Shenzhen (just north of Hong Kong) lies at heart of the world's largest manufacturing center and is China's first, richest and most booming Special Economic Zone. Separated from Hong Kong by a fence and a waterway, it has boasted annual growth rates of over 25 percent some years since 1980 and is home of the highest number of dollar millionaires per capita in China. The average income is more than 50 percent higher than that of Beijing and Shanghai and double that of the next richest cities. Shenzhen also has China’s most expensive housing market, with homes selling for an average of $6,500 per square meter, according to SouFun, and a similar trend in the office market.

Christopher DeWolf of CNN wrote: It rises like a mirage as you pass the fallow fields and fish ponds of outer Hong Kong: a wall of skyscrapers shimmering in the distance. This is Shenzhen, which has grown from a small fishing village into a major financial and technology hub in less than 40 years.” [Source: Christopher DeWolf, CNN, July 24, 2017]

Oliver Wainwright wrote in The Guardian,“The skyline is a forest of skyscrapers; below them nestle private golf clubs and shopping centres devoted to luxury brands. A new high-rise every day and a new boulevard every three" became Shenzhen's motto in the 1990s. Rice fields gave way to roads, lined with ever more fantastical buildings. It is now the biggest, most densely populated and fastest-growing city in the Pearl River Delta, the world's largest manufacturing megalopolis, home to 50 million people...The city already has replicas of the Taj Mahal and Eiffel Tower, its own pyramids and Sydney Opera House (all marshalled into the Window of the World theme park – so where do you start with something like a stock exchange? What structure best symbolises the summit of all capitalist ambition, the pinnacle of former Communist party leader Deng Xiaoping's dream of wealth creation? [Source: Oliver Wainwright, The Guardian, April 16, 2013]

Shenzhen is located in Guangdong Province and is southern China’s main financial centre. It is home to the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, the headquarters of numerous high-tech companies and one of the busiest container ports in China. Seven of the 75 tallest buildings in the world are in Shenzhen. In 2016, eleven 200-meter-plus towers were built in the city, more than were built in the entire United States the same year. Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas has called Shenzhen a “generic city”: malleable enough to change its form with the times.

Many Chinese see Shenzhen as China's most modern metropolis. It is cleaner and greener than most Chinese cities. It boasts streets lined with palms and bunyan trees and open space that occupies 44 percent of the city. Many Hong Kongers, however, see Shenzhen as a cheap imitation of Hong Kong with streets that are not as clean and building that are not nearly as impressive.

Tourist Office: Shenzhen Tourism Bureau, 4/F 2nd Office of Municipal Government, 8 Mid Shangbulu, 518028 Shenzhen, Guangdong China, tel. (0)-755-224-0972, fax: (0)- 755-224-3803 Web Sites: Shenzhen government Wikitravel ; Travel China Guide ; Maps of Shenzhen: ;

Getting There: Shenzhen is right across the border from Hong Kong. It is accessible by train from Hong Kong (1 hour) and Guangdong (1 or 2 hours). Lonely Planet(click Getting There) Lonely Planet; Travel China Guide (click transportation) ; Travel China Guide

History of Shenzhen

Shenzhen grew from a small fishing and farming village of 30,000 people to a city of 10 million in less than 30 years. When Deng came to power after Mao's death in 1976, Shenzhen was a sleepy border town comprised mostly of rice paddies and duck farms. Under Deng it became a "reform laboratory" living up to its nickname "Window to the Outside World."China’s first Special Economic Zones (SEZ) opened in Shenzhen — as well as Zhuhai and Shantou in Guangdong and Xiamen (Amoy) in Fujian Province — in 1979.

Between 1980 and 2000 Shenzhen grew from 350,000 to 4 million. China's first major stock exchange opened in Shenzhen in 1990 (one in Shanghai opened a year later). During the 1990s, the growth rate was 30 percent. Dupont, Pepsi, I.B.M., Compaq and other foreign companies opened factories there. Between the early 1980s and the mid 1990s the per capita annual income of the city rose from $100 to $2,000. In 1995, Shenzhen shipped nearly $18 billion in exports, nearly 15 percent of China's shipments abroad. In the 2000s Shenzhen grew into a metropolis. Between 2001 and 2006, 124 buildings 30 stories or more were completed, under construction or proposed.

Shenzhen is surrounded by a 67-mile-long, barbed-wire-topped, chain-link fence. Chinese who come to the city must pass through customs and show identification cards. The fence was intended to keep economic activity within the Special Economic Zone but has had the opposite affects. Many factories, producing shoes, clothes, toys, furniture and other stuff, opened on the other side where they could attract cheap labor and ignore safety regulations. Over time these factories have been surrounded by satellite communities.

Shenzhen also developed a high crime rate and more police were placed there than anywhere else in China save Beijing. At first many people didn’t like it. "It is also a pit," wrote Jonathan Alter in Newsweek, "lacking not just Hong Kong's charm but it coherence. The capitalism there is to unbridled and unanchored in laws, the buildings erected only five years ago are already falling down." A frequent visitor told National Geographic that compared to Hong Kong, "There is a big drop-off in the quality of food, construction, architecture. It's the good, the bad and the ugly." Things have improved a lot since then. DeWolf wrote: “Today, Shenzhen has evolved beyond its manufacturing roots to become a hub for service industries — especially technology and design. Often described as "China's Silicon Valley," the city is home to huge companies like Tencent (which itself built two skyscrapers) and a network of thousands of smaller firms.


