Shenzhen (深圳) is located in the very south of Guangdong Province. Overlooking Hong Kong to the south and bordering Kowloon, this area is commonly referred to as Hong Kong’s “backyard”. The population of Shenzhen within the inner city is 11 million, and metro area of 18 million residents. (Hong Kong has 7.2 million, and Guangzhou 13.5 million)
In 2015, Shenzhen’s GDP totaled USD $270 billion. Its total economic output is higher than that of Portugal, the Republic of Ireland, and Vietnam. Shenzhen is home to some of China’s most successful high-tech companies, including Skyworth, Tencent (WeChat/QQ), Coolpad, TP-Link, and Huawei. One of Shenzhen’s sister cities is Houston.
Shenzhen was involved in a number of historical events, especially the collapse and final stand of the Southern Song Dynasty (13th century), the last stand of the Ming Dynasty (17th century) and the Opium War (19th century).
Geographically, Shenzhen is a ‘buffer zone’ between socialism and capitalism in China. This was one of the first Chinese cities to open its doors to the West in 1980. A stock market was established and offices and factories shot up at an unbelievable rate. The Shenzhen municipal government exercises a relatively self-governed legislation and the incentives for investors are high.
Shenzhen has some of China’s best beaches, many of them untouched stretches of National Park. In 2006, National Geographic named the Dapeng Peninsula, where most of Shenzhen’s beaches are situated, as one of China’s top ten most scenic coastlines.
- Dameisha Beach (大梅沙).
- Xiaomeisha Beach (小梅沙).
- Jin Sha Wan Beach (金沙湾).
- Longqi Wan Beach (龙栖湾).
- Judiaosha Beach.
- Shuitousha Beach.
- Nan’ao Beach (南澳沙滩).
- Xichong Beach (西冲海滩). (1 hour 30 minutes from downtown) more peaceful & clean
Shenzhen has many theme parks, which are popular with Chinese tourists, many of whom go to Shenzhen mainly for these. Reactions of Western visitors vary widely, from enjoying them immensely to finding them amazingly tacky. These are a few of the more popoular ones:
- Window of The World (世界之窗), Travel around the world in one day. This 480,000 square meter park has a beautiful natural landscapes and wonderful lighting at night. Inside, you can climb the 1:3 ratio Eiffel Tower, Egyptian Pyramid, Pisa Tower, Taj Mahal of India, Grand Canyon, and other famous places of interest. There is also an indoor ski slope, paddle boats, and a flume ride. Every night there are spectacular dance shows based on themes of Chinese and world history. Hundreds of dancers perform on the enormous outdoor stage. The performance finishes with a procession and fireworks at 9PM. Admission ~ RMB 180.
- Splendid China & Chinese Folk Culture Village (深圳锦绣),In two sections: The first part is a miniature park of famous Chinese sites. You can find the famous Forbidden City, Terracotta Soldiers, Tibet Potala Palace, Huangshan Mountains, Yunnan’s Stone Forest, and of course the Great Wall of China. This park is huge and covers 300,000 square meters, fully forested with beautiful greenery. The other part consists of 56 houses, each representing one of the 56 nationalities in China, such as Miao, Yi, Bai, Mongol and Uygur. You can find here real people, culture, fashion, habits, religion and language. Uygur women twirl to Turkish music, Miaos dance, a miniskirted Ming Dynasty troupe performs electronic versions of Ming music and dance. Do not miss the Mongol horse battle held daily. But the final Phoenix show is mind-blowing (ticketed on holidays). Afterwards near closing time there is a somewhat strange, spontaneous techno-light water splash fight in the splash area.Admission ~ RMB 150.
- Happy Valley Theme Park (欢乐谷), A classic fun park. It is a lot bigger than Hong Kong Disneyland and many would say a lot better. Divided into theme areas it has the usual fun rides. There are several levels of roller coasters, ranging from kiddie coasters to the Snow Dragon which holds you upside down with your feet dangling and the Shangra-La which has a 4G drop, and the Magic Castle which has carnival games. The park is crowded on the weekends and holidays, but there are few people on the weekdays.
