Shenzhen, Guangzhou 2010
February 2010 saw us return for my fourth trip to China and third visit to Shenzhen, and included a day trip to nearby Guangzhou, capital city of Guangdong Province.
This is the story of my trip – while reading this story you can at the same time view the Photo Album from this trip (opens in new window/tab).
This time we stayed in Luohu District, near the iconic Shun Hing Square which is one of the world’s tallest buildings. Being Lunar New Year the streets were festooned with red lanterns and shopping centres and tourist attractions adorned with traditional decorations.
Shun Hing Square (Galleries)
In my week in Shenzhen I visited the Splendid China and China Folk Culture Villages theme parks, the Shenzhen Municipal People’s Government building, the Shenzhen Museum of History, the Shenzhen Museum of Ancient Art, and Lychee Park. We also took a day trip to Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong Province, where we visited a few of the city’s major attractions – Yuexiu Park, Beijing Road, Ersha Island and the Pearl River.
As well as enjoying these attractions I also found Shenzhen’s cool and cloudy mid winter weather to be a very welcome relief from the extreme summer heat I’d been experiencing at home. And of course we also enjoyed Shenzhen’s great dining out which is a highlight of any trip to China.
Splendid China and China Folk Culture Villages theme parks
At the Splendid China theme park in Nanshan District over 80 notable landmarks from around China are experienced in miniature in the one location, including the Forbidden City, the Terracotta Army and the Great Wall. The excellent miniature reproductions are scattered throughout a beautiful parkland setting that includes a forested hill and waterways and ponds, making for an interesting walk of landmark discovery on meandering pathways. The miniature Great Wall spans the park and is regularly sighted, emphasising its great scale. I had previously seen a few of the landmarks in real life – such as Henan Province’s Longmen Grottoes and Shaolin Temple – and Splendid China was a reminder that China has many, many more historical and natural treasures that I have yet to see. And the landmarks showcased in Splendid China are just those of national significance, there are countless more of provincial, regional and local significance. The China Folk Culture Villages theme park is linked to Splendid China and accessible with the same entry ticket. Here twenty-four villages showcase the cultures of China’s 56 ethnic groups.
Shenzhen Museum of History
The new Shenzhen Museum of History is located in the eastern end of the spectacular wing-roofed Shenzhen Municipal People’s Government building in Futian District in central Shenzhen. The Museum of History is outstanding, with displays that trace Shenzhen’s history from ancient times through its period of reform and opening up to the Shenzhen we see today. The excellent way in which the displays have been created enabled me to experience Shenzhen’s history rather than just see it, and the interpretive signage for all displays is in both Chinese and English.
Shenzhen Museum of History (Galleries)
The Museum of History’s Ancient Shenzhen exhibition tells the story of Shenzhen’s early human history, which began around 7,000 years ago, and follows this history through to the recent centuries. The displays feature relics such as ancient pottery and detailed information on archaeological discoveries. Included are displays of the Xin’an ancient walled city and Hakka fortified buildings. Remnants of the Xin’an ancient walled city can still be seen in Shenzhen’s Nanshan District, and Shenzhen retains over 100 Hakka fortified buildings including the Crane Lake Hakka House Museum in Longgang.
The Shenzhen Folk Culture exhibition features life-sized experiential displays of Cantonese and Hakka culture, as well as significant historical relics. The way in which the displays have been created gives the feeling of actually being in Cantonese and Hakka villages.
Folk culture exhibition (Galleries)
The Modern History exhibition follows Shenzhen’s history through the 19th and 20th centuries. This was a period when Shenzhen successfully repelled foreign invaders, and was when the People’s Republic of China was established. The exhibition includes displays of the Opium Wars and of Britain’s taking of Hong Kong. Britain and other western countries illegally trafficked opium into China on a massive scale, destroying the lives of the many Chinese people who became addicted. The Museum’s photographs of opium addicted people left me quite shocked – this is an aspect of history that I don’t remember being taught in my history lessons at school. China sought to stop the trade in two “Opium Wars” but was defeated. Britain then forced China into unequal trade arrangements that advantaged Britain and into ceding Hong Kong. Britain had also attempted to invade Shenzhen but was successfully repelled. Many Chinese people found these foreign injustices humiliating and these feelings contributed ultimately to the downfall of the Qing Dynasty in 1912, leading to the progressive establishment of modern China. The People’s Republic of China was then founded in 1949.