People of Shenzhen

Shenzhen is home to 12.5 million people (2007). In the late 2000s, about 2 million people were permanent residents and 10.58 million were migrants-, who fill the city’s factories, offices, dormitories and apartments and shop at giant Wal-mart "Super Center." Middle class Chinese also make up a large percentage of the population.

More than half of Shenzhen's population is under 30 and mostly female. Young women are attracted by the job opportunities. So many young females from the countryside come to Shenzhen that the city has been nicknamed a "paradise of girls." The girls are not often seen on the streets however because they spend so much time working. Many men from Hong Kong are attracted by the city's prostitutes, known as "street angels," and young, relatively easy-to-support mistresses.

There are also a lot of piano players in Shenzhen, an expression of how middle class the city has become. By one count there are 13,677 teachers and 150,766 pupils. The renowned pianist Yundi Li studied at the Shenzhen Arts School.

Crime in Shenzhen

Shenzhen has been described as an increasingly desperate place that is too polluted, too dependent on foreign capital and characterized by a constant turnover of migrant labor. The smog is sometimes so bad it stings the eyes. New jobs recruits are harder find as new opportunities develop elsewhere.

In recent years there has been a pronounced increase in petty crime, prostitution, truck hijacking and even kidnaping, a crime for most part didn't exist in China until recently. Pickpockets work at the main train stations. Gun fights, and gang warfare have become increasingly common. There red-light district is regarded among Chinese as haven for murderers and thieves. Wealthy Hong Kong businessmen have been the targets of kidnapings and robberies. Some Chinese tycoons travel in German cars with bulletproof glass.

The number crime jumped 57 percent in 2003 to over 100,000 reported cases. In the red light district of Bao — on there 18,000 robberies in 2004. By comparison there were only 2,182 robberies reported the same year in all of Shanghai, a city of 18 million. In January 2006, authorities launched a crackdown on massage parlors and discos as part of a clean up campaign. More than 3,000 people took the streets to protest the action and thousands of armed police were deployed to maintain order.

Chinese officials want to increase the size of the Shenzhen special economic zone, a measure local officials say is necessary for Shenzhen to remain competitive and make room for high-technology facilities.

Transportation in Shenzhen

Shenzhen Metro extends 303 kilometres (188 miles) and has 8 lines with 215 stations, making it 7th longest subway in China and 12th longest in the world. It opened in 2004 and underwent major expansion prior to the 2011 Summer Universiade and with three new lines in 2016. By 2030 the network is planned have eight express and 24 non-express lines. Shenzhen Subway Map: Urban Rail

Transportation Between Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Guangzhou: You can take a Hong Kong train to Lo Wu, cross the border, and catch another train in Shenzhen China; Hong Kong travellers coming to and from Shenzhen in Mainland China via the Lo Wu and Lok Ma Chau checkpoints can take a local MTR train into town after passing through Hong Kong Immigration.

The train that runs between Kowloon and the Chinese border makes about ten stops. It's termination points are the 1) Kowloon-Guangzhou Railway Station in Hunghom on the Kowloon side of the Harbor in Hong Kong and 2) Lo Wu station at the border of China at Shenzhen. Trains to the border run every 10 minutes. From Hunghom station the trip covers 34 kilometers and takes about 40 minutes. Tickets cost about US$7 for a normal seat and US$15 for a first class seat.

Crossing the border generally takes about 30 minutes but can take longer. The Lo Wu border crossing between Shenzhen and Hong Kong is one of the busiest in the world. About 400,000 people cross every day. The border is open from 6:30am to 12:00midnight. There has been a suggestion of opening the border for 24 hours a day.

Once in Shenzhen you can take direct trains to Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Fast trains between Shenzhen and Guangzhou run every hour The trip take about an hour. You can also take a minibus and a bus to Guangzhou. The trip takes about three hours. There are two daily trains from Shenzhen to Beijing. Train ticket can be purchased at China International Travel Service (CITS) in Hong Kong. See tourist offices for the phone number and address.

Live turtle section of Wal Mart

Sights and Parks in Shenzhen

There isn't so much to see in Shenzhen in terms of traditional tourist sights like temples and traditional buildings. There are a number of Wal-marts, a new museum and a new Japanese-built concert hall though. The most impressive buildings are the blue-green glass Stock Exchange, the 69-story, twin-spired Land King Tower, and it impressive seven-story entrance and joining apartment complexes. Shenzhen's central music hall and library are located in the Shenzhen Cultural Center. Shekou is home to a large French cruise liner cemented into the ground called Sea World.

Among the places that visitors seek out are the Dameisha Promenade, Xiaomeisha Beach Resort in Yantian district, Zhongying Jie/Chung Ying Street, Xianhu Lake Botanical Garden, and Minsk World. There are over twenty public city parks in Shenzhen, including Lianhuashan Park, Lizhi Park, Zhongshan Park and Wutongshan Park. In recent years, the East Coast (shoreline) of Shenzhen has attracted more and more tourists, including backpackers. One of the beaches here is Xichong in the south of Dapeng Peninsula.

In the downtown area of Shenzhen is a 70-acre green expanse called Litchi Park. At the southern end of the park is a huge billboard of Deng Xiaoping, where many Chinese tourist have their picture taken. When viewed from the height of the Litchi Pavilion, strings of dark red litchi trees are visible in bunches. Scenic spots include “Areca In Sunset”, “Fragrant Snow In Litchi Park”, “Tranquil Bamboo Forest”, ” One-wood Forest”, ” Long View on Crane Pavilion”, “Rocks’ Shadow Under The Moon”, and “Friendship Garden Between China and Japan”.

Shenzhen University was named one the ten most beautiful universities in China. Founded in 1983, Shenzhen University has 25 colleges, providing 65 undergraduate programs, 72 masters' programs and three doctoral programs. The university is known as "Lychee Garden" because of the abundance of lychee trees planted on the campus, which also boasts a 500 meter-long lake surrounded by rolling hills and trees. The scenery has a picturesque Chinese name that means "Eagle hitting the water"

Skyscrapers in Shenzhen

Seven of the 75 tallest buildings in the world are in Shenzhen. In 2016, eleven 200-meter-plus towers were built in Shenzhen in 2016, more than were built in the entire United States the same year.. Oliver Wainwright wrote in The Guardian: The view “is filled with an endless army of towers. Dual-pronged spires and spear-shaped peaks thrust upwards into heavy skies. There are cliffs of curtain-wall glazing, rendered in metallic blues and greens, pinks and golds.” [Source: Oliver Wainwright, The Guardian, April 16, 2013]

Christopher DeWolf of CNN wrote: Like many other cities in China, Shenzhen is crazy for skyscrapers. Of the 128 buildings over 200 meters tall that were completed in the world last year, 70% were in China, according to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH). Shenzhen was responsible for 11 of them — more than the entire United States, and almost twice as many as any other Chinese city (Chongqing and Guangzhou tied for second place, alongside Goyang in South Korea, with six skyscrapers each). [Source: Christopher DeWolf, CNN, July 24, 2017 ++]

Ping An Finance Center is the forth tallest building in the world (as of 2020). Completed in 2017, it is is 599 meters (1,965 feet) tall and has 115 floors. KK100 is the 25th tallest building in the world..Completed in 2011, it is 442 meters (1,449 feet) tall and has 100 floors. Resources Headquarters China is the 41st tallest building in the world. Completed in 2017, it is 1,288 meters (392.5 feet) tall and has 67 floors. Shum Yip Upperhills Tower is the 44th tallest building in the world. Completed in 2017, it is 388.1 meters (1,273 feet) tall and has 80 floors. Shun Hing Square Diwang Dasha is the 47th tallest building in the world. Completed in 1996, it is 384 meters (1,260 feet) tall and has 69 floors. Shenzhen Center is the 53rd tallest building in the world (as of 2020). Completed in 2019, it is 375.6 meters (1,232 feet) tall and has floors. Hanking Center is the 64th tallest building in the world. Completed in 2017, it is 358.9 meters (1,177 feet) tall and has 65 floors. Other tall Shenzhen buildings include the Shenning Square and Central Plaza. [Source: Wikipedia]

David Ji, the head of research for Greater China at property consultancy Knight Frank, told CNN, "Shenzhen has a lot of demand for Grade A office space, unlike some other mainland cities that just go for height to compete with each other” and "buildings built in Shenzhen tend not to be that tall relative to Shanghai or other cities." Shenzhen has a lot of skyscrapers, but they are not spectacular ones. Hong Kong-based architect Stefan Krummeck. Who firm, TFP Farrells, designed KK100, told CNN that urban planners discourage vanity projects and encourage projects that fit in with the surrounding city:. Rather than an isolated landmark, the skyscraper is part of a former village, so to speak. “There's always a bit of an ego trip involved in super high-rises, but in Shenzhen it's more sustainable — the towers are reasonably modest," he said. "There are only a few super-high-rise towers and they're pretty well integrated into the urban fabric...To the best of my knowledge, the towers are full and the streets are lively. It works quite well." ++

History of Skyscrapers in Shenzhen

Christopher DeWolf of CNN wrote: The city's relationship with high-rises goes back to 1980, when China's reformist leader, Deng Xiaoping, declared that a swath of farmland along the Hong Kong border would become a so-called Special Economic Zone. The decision meant that companies could operate with fewer of the restrictions of a planned economy — China's first major experiment with free markets since the Communist revolution of 1949. Investors from Hong Kong — and beyond — rushed across the border to build factories and other businesses. [Source: Christopher DeWolf, CNN, July 24, 2017]

“From the beginning, urban planners decided that it would be a city of skyscrapers. Shenzhen's growing skyline is simply part of its DNA, according to University of Hong Kong architecture professor Juan Du, whose book, "The Making of Shenzhen: A Thousand Years in China's Instant City," will be published next year. "In Shenzhen, (skyscrapers are) really linked to the image of the city," she said over the phone. "Between the early 1980s and the early 90s, it had more tall buildings than any Chinese city.

"The term 'Shenzhen speed' was coined from the (time of) the construction of the city's earliest skyscrapers. When Deng Xiaoping made his first visit to Shenzhen, he was really excited by the speed at which tall buildings were being built."..But Shenzhen's geography plays a part, too: the city center is located in a narrow strip between mountains and the Hong Kong border. A growing network of subway lines and a new high-speed rail connection to Hong Kong have made this strip even more desirable, pushing development up rather than out.

“Shenzhen appears to be showing no signs of slowing. In addition to a current crop of 49 buildings taller than 200 meters, a further 48 skyscrapers are under construction, according to CTBUH data. But as Shenzhen grows skywards, empty office space in other big cities has led market analysts to speculate that China is caught in a spiral of overbuilding. The office vacancy rate in Beijing, which stood at 8% at the end of 2016, is forecast to rise to 13% by the end of 2019, according to a report by property firm Colliers International. The report noted that "the growing office supply will still outstrip the growth in demand." In Shanghai, the country's tallest building, the 632-meter Shanghai Tower, has sat largely empty since opening in 2015, with one of the project's lead developers, Gu Jianping, admitting at an awards ceremony last year that "the biggest challenge facing China is how to build fewer skyscrapers." .

