values and not an independent source of value, reclaiming the sea makes good business sense.

return of the bivalves

Yesterday, I walked around Dongjiaotou, which in days earlier served as a small port for building materials coming in from Foshan and other Delta cities. Pedestrians jumped the fence to get to the small strip of beach where several families were selling oysters. In 2007, Nanshan District removed all oyster cultivation and processing from the Houhai coastline, especially around the Seaworld area (pictures from 2003 and 2007, here).

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