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Villages in the City

Villages in the City: A Guide to South China’s Informal Settlements

Edited by Stefan Al
Paul Chu Hoi Shan
Claudia Juhre
Ivan Valin
Casey Wang
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    Villages in the City
    Book Description:

    Urban villages are a unique phenomenon that shows an interesting side of urban and demographic change in China. This book argues for the value of urban villages as places. To reveal their qualities, a series of drawings and photographs uncovers the immense concentration of social life in their dense structures and provides a peek into residents’ homes and daily lives. Organized in a guidebook fashion and lavishly illustrated, the book embodies a different type of scholarly work that is accessible to general readers. Essays written from the disciplines of urban planning, geography and architecture present different perspectives and give a deeper understanding of the topic.

    eISBN: 978-988-8268-39-9
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. INTRODUCTION Villages in the City: A Guide to China’s Informal Settlements
    (pp. 1-7)

    In 2011, bulldozers tore down nearly the entire village of Dachong, destroying over 10 million square feet of village housing and evicting more than 70,000 residents, many of them migrants.¹ In what was called one of the key urban “upgrades” of the decade, a vibrant community had been turned into a rubble-ridden demolition site. Only a few old trees, historic temples, and ancient wells were preserved, further accentuating the bleak new hole that formed amid the skyscrapers of Shenzhen.

    Located inside the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, Dachong Village had become a prime real estate location when it was engulfed by...


    • The City in between the Villages
      (pp. 9-16)
      Marco Cenzatti

      The phrase “Village in the City” is widely used to summarize a condition in Chinese cities that, as urbanization proceeds, is becoming increasingly common. Following the economic success of the last decades, cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou have been expanding, encroaching on, and surrounding once isolated rural villages. By means that have changed over time, and usually change from case to case, the agricultural fields of the villages are transformed into new parts of the expanding metropolis—residential towers, commercial centers, industrial and business parks. The residential part of the village changed not only its economic base,...

    • The Beginning of the End: Planning the Destruction of Guangzhou’s Urban Villages
      (pp. 19-28)
      Margaret Crawford and Jiong Wu

      During the mid-1980s, a new phenomenon appeared in the central districts of Guangzhou City: the urban village (chengzhongcun). These distinctive settlements, whose dense clusters of tiny buildings were immediately recognizable in the skyline, were an anomaly in a rapidly modernizing city. They were remnants of the agricultural villages that had once occupied most of the territory surrounding Guangzhou’s relatively small urban core. As the municipal government appropriated their farmland, the city grew around the villages, leaving them trapped inside their new boundaries. The former peasants reinvented themselves as landlords, catering to the waves of migrants who regularly arrived in Guanzhou...

    • City-in-the-Village: Huanggang and China’s Urban Renewal
      (pp. 29-40)
      Nick R. Smith

      Rooted in the urban-rural dualism of the nation’s administrative system and catalyzed by rapid urbanization unleashed by post-1978 reforms, China’s “urban villages” have been decades in the making. As these villages became more widespread in the late 1980s, scholars and policymakers began to refer to them as “villages inside the city” (dushi li de cunzhuang). This phrase, descriptive and matter-of-fact, reflected a relatively non-normative discourse, which treated such villages as isolated “phenomena” (xianxiang) that needed to be better understood. Attention focused on both the positive and negative effects of urbanization within such villages, while the potential challenge they posed to...

    • A Village by the Special Economic Zone: The Dafen Paradigm of China’s Urbanization
      (pp. 42-45)
      Jiang Jun

      At the Shanghai World Expo 2010, a village named Dafen was selected to represent Shenzhen in the Urban Best Practices area. This village is on the outskirts of Shenzhen and is best known for its reproduction of oil painting masterpieces. But Dafen is also a typical town, and the major development ideas and practices in China that have emerged during the last half century can be found here: the industrialization of rural areas, special economic zones (SEZs), land reform, rural migrant workers, “madein-China” factories, the village-inthe-city, and the creative and cultural industry. Selecting Dafen to participate in the Expo also...

    • Village-in-the-City as a Sustainable Form of Social Housing Communities for China: A Tale of Four Villages in Shenzhen
      (pp. 47-61)
      Laurence Liauw

      China’s urbanization in the last sixty years can be typified by the transformation of agricultural land into urban land. Old farming villages are disappearing in cities, yet their physical presence has persisted in the new form of urban agglomerations called “village-in-thecity” (VIC).

      National migration within China—currently over 230 million—are “mobile populations.” Rural workers from other cities have displaced indigenous locals living in the urban villages while the urban economies and built environments of the Pearl River Delta (PRD) have grown at a staggering rate of over 15 percent annually during the last thirty years. Millions of migrant workers...


      (pp. 63-63)
      (pp. 64-65)
      (pp. 67-67)
      (pp. 68-69)

      (pp. 71-79)

      Established by the Huang family during the Song dynasty, Xiasha Village has over 800 years of history. The descendants farmed, fished, and cultivated oysters for a living. They also planted mangroves along the coastline to protect the village from tides.

      During the 1990s, the village was substantially redeveloped. To reduce pollution, village executives purposely pushed out heavy industries and set up a clothing industry. At one stage, the village was famous for major Chinese clothing brands. Xiasha Village is also renowned for its pan cai feast that is celebrated during Chinese New Year. In 2002, the village broke the Guinness...

      (pp. 81-89)

      Of all urban villages in China, Dafen is probably the most famous. The village is best known for the production of fake paintings.

      The oil painting industry was brought to Dafen by a Hong Kong merchant in 1989. Currently, there are about 800 galleries and over 6,000 artists.