Ping An Finance Center

Ping An Finance Center ( Metro Line 1 and 2. Shopping Park Station) is the tallest building in Shenzhen, the second highest building in China and the fourth tallest building in the world (as of 2020). Completed in 2017, it is is 599 meters (1,965 feet) tall and It has 115 floors. Shares the record of the highest observation deck with Shanghai Tower (No. 2) at 562 meters. [Source: Wikipedia]

Ping An International Finance Center (also known as the Ping An IFC) was commissioned by Ping An Insurance and designed by the American architectural firm Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates. The building is located within the Central Business District of Shenzhen in Futian. Construction began in 2009 and was temporarily halted in 2013, due to the suspected use of concrete made with unprocessed sea sand, which could corrode the steel structure. Construction resumed on the building after sample testing. The building topped out in April 2015. The original plan was to add a 60-meter-long antenna atop the building to surpass the Shanghai Tower and become the tallest building in China. However, in February 2015, it was decided that the antenna would not top the tower due to the possibility that it might obstruct flight paths.

The building contains office, hotel and retail spaces, a conference center, and a high-end shopping mall. Floor 116 feature an observation deck named Free Sky. As its name suggests, it is also the headquarters of Ping An Insurance. The design of the building is meant to be unique and elegant, and to represent the history and achievements of the main tenant. A stainless-steel facade that weighs approximately 1,700 metric tons provides a modern design to the building.

The building has a total gross floor area of 378,600 square meters. The 115-story tower has a width-to-height aspect ratio of 1:10 and also has an 11-story podium. Including the podium, the building has 495,520 square meters of floor space. A five-level basement adds another 90,000 square meters of area. The 620,000 metric ton tower has eight main columns which form the superstructure. The column dimensions range from approximately 6 by 3.2 m at the lowest level to 2.9 by 1.4 m at the top of the tower. The building’s 33 double deck elevators can reach speeds of up to 22 miles per hour.

The Ping An Financial Center has been the subject of frequent rooftopping attempts. In January 2015, daredevil Malaysian photographer Keow Wee Loong climbed the then incomplete building and released video footage and a photo taken from a crane at the tower's top. The structure was subsequently climbed during Chinese New Year in February 2015 by two Russian and Ukrainian urban explorers, Vadim Makhorov and Vitaly Raskalov from Ontheroofs, who further climbed out to a crane above the under-construction tower and documented their ascent with video and photos.

Shame parade of prostitutes in Shenzhen

Shenzhen: the Design Capital of China?

“Shenzhen is “the birthplace of China’s modernisation over the last 40 years”, Ole Bouman, director of the Design Society, said. In 2008, the city was named a UNESCO Creative City of Design and each year hosts high-profile design events, including December’s Shenzhen Biennale for Architecture and Urbanism. Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas has called Shenzhen a “generic city”: malleable enough to change its form with the times.[Source: Cathy Adams SCMP, December 1, 2017]

Cathy Adams wrote in the SCMP, Shenzhen’s “creative zones include the OCT Loft across town, a palm-studded district of former industrial buildings turned contemporary art park. Visitors sip tiny coffees at arty cafes (Whatever Cafe), buy design trinkets in fancy boutiques (IM Loft Shop) and wander around high-ceilinged galleries such as the OCAT Contemporary Art Terminal. Nearby is the spaceship-like OCT Creative Exhibition Center, showing landmark exhibitions.

“Further into the heart of Shenzhen’s dense financial district is the just-completed neofuturistic, cloud-like Museum of Contemporary Art and Planning Exhibition, designed by Austrian architect firm Coop Himmelblau. Shenzhen is now so design-friendly it’s been chosen as the inaugural destination for a three-in-one Muji store, hotel and restaurant – a spin-off of the Japanese homeware brand – slated to open by the end of this year.

““By raising expectations among the public on what design can do for them, we intend to leverage the role of the design communities and provide a position towards a more creative China,” says Bouman. “Design in such a city has a different role compared with design in Milan, London, or even Shanghai. Design in Shenzhen breathes an almost existential drive.”

His and Hers House by Wutopia Lab is a good example cutting edge Chinese architecture. It was named by Dwell as one of 12 incredible projects by Chinese firms that are raising the bar for adaptive reuse and new builds alike. Michele Koh Morollo of Dwell wrote: “As part of the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture, Shanghai–based architecture practice Wutopia Lab renovated two buildings in Dameisha Village, an urban slum with traditional Chinese characteristics, and turned them into a light blue and pink house that explores themes of traditional masculinity, femininity, and assigned gender roles. [Source: Michele Koh Morollo, Dwell, February 5, 2019]

Shenzhen Stock Exchange Building

Shenzhen Stock Exchange Building( opened in 2013 and has been described as China's 'miniskirt'. The US$450 million building was designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas's OMA, which also designed the CCTV building in Beijing. Oliver Wainwright wrote in The Guardian, “Rather than compete with Shenzhen's proliferating skyline – which OMA partner David Gianotten describes as a "cacophony of shape-making" – they have elected to build something calmer and quieter. At first glance the results are slightly nondescript: a 250m-high concrete office building punctuated by a monotonous grid of square windows. But get a little closer and you find that the podium, on which the tower would normally sit, has been hoisted 10 storeys upwards, where it hangs improbably above a public plaza. [Source: Oliver Wainwright, The Guardian, April 16, 2013]

“The size of two football pitches, this gargantuan floating slab is now a breathtaking and decidedly menacing sight, glowering over the city like an alien spaceship come to deliver its final reckoning. In Gianotten's view, raising the podium "liberates the ground", while its looming presence "frames views of the city". How liberated the ground will really be at the foot of a high-security building remains to be seen; and if the podium frames the view, it does so by blocking out the sky.

“The building's unusual, hoisted form has already earned it the local nickname "the miniskirt", something of an improvement on the moniker given to OMA's CCTV building: "the giant underpants". (CCTV HQ has also been likened to someone squatting over a toilet. But while CCTV's daring form was inspired by New York's Twin Towers, bent double to kiss in an implausible cantilever, Shenzhen stock exchange's look-no-hands gesture is a collage of two buildings by Mies van der Rohe. OMA's original 2006 competition entry depicted the strong horizontal slab of Mies's (unbuilt) Chicago Convention Centre impaled on the sleek vertical shaft of his Seagram Building. A surreal marriage of two archetypal forms, this Mies kebab had a compelling, absurdist simplicity, as Koolhaas explained in his original pitch: "As if lifted by the same speculative euphoria that drives the market, the former base has crept up the tower," he wrote. Now that it is built, it remains the ultimate example of building as diagram, a symbolic totem of capital – particularly given the fact that modern trading barely needs any space at all.

“Founded in 1990, Shenzhen's is the third stock exchange in China, after Shanghai and Hong Kong, with around 1,500 listed companies (many of which remain state-owned) and a market capitalisation of £700bn. But gone are the days of frenzied men in coloured jackets shouting across a pit. "Contemporary securities trading is totally virtual," says Gianotten, as we walk around one of the echoing 15,000 square meters floors of the floating plinth. This three-storey sandwich, which is held up by a 27,000-tonne steel truss, will house staff offices and meeting rooms, as well as the building's real heart: an entire level of computer servers, their proximity to the traders essential given that deals are now done in nanoseconds. Elsewhere, there are a number of ceremonial spaces: a "listing hall" where new companies will be ritually welcomed with the ringing of a great bronze bell; and a private art gallery, to which each new company must donate an artwork.

“Unusually for a building of this size and location, the architects have had control over the entire project, even down to the scale of furniture, much of which has been designed especially. In the Orwellian-sounding Market Watching Department (a kind of mission control where 30 overseers will sit at a bank of eight screens to check for market irregularities), the monitors are set low in special V-shaped desks, allowing colleagues to see each other. On the floor above, desk cubicles are kitted out with napping beds that fold out of a filing cabinet, providing brief respite between shifts – another feature that recalls the working regime of Nineteen Eighty-Four.

“The tower above the podium houses leasable office space designed to lure high-end clients. The lobbies are lined with Italian marble, and there are double-height entertainment foyers inscribed with gold-leafed graphs inspired by market fluctuations. The summit is reserved for a VIP dining club, its banqueting halls upholstered with leather and raw silk; there are bamboo floors and aluminium walls, and views of a private roof garden planted on the podium. But once again, these spaces lack character or meaning, giving a bland sense of lobotomised luxury.

“Down on the expansive plaza, the clouds have shifted to reveal the facade in a different light. The entire building, which reads as dull grey concrete on an overcast day, is in fact wrapped in a diaphanous cocoon of textured glass – the kind usually used to obscure bathroom windows. "It is the first time it has been used on this scale," says Gianotten, describing months of testing to achieve the desired finish (a three-layer panel of low-iron, ceramic-coated and textured glass sheets). This gives the building an enigmatic, alchemical air, changing its character throughout the day. When the sun comes out, the entire tower sparkles; at dusk it becomes an ethereal ghost; at night, it glows from within like a crystalline shell, as the latest stock market figures chase around the perimeter of the podium.

“In the end, it is this that marks the project apart from its neighbours: a muted grey cadaver among a riot of mirrored facades and faux-stone panelling. As we leave, the building begins to dissolve into the haze. This seems fitting: OMA's hollow shell, built to house a largely virtual process, is eerie, tyrannical, arresting. But it also looks as if it might not be there at all.”

Sea World Culture and Arts Centre

Sea World Culture and Arts Centre (near the sea in Shekou) opened in December 2017. Built by Design Society, an initiative spearheaded by China Merchants Group and London’s , it stands on the waterfront in Shekou, a gentrifying port district in western Shenzhen. Its centerpiece is a large French cruise liner cemented into the ground called Sea World.

Cathy Adams wrote in the SCMP, “The cultural centre’s design is the brainchild of Pritzker Architecture prize-winner Fumihiko Maki and is an angular white-and-glass behemoth, with cantilevered levels, amid a landscaped park. Its mission: to be a lightning rod for cutting-edge design in China. Opening exhibitions will focus on design as a conduit to an improved society – including Values of Design in the Victoria and Albert Gallery, which will showcase exhibits from the London museum. [Source: Cathy Adams SCMP, December 1, 2017]

““Once the ‘factory of the world’, Shenzhen is now a metropolis with thousands of manufacturers and design companies that share the ambition of moving from a ‘made in China’ phase to the so-called ‘created in China’,” says Luisa Mengoni, head of the new Victoria and Albert gallery. “There is a strong ambition at city level to make Shenzhen a global player in the field of design,” she adds.

According to the Design Society: The Sea World Culture and Arts Center is the first building by Maki and Associates in China. Designed in 2011, every aspect of the building was crafted to reflect its function as a premiere public institution, as well as to make a connection between Sea World, Nüwa Coastal Park and the coastline. The building is located within Sea World’s coastal city complex in Shekou, Nanshan District, Shenzhen. The urban placement of the building is symbolized by three large volumes on the roof which face in three different directions, each representing a different local context: the sea, the mountains, and the city. The result is a shape that symbolizes an opening up to different horizons and SWCAC’s mission to disseminate culture and information to Shenzhen and beyond. [Source: designsociety

“The fusion of the building’s cultural and commercial program may be observed in the three main plazas positioned along the main axis of the building. The Cultural Plaza, featuring red sandstone, gives access to the different galleries in the building. The Central Plaza, is situated in the middle of the building, with views of the third floor courtyard. The Waterfront Plaza is located at the southern entrance of the museum, facing the bay. Blue granite detailing complements the views over the water outside. From these plazas, visitors can move freely between different floors.

“The building has also been designed to integrate with the surrounding park and waterfront, allowing visitors to walk around and explore freely. Two large staircases on each end give free access to the roof garden, inviting visitors to enjoy views over the ocean and surrounding landscape. You can walk in straight lines, or follow the many curves and stairs. You can walk through, or even over the building. The SWCAC is a place to wander, linger and discover.

Sea World Culture and Arts Centre Facilities

According to the Design Society: Design Society has two main galleries for largescale temporary exhibitions: the Victoria and Albert Gallery and the Main Gallery. The ground floor also features the Park View Gallery with large windows to the park outside. All gallery spaces have been designed and fitted to the highest quality to accommodate many different exhibition possibilities. A minimal number of columns allows for maximum use of the exhibition space and free exhibition planning. The 3 volumes on the roof open to three directions: city, park, and sea. The result is a building form symbolizing SWCAC' s role to disseminate culture and information to Shenzhen and beyond. [Source: designsociety ]

“Mountain View Theater: A 328-seat auditorium marks the crown of the Culture Plaza. With views overlooking Nanshan mountain, a third-floor foyer opening up into a terrace, and a fourth-floor foyer overlooking the roof garden, the theatre will be a place to host lectures and performances.

“The Horizon Hall is a large 800-square-meter space with views over Shenzhen Bay and Hong Kong. Made for hosting presentations and events, it is equipped with screens, hanging points and lighting tracks for flexible use. The blue resin floor and a ceiling composed of curved wave-like structures refer to the sea visible through the wall-to-wall windows.

The park around the building was also designed by Maki and Associates in collaboration with Studio on site. Tilted plateaus of different types of plants and grass are crossed by pathways extending towards the different urban axes. The park merges into the Nüwa coastal park, featuring the iconic Nüwa statue and the coastal boulevard. Fully opened in summer 2017, the boulevard connects the building with Shenzhen Bay Park, which follows the coastline of the bay.

The Plazas: There are three main plazas, located along the main axis of the building. The Cultural Plaza located at the front entrance gives access to the different gallery spaces. The Central Plaza features shops and dining, and the Waterfront Plaza opens up to the bay. Each of the plazas present different opportunities to relax and interact.

Roof garden: An elevated extension of the park below, the roof garden was developed as part of the whole landscaping plan. It can be freely accessed from the main exterior stairs leading up the front and back of the building or from the inside. The rooftop presents different types of vegetation, grassy spaces and trees, and views over the surrounding mountain, bay and park.

Located on the ground floor in the Cultural Plaza, the museum shop provides creative consumer experiences and a place to connect with international and local design brands, as well as exhibition- and program-related content. The building features an educational space on the second floor, which hosts activities for families, and children of all ages. The building has two workspaces for artists- and designers-in-residence. Located on the second floor opposite the educational spaces, these workspaces give audiences a chance to come face-to-face with creative practices.

Amusements in the Shenzhen Area

Shenzhen's major tourist attractions include the Chinese Folk Culture Village, the Window of the World, Happy Valley, Splendid China, the Safari Park in Nanshan district. Safari Park has (or used to have) one attraction where visitors paid 25 yuan to throw live ducks to crocodiles. Universal Studios has looked into the possibility of building a theme park in the Shenzhen area.

The OCT East development in Nanshan district is the home of the Ecoventure Valley and the Tea Stream Resort Valley theme parks, three scenic towns, two 18-hole golf courses and eight themed hotels. OCT East was joined in 2012 by the OCT Bay development, which brought more attractions including an exhibition centre, hotels and residences, an artificial beach called CoCo Beach, and an IMAX cinema.

Flying Dragon Snakefarm (in Panyu, near Shenzhen) was a place where one could get snakeskin with peppers, snake semen liqueur ("good for a person with a weak body"), baked cobra and five-step snake ("take five steps and die"). It also put on a snake stage show, sold snake-based traditional medicines, and had a cobra petting zoo, a bath with hundreds of snakes and a snakatorium that offered "extended snake diet therapy." The owner of the immensely popular snake farm was Chin Lung Fei, the self-proclaimed "King of Snakes." He told National Geographic that his motto is to "treat snakes as friends." The snake farm is now closed.

Happy Valley (Line 1 or 2, Window of the World Station) is a theme park covering a total area of 350,000 square meters and was constructed at a coast of $150 million. There are nine theme sections in Happy Valley: Spanish Plaza, Cartoon City, Adventure Mountain, Happy Time, Gold Mine Town, Shangri-la Forest, Hurricane Bay, Sunshine Coast, Maya Water Park and Happy Train, a high-altitude single track train. There are five roller coasters: 1) Snow Mountain Flying Dragon, 2) Wild Elfin, 3) Mine Coaster, 4) Baby Coaster and 5) Bullet Coaster.

There are over 100 attractions and rides, including some imported from the U.S., Holland and Germany. Among them are the first “Discoverer” in China, swings at a great height; the “UFO” ride; “Shooting the Rapids”, with the largest fall in the world; “Xueshan Feilong”, the first suspended roller coaster in China; and Space Shuttle, the first “screaming tower” in China and the highest one in Asia. Happy Valley also has is the first Four-dimension Cinema in Asia, which combines seeing, hearing and feeling together; and Maya Water Park, which is the only park in Asia awarded an international prize of World Water Park Association.

Window of the World

Window of the World (Line 1 or 2, Window of the World Station) is an impressive miniature world, with 118 of the world's most famous sites. The park cost $60 million to build, takes about 80 minutes to visit and has a hefty admission price of $20. It contains miniature versions of Mount Fuji, the Grand Canyon, Angkor Wat, a typical Southeast Asian waterside village, St. Mark's Square in Venice, Greek temples, Egyptian hieroglphs, and Iraq's Ishtar Gate. The Eiffel Tower is 108 feet high.

Also there is the glass pyramid of the Louvre, the Colosseum of Rome, the Pyramids, brightly painted Nbedel house from South Africa, a large sculptured elephant and an 80-meter-wide and 10-meter-high replica of Niagara Falls. Small discs have been laid into the pavement measuring the distances from Shenzhen to other big cities and capitals.

“Window of The World” is located at Overseas Chinese Town along the beautiful Shenzhen Bay. Covering an area of 480,000 square meters, it hosts folk song or dance shows. The park itself is broken into sections, including: 1) the Area of Asia, 2) the Area of Oceania, 3) the Area of Europe, 4) the Area of Africa, 5) the Area of America, 6) the World Sculpture Park, 7) Jurassic Park and 8) World Square. At night more than a hundred artists from home and abroad perform a spectacular night show and float parade at the shell-shape central stage, the flower road and on the elliptical fountain stage, with sound effect and fancy lightings.

Web Sites: Wikipedia ; Hours Open: 9:00am-10:30pm; Admission: 140 yuan; Getting There: By Subway: Take Shenzhen Metro Line 1 and get off at Shijiezhichuang (Window of the World) station; By Bus: From the railway station, take sightseeing bus No. 1 or bus No. 101; From the airport, take bus No. 327 to Window of the World directly.; From other parts of Shenzhen, take bus No. 21, 26, 105, 113, 201, 204, 209, 210, 222, 223, 230, 232, 233, 234, 301, 311 to "Shijiezhichuang" (Window of the World) station or "Baishizhou" station, pass through the road and walk about 300 meters, and you will get there

Splendid China and Chinese Folk Culture Village

Splendid China (Metro Line 1 (Luobao Line) Huaqiaocheng (OCT) Station) is one of the largest and richest miniature scenery park in the world, displaying miniature versions of 80 of China's most famous cultural and natural attractions. Arranged in geographical location the sights include the Great Wall of China, the terra-cotta warriors of Xian, the Forbidden City and the Three Rivers Gorges of the Yangtze River. Everything at this park is 1/10 to 1/15 scale.

The miniature sites are arranged according to the positions of the real ones on a giant map of China, featuring different styles of buildings, living habitats and conventions of different nationalities in China. There are also extensive areas of trees and flowers. Within the park, natural and artificial scenery are woven into an enchanting picture.

Chinese Folk Culture Village is a part of Splendid China Folk Village in Shenzhen and features displays of the daily life and architecture of China's 56 ethnic groups. Opened in 1991, it features several cultural festivals, including the Water Splashing Festival of the Dai, the Shawm Festival of the Miao, the Torch Festival of the Yi, the Huaxia Great Cultural Temple Fair, the Xinjiang Cultural Festival, and the Inner Mongolia Grassland Cultural Festival.

Chinese Folk Culture it contains an Uyghur house, Tibetan temple, Cave-house, Yi Village, Miao Village, Dong Village, Naxi Village, Buyi Village, Yao Village, Zhuang Village, Mosuo Village, Dai Village, Wa Village, Tujia Village, Hani Village, Gaoshan Village, Bai Village, Li Village and Jingpo Village and buildings used by the Tibetans, Uyghurs, Mongolians, Koreans and Quadrate Yard and North Shaanxi Cave-house in and

Shenzhen Golf Courses


At one time about a third of the golf courses in China are in Guangdong Province, particularly around Shenzhen, where they cater to Hong Kong businessmen and an increasing number of nouveau riche mainland entrepreneurs.

Golf courses around Shenzhen have names like Shenzhen Tycoon and Noble Merchant. A membership in Taiwan-financed Tomson Golf Course in Shanghai — which reportedly has bunkers filled with powdered marble — cost $94,000. Visitors can play for $200 and have their clubs carted around by women caddies. Some golf course offer night golf for people who don't want to damage their skin in the sun.

The trend of building golf courses and luxury home developments around them is eating up valuable agricultural land and driving farmers off their land. In some cases land is seized using underhanded methods by local officials, who often force farmers of their land and give them relatively little compensation. The Washington Post described farmers who was thrown off their land to make way for a golf course and received chunks of land one fifth the size of what they previously owned and construction jobs at the golf course development. When they complained to the government after not being paid for two months work they were jailed.

At the top of the golf course heap in China is the Mission Hills Golf Club, China's only international-standard golf resort and the largest golf complex in the world. It boasts ten courses. The nearest competitor, Pinehurst in North Carolina, has eight.

Opened in 1992 near Shenzhen, Mission Hills covers 2,300 acres and boasts a 500-room hotel, and a country club with 51 tennis courts, fairway-side mansions, a clubhouse with an 800-square meter palace with a cascading waterfall, and Asia's largest golf shop. Membership fees are between $21,000 and $70,000. About half the members are from Hong Kong. The other half from the mainland.