In the entrance of the Reform History of Shenzhen exhibition is the statue of a bull, symbolising Shenzhen’s vigorous and progressive reform and opening over the past 30 years. One of the first displays encountered is the 1951 interior of the home of university-educated Zhang Shilie, with his original furniture, home appliances and other belongings that were donated to the Shenzhen Museum following his death. The very basic interior highlights the extent to which living standards in Shenzhen have been raised in the time since.
The exhibition then explores all aspects of the development of modern Shenzhen, including city planning (Shenzhen is a fully planned city, and includes a large area of planned open space), urban development and construction, the emergence of manufacturing enterprises, and the establishment of administrative, cultural and social infrastructure. “Then” and “now” photographs of Shenzhen emphasise the rapid and significant change that has occurred since the 1980’s, and the exhibition concludes with a large detailed model of Shenzhen as it is now.
The Museum of History also has a hall for visiting exhibitions – at the time of my visit the Museum was hosting the Exhibition of Chu Cultural Relics from Hubei Province.
Shenzhen Museum of Ancient Art
The Museum of Ancient Art is located in Luohu District, conveniently just near where we were staying. Opened in 1988 this was the original Shenzhen Museum and was one of Shenzhen’s famous “Eight Cultural Infrastructures” of the 1980’s. In 2005 the building was recognised as one of the “Top Ten Architectures Reflecting the History of Reforming and Opening in Shenzhen”. The Museum of Ancient Art now houses cultural and natural history displays including visiting exhibitions.
Adjacent to the Museum of Ancient Art is beautiful Lychee Park. The park, first built in 1982, takes its name from the groves of over 500 lychee trees planted throughout the park, with lychees being a popular fruit in Guangdong Province. There are also dense plantings of bamboo and other shrubs as well as open grassed areas. At the centre of the park is Lihu Lake, with traditional Chinese bridges and pavilions connected by meandering paths. Also nearby in Luohu was the highlight of a number of great dining experiences during the trip – an excellent Sichuan cuisine restaurant.
Lychee Park (Galleries)
Just over an hour’s drive from Shenzhen on the busy Guangshen Expressway is the city of Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong Province. Guangzhou was known for a period of time as “Canton”. It is currently gearing up to host the 2010 Asian Games in November.
Our first destination on our day visit to Guangzhou was Yuexiu Park. This large densely vegetated park features hills, lakes and numerous historical and cultural sites. These sites include Zhenhai Tower, constructed in 1380 in the Ming Dynasty, and the Five Rams Sculpture which is the emblem of Guangzhou.
Five Rams Sculpture (Galleries)
The Five Rams Sculpture represents the legend of the creation of Guangzhou:
2000 years ago, Guangzhou was a barren land on which the local people sweated and toiled all day but still failed to get enough food or clothes. One day, heavenly melody suddenly rang out and from the sky came down five celestial beings in coloured robes riding on five rams each with six bundles of grain stalks in their mouths. The celestial beings gave the grain stalks to the people, wishing them abundant harvests and freedom from famine. The celestial beings then rose up into the sky and disappeared, and the five rams they left behind turned to stone. Guangzhou then became a prolific land.
Just near the east entrance of Yuexiu Park was a display of the mascots for the 2010 Asian Games – these mascots are the Five Rams, and the logo for the Games also has the shape of the Five Rams Sculpture.
After leaving Yuexiu Park we dined at a nearby historic Cantonese restaurant dating from 1928. We then drove to Beijing Road, a pedestrian mall that has been a roadway for 1000 years. The archaeological remains of the ancient roadway can be seen through protective viewing areas. The vibrant mall was lined with Lunar New Year decorations and Chinese flags and busy with shoppers enjoying the Lunar New Year holiday.
As we drove around Guangzhou between attractions we also drove past a number of the Asian Games venues.
With the afternoon advancing we then travelled to Ersha Island in the Pearl River in central Guangzhou. We watched the sunset over the river and the first of city lights as twilight settled, and then began the drive back to Shenzhen.
Twilight, Pearl River (Galleries)
To find out more about Shenzhen see: