shenzhen wetlands

You may not be aware that there is a wetlands conservation area in downtown Shenzhen. Tucked away between Window of the World, Baishizhou, and the Binhai Expressway, the wetlands boasts the last bit of original coastline of Shenzhen Bay. Indeed, once upon a time, it was a guarded border. The city uses this small piece of land as a living classroom, inviting limited numbers of people in to learn about conservation and local ecology.

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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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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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shenzhen bay coastline, oct 27, 2012

I wandered to the Shenzhen Bay Park, tracking the construction and commodification of the new coastline. Land reclamation has brought views and parks, but I noticed that children and dogs still want to get their feet wet. Impressions, below.

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the houhai river, dusk

I have learned that the runoff stream that threads the Houhai land reclamation area along the southern coast of the Nantou peninsula is called, the Houhai River. It has been mapped and landscaped to accompany the futuristic luxury homes that boast both estuary and river views, and it leads to the Shenzhen Bay Park. Nevertheless, remnants of an older landscape linger, fishing families and the sand processing docks of the no longer extant Dongjiaotou pier.

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OCT Bay: Give Happiness a Coast?!

Visited OCT Bay (欢乐海岸) this afternoon. OCT Bay is the third Shenzhen development of “The New OCT‘” to expand and develop their brand throughout China. The first effort was OCT (now OCT Loft) and the second was OCT East. OCT Bay’s advertising slogans suggest the state-owned enterprise’s ambitions to provide fantasy shopping experiences, for example: Elegant Christmas, Fashionable New Year’s (风雅圣诞,时尚新年). However, their motto, Give Happiness a Coast (给欢乐一个海岸) is beyond ironic. Water light shows, an artificial lake, and boat rides on the winding river, notwithstanding, the entire complex is built on reclaimed land from Shenzhen Bay. In fact, the former coastline (at least a km inland) used to be edged with mangrove trees and, further into the bay (in the middle of the complex), oyster cultivation. Impressions, below:

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out with the old…

I walked along the old Shenzhen Bay Coast today. Reclaimed land to the south, old Shekou to the north.

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what is luxury living?

I’ve been thinking about luxury because it permeates Shenzhen advertising, especially that for new housing estates. The definition of luxury that appears in these advertisements invariably links high-end consumption, images of happy elites, and the idea of homecoming. The strip of reclaimed land that stretches from Shekou Gongye 8 Road to Dongjiaotou, for example, is thick with malls and advertising, as well as littered with evidence that such lives don’t come cheap.

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The characters for luxury 奢侈 reveal the extent to which inequality threads through and often sustains our desire for these objects. 奢 deconstructs to the characters 大者, or “big one”. Likewise, 侈 becomes 人多, or many people. Thus, the literal definition of shechi is big one many people, leaving the question of the verb that links big ones and the many open to interpretation. Is a luxury item something that all want but belongs to the big one? Or perhaps, it takes many to produce a big one?  Continue reading

that was then

Wandered over to the Shenzhen Bay sports stadium, where people took pictures of themselves in front of universiade installations and topiary. To give a sense of what is meant by “Shenzhen speed (深圳速度)”, I am posting pictures of that particular bit of earth, below.

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Importantly and often overlooked, hidden in plain sight behind painted walls and temporary green space, the bit of earth just south of the pageantry has gone to seed, awaiting post-universiade construction.

In the Name of Shenzhen Bay

The Shenzhen Bay Fringe Festival begins on Saturday, December 4 at 3 pm with a three-hour parade. The parade route spans from the Poly Theatre in the east to the Wenxin Park Plaza in the west (behind the Nanshan Book City). Should be fun. Also, please note that during workdays, most performances and screenings will take place from 7:30 on.

For Fat Birders, there will be two outdoor performances. The short playAnimals in Motion: Flashing Animals (动物在行动之”快闪动物”) shows on Sunday, December 5 at 4 p.m. on the Shenzhen Bay walk. The second is an ongoing performance piece (5-11 Dec) – Animals in Motion: One Cat, Six Days (动物在行动之”一猫六日”) that takes place throughout Coastal City.

In the meantime, in the spirit of the hopeful creativity, I’m posting a translation of Yang Qian’s thoughts on the Fringe; the Chinese original follows.

In the name of Shenzhen Bay
Yang Qian

During the Pliocene Epoch, over 5,300,000 years ago, black-faced spoonbills already took refuge in the mangrove forrest that grew in the deep and tranquil swamps of Shenzhen Bay. Over the past few decades, the ongoing reduction of the wetlands necessary to their survival, the increasing smog of their skies, the beautiful neighborhoods incesently clammering on their coast, towering glass skyscrapers and the shocking honks of traffic have made it nearly impossible for them to nest and breed here. Nevertheless, spoonbills continue – now as before – to take wing at sunrise and return to their nests at dusk. Like a group of society-forsaking hermits, their hidden but unhurried observation bears witness to and records each and every human action.

The nine days from December 4 to 12, 2010 may bring a sense of prosperity to the human residents of Shenzhen Bay because this is where the first Shenzhen Bay International Fringe Festival is being held. These days, it is more and more difficult to find situations which might be described as prosperous, nevertheless I feel that for this arts festival, we can boast a little.

The first Fringe Festival was held in Edinburg in 1947. It’s purpose was to celebrate and generate conversations about alternative theatre. Today, the Edinburg Fringe remains the world’s most famous and largest Fringe Festival. The word “fringe” refers to the decorative edge of a garment, consisting of hanging threads or cords. In the context of the arts it refers to art that is non-official, alternative, and non-commercial. Throughout the world, many countries and regions have their own Fringe, when residents get crazy happy and artists flaunt their brilliance and creativity.

During the first Shenzhen Bay International Fringe Festival, several tens of thousands of people will participate in the arts parade, independent films will be shown, cutting edge music and theatre will be performed, and performance artists and animal protection supporters will protest animal cruelty. The organizing principals of all this celebratory play are collective participation and individual creativity, equal dialogue and free expression.

In addition, I hope that people will be pleasently surprised to discover that the arts may change one’s habitual understanding of “ecological geography”. The first Shenzhen Bay International Fringe Festival takes place at Coastal City and the surrounding area. For the past three years, this luxury shopping mall has been the destination of upscale consumors. However, during the Fringe, the focus is not anxiously desired namebrand goods, even as the conversation is not about getting a good deal. In an era of ascending consumerism, securing a free space is a battle of life and death. In contrast, during the Fringe business defers to the people, and if even for a few days, this breathing space is the kind of prosperity worth lauding.

Finally, I cannot but comment that in practice the themes of this year’s Fringe – environmental conservation, low carbon life styles, and ecological safety – are but impotent and empty talk.

To understand the scale of Shenzhen’s environmental transformation, the most direct method is to visit the NASA website and download satelite photos of the Nantou Peninsula. From 1997 to 2002, in the short span of five years, the area of the peninsula doubled in size. What was the corresponding increase in population? How much arable land was eliminated? How many wild animals and plants were lost? Who knows the answers to these questions? More to the point, who can tell us what the short and long term cumulative effects of industrialization are and will be?

Presently, the phrases “environmental protection,” “low carbon lifestyle,” and “ecological safety” are on everyone’s lips. However, when we say one thing and do another, even putting the rights, safety, and protection of consumers above those of our world, then of course we become even more hypocritical and destructive.

A sense of prosperty flourishes when we face the world with dreams and hope and live with respect and freedom. It does not grow ignoring and fearing painful and lingering death – of ourselves or of the natural world. The most valuable aspect of the Shenzhen Bay Fringe is that it provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the true meaning of prosperity. Whether or not a fringe festival celebrated in the name of Shenzhen Bay will maintain its honor and sence of well-being is not simply dependent on Shenzhen’s GDP, but more importantly depends on the future condition of the Bay itself. If human beings act in the name of place and are to do so without shame, it must be done in such a way that also benefits black-faced spoonbills and painted snipes, spoiled and abandoned pets. May all that consitute the Shenzhen Bay prosper!

以深圳湾之名 杨阡



世界上首次“艺穗节”(Fringe Festival)是1947年在英国的爱丁堡举办的,主要是边缘戏剧表演和交流的艺术节。至今爱丁堡戏剧节仍是世界上最享有盛誉的也是规模最大的“艺穗节”。艺穗的“穗”(Fringe)原意是指我们穿的衣服,戴的围巾周围作为装饰的穗子。引申到艺术活动就有了非官方、非主流、非商业的含义。如今世界上已经有许多国家和地区拥有自己的艺穗节。这是个民众狂欢和艺术家自由展示才华与创造的节日。


除此之外,我希望人们能惊喜地发现,艺术活动其实可以改变自己习惯的“生存地理学”概念。首届“深圳湾国际艺穗节”的主场地是深圳海岸城及其周边地区。这座奢华的shopping mall建成三年来一直用高档消费主导着大众周末和平日的消遣。但是由于艺术节,那些让人望而生畏的品牌将不再是焦点,压抑的标价也不再是谈话的核心。在消费主义盛行的时代,夺回自由空间是一场生死攸关的战斗。欢呼生意向民意低头,哪怕只有短短的几天时间,这也是值得夸耀的幸福。