Mission Hill was developed by David Chu, a Hong Kong industrialist who made his fortune in paper products, and cost $385 million to build. The golf courses were designed by Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo, Vijay Singh, Ernie Els and Annika Sorenstam. Tiger Woods once hosted a tournament at the club.

New Balance Factory

Pearl River Delta

Pearl River Delta (northwest of Hong Kong) embraces the industrial towns of Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Huizhou, Dongguan, Foshan, Jiangmen, Zhongshan and Zhuia. The region has a population of around 120 million, made up of permanent residents and a "floating population" of migrant laborers. If Hong Kong and Macau are included the Pearl River Area were an independent country it would be East Asia's forth largest economy and its second largest exporter. The Pearl Delta area exports as much as Mexico or South Korea.

China’s first Special Economic Zones (SEZ) opened here in Shenzhen and Zhuhai — as well as in Shantou in Guangdong and Xiamen (Amoy) in Fujian Province — in 1979. In the beginning factories here did most of the manufacturing once performed in Hong Kong. In the early 2000s, the Pearl River Industrial Area drew an astonishing $2 billion of foreign investment a month and accounted for one third of China's exports. Investors and companies are still attracted by cheap labor, good managers and easy access to the outside world. Labor-intensive, export-oriented industries include makers of toys, shoes, Christmas decorations, small gifts and textiles. More advanced factories assemble computer keyboards, televisions, watches motorcycles, and dishwashers. IBM, Samsung, Honda and Wal-Mart are among the companies tat have a major stake here,

Special Economic Zones in Guangdong Province, the Hong Kong area and the Pearl River Delta is sometimes referred to as the “world's factory." As of 2006, there were more than 200,000 factories here. At that time the factories in and around Shenzhen, Dongguan Guangzhou and the Pearl River Delta annually churned out $36 billion worth of goods, nearly a third of all the goods that are exported abroad. They produced 40 percent of the playthings sold in the U.S., including Barbies, Ninja Turtles and Mickey Mouse.

There area now embraces Nansha Port Area in the Port of Guangzhou and large container ports in Shenzhen at Guangzhou. There were plans for a tunnel linking Shenzhen and Zhuhui. But in the end it was decided to build 32-kilometer Shenzhen–Zhongshan Bridge connecting those two major cities and expected to be completed in 2024. As the Pearl River itself: in Guangzhou (Canton) it is such a thick dark soup it looks like one could walk across it.

Special Economic Zones


Dongguan (10 kilometers north of Shenzhen and 20 kilometers east of Guangzhou) is one the world's busiest manufacturing centers. Regarded as Shenzhen's sister city, it is home to more than 25,000 factories, producing a wide variety of textiles and clothes and other goods and at one time (maybe still) 30 percent of the world's computer disk drives. Dongguan went from a town to a city of 7.5 million in a little over a decade. For a while it boasted 23 percent a year growth, fueled by it manufacturing sector.

Dongguan has achieved it status primarily with help of business people from Taiwan. A typical success story is Four Star Shoes, a shoe assembly line launched in 1991 with 200 employees when much of the area was covered by rice fields. Over the years it expanded and by the mid 2000s it had three shoe manufacturing plants that employed 3,000 people and churned out 1.5 million pairs of high-end and specialty boots shoes a year. So many Taiwanese moved in the neighborhoods schools were built exclusively for them.

In recent years Dongguan has lost some of its attraction as tighter regulations, labor shortages, energy shortages, distribution bottlenecks and higher costs have squeezed profits Many of the Taiwanese have taken their businesses to Vietnam. A research city for 300,000 engineers and researchers, called Songshan Lake Pioneer Park, is being built as part the effort to go more high tech and develop more high-value products.

Southern cities like Shenzhen and Dongguan have a reputation for being particularly seedy. Nick Frisch of wrote, “Dongguan's reputation precedes it. Last year in a Shenzhen gym, my buddy's albino muscle-bound fifty-something workout pal lumbered over. "Yo man, I was in Dongguan last week, it was fucking crazy, they bring out fucking fifty girls and you can fuck whichever ones you want. Fuck, man. Fuck." "I don't normally hang out with that guy," insisted the friend. "But Dongguan is definitely a den of evil. Once, one of my company's field offices there was besieged by Triads. Nothing but factories, gangsters, fat officials, and whores. Fucking Dongguan." He forgot hideous, speculative real-estate developments.

Tourist attraction include the Dongguan International Trade Center 1, the 30th tallest building in the world (as of 2020). Completed in 2019, it is 426.9 meters (1,401 feet) tall and has 88 floors.. Opium War Museum is built near where a massive amount of opium was destroyed, triggering the war. A local guide posted on Google maps. “Very interesting place in a very uninteresting town. Easiest way to get here us to take the high speed train to Humen Station, then get a Didi or taxi to the museum. Lots of information about the history and how Hong Kong came to be. There are two huge pools filled with water where an insane amount of opium was destroyed. There's a big statue of Lin Zexu, the main guy at the time given the impossible task of stopping the opium. Closed on Mondays.”

Web Sites: Wikipedia ; Travel China Guide Dongguan community site Here dg Getting There: Dongguan is accessible by train from Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Guangzhou. Travel China Guide ; Dongguan Subway Map: Urban Rail

Image Sources: Province maps from the Nolls China Web site. Photographs of places from 1) CNTO (China National Tourist Organization; 2) Nolls China Web site; 3) Perrochon photo site; 4); 5) tourist and government offices linked with the place shown; 6); 7) University of Washington, Purdue University, Ohio State University; 8) UNESCO; 9) Wikipedia; 10) Julie Chao photo site

Text Sources: CNTO (China National Tourist Organization), UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in May 2020

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