- Minsk World (明思克航母), Was a military theme park centered around the former Soviet aircraft carrier Minsk. It was closed on February 14th, 2016 and the ship was moved away for repairs in order to be reestablished as a theme park in Nantong, Jiangsu Admission ~ RMB 110.
- OCT East (东部华侨城).This is a new amusement park built by the same company as Windows of the World, it features a thrill ride, shows, and replica of European towns. Be prepared to climb a lot of stairs or escalators to reach all the different rides or attractions. If you are a golfer, there is an golf club on the hill top admist the clouds. It’s called Wind Valley Golf. In June 2010, 6 people died when a electrical failure threw them off a ride. Several were injured as well. The park was plagued with other small electrical outages which have resulted in people trapped in cable cars etc. Admission ~ RMB 120.
Dafen Oil Painting Village (大芬油画村), Dafen Village, Buji, 龙岗区布吉街道大芬社区 (Dafen (大芬) In 1988, Wong Kong, a Hong Kong businessman who had a business specialising in reproduction art, decided that there was no future in Hong Kong and set up in Dafen, even though it was not in the SEZ. Soon he was joined by artists from all over China, some classically trained but many just talented amateurs fresh from the paddy fields. And so Dafen was born. It is set in an old Hakka village and consists of street after street of shops selling oil paintings, watercolors, and embroidered paintings. For a few hundred Yuan you can commission an artist to copy your favorite piece of art, your wedding photo, or photos of your family. Insist on “A” quality – it costs a little more but it’s worth it.
Dongshan Monastery (东山寺简史;) first built in 1394, is a monastery of the Zen Buddhism in Southern China. It is situated south of Mount Longtou (dragon head) which in ancient time was variably called Jiufeng or Dongshan (East Mountain, probably because it is situated east of Dapeng Fortress).
Tomb of the Young Song Emperor (宋少帝陵). This is likely the tomb of the last Emperor of the Southern Song Dynasty (d. 1279). There is little doubt that he died in this general area after fleeing from the Mongols who had taken the dynastic capital Hangzhou. The tomb was restored in the early 20th century and subsequently fell into disrepair. It was rediscovered by a military cook during the Cultural Revolution but left alone. The Shenzhen City Government further restored it in the 1980s.
Xin’an (Nantou) Ancient City (新安(南头) This is the original town which originally encompassed Hong Kong and Shenzhen. There has been a town on this site since the fourth century. Much of the old town has been demolished and replaced by residential buildings, but Xin’an has still maintained the flavour of a Cantonese town with vibrant street life along narrow streets. The Ming Dynasty wall and gate remain preserved as do the Guan Yu Temple outside the gates, the naval and civil headquarters, a silver shop, an opium den and even a brothel. Visit the eighteenth century “Flower Street” or street of brothels, a narrow alley with an eighteenth century official stele denouncing the evils of prostitution.
Dapeng Ancient Fort (大鹏所城). is yet another amazingly well preserved Ming Dynasty Fort. Founded in 1394, it shared with various other forts the duties of guarding the entrances to the Pearl River and was prominent in the defense of the river during the Opium War. It is extremely well preserved.
Chiwan Left Fort (赤湾左炮台) was one of the prime defensive spots on the Pearl River . The Chiwan Fort was divided into two parts, the Left Fort and the Right Fort. Originally they had twelve gun positions but now only the Left Fort is in any reasonable degree of repair. Perched on Ying Zui Mountain, at over 500 feet above the Pearl River, they commanded a full field of fire. Their failure to make any impression on British ships as they entered the Pearl was one of the first great disasters of the Opium War.
Shenzhen Concert Hall (深圳音乐厅) at 2016 Fuzhong 1st Rd, Futian 福田区福中一路2016号 (either Shi Min Zhong Xin (Civic Centre) or Shao Nian Gong (Children’s Palace). The Concert Hall hosts international standard artists in a stunning glass-wrapped setting.
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