      Although Dafen’s economy mainly relies on imitation painting, the village also sells traditional Chinese painting, calligraphy, arts and crafts, sculptures, picture frames, and paint. “Dafen Oil Painting” has become a well-known cultural brand in China and abroad.

      The village lies under the jurisdiction of Buji Neighborhood Committee of Longgang District, Shenzhen....

      (pp. 91-99)

      The original villagers in Gangxia Village mostly go by the family name of Wen, since they were descendants of Wen Tianxiang, a well-known national hero in the Southern Song dynasty. About 680 years ago Wen’s offspring found that the area was suitable for rice production and established the village.

      Located in the Futian District today, Gangxia Village is the only urban village within the CBD of Shenzhen. Because of its location and the need for affordable housing, Gangxia has an extremely high density. Surrounded by several office skyscrapers, many white-collar workers live in Gangxia Village, which sets the village apart...


      (pp. 100-101)
      (pp. 103-103)

      (pp. 105-113)

      Jiekou Village is located in Changan Town of Dongguan, situated near the southeast Pearl River estuary. National 107 Highway and the Guangshen Expressway cut through the village. Since the economic reforms from 1979, Jiekou Village has attracted a large number of investments in industrial development due to its transportation linkages.

      There are eight factory zones in the village surroundings, covering 60 hectares for production space and workshops. Dormitories and housing occupy the remaining 20 hectares. In total, the village comprises 233 factories. Among them, 138 are Hong Kong-owned, 60 are Taiwanowned, and 33 are local, privately run factories. The main...

      (pp. 115-123)

      Tianjia Village is located in the heart of Dongguan CBD. It was formerly called Shui Wei and was established during the Ming dynasty. Eight percent of the population are migrants from inland provinces.

      A more famous spot in Yinfeng Road is Duxiangting Park, built in the Qing dynasty as a gathering place for intellectuals. The Zhanggongci nearby was residence of the well-known scholar Zhang Bozhen. Since 2003, the district and community offices and residents have invested a total of US$5.5 million for the repairment work of the park and Zhanggongci. Currently, their architecture reflects the Lingnan culture and provides a...


    • ONE LINE SKIES: Shipai Village
      (pp. 124-125)

      (pp. 127-135)

      Shipai is the biggest and oldest urban village in Guangzhou, located in the center of the bustling Tianhe District. The village homestead developed the small plots into super-tall structures, otherwise known as “ kissing buildings.” More than 170 narrow alleys are surrounded by the city’s skyscrapers.

      There are many IT shops in the village. Shipai is the biggest IT sales center in the south of China. Over 50,000 migrants live with roughly 10,000 locals within an area of only 40 hectares. The main source of income for the original villagers is rents....

      (pp. 137-145)

      Wangshengtang Village is located in Yuexiu District, northwest of Guangzhou. Situated near the Guangzhou Railway Station, train tracks abut the northern edge of the village.

      The railway greatly facilitates the transport of shoe materials, making the Wangshengtang district a famous logistics center for footwear in Guangzhou. The village specializes in sourcing raw materials, wholesaling, and warehouse storage for shoes.

      The wholesale market and warehouses drive the development of the village. Many original villagers manage the footwear wholesale markets. They attract suppliers from other regions to enable further economic growth of Wangshengtang Village....

      (pp. 147-155)

      Sanyuanli Village is famous for its role in the fight against the British in the Opium War. In 1840, the villagers resisted the British invasion and it became a well-known story throughout China. In commemoration of this event, a war memorial museum now stands at the entrance of the village.

      More than ten ancestral temples and ancient buildings scatter throughout the village. Although the village has undergone several transformations, local villagers have preserved these monuments well.

      Various wholesale markets can be found in the village. Most of them are leather hardware markets and different types of shops. A large number...


      (pp. 156-157)
  14. FOSHAN

      (pp. 159-167)

      Bitang Village sits between Foshan’s downtown urban area and Shiwan Town. Foshan University locates at the border of the north and east sides of the village and a large park, Wufeng, sits on the west. A large road, running north to south, has split the original village into two areas. There were originally some ten hectares of farmland, but the village and its surrounding area have now been developed for mixed industrial and residential uses.

      Most of the historic sites here have been destroyed. The Teakwood Bridge, the Rooster Pub, and the Big Buddha Temple are prominent in local memory....

      (pp. 169-177)

      Hedang is a village with a long history of pottery production which began 4,800 years ago. Established during the Song dynasty, the village gradually grew and became a famous ceramic town by the Ming dynasty. The Nanfeng Ancient Kiln was built during this period and it lies just to the south of Hedang.

      After the economic reforms, Hedang villagers combined conventional elite ceramic crafts with new manufacturing technology to produce a large number of ceramic goods, and the village has since become China’s major ceramic production base....


    • How do the villagers cut up the housing units?
      (pp. 178-179)
  16. ZHUHAI

      (pp. 181-189)

      Poshi Village is located in western Zhuhai, an area in which the industrial past of the city is still visible. Factory sites can be found around the village—a food processing plant sits to the west, a water treatment plant lies to the east, and light manufacturing still occupies sites to the north. Poshi Village is small and migrant workers tend to stay here because of its proximity to downtown. Development in this village has primarily been focused on the edges, where many of the buildings have been converted into mid-rise and high-rise residential towers for sale. Additionally, the introduction...

      (pp. 191-201)

      Zuowu Village is located in Xiangzhou District of Zhuhai. It abuts Wanzai Town. Macao is plainly visible to the east, just across the estuary. Although far from the current city center, the village is along the axis connecting southward, from the old center to Shizimen Business District, a newly planned CBD on the Hengqin Island. The village was originally a fishing enclave. Its fishermen took advantage of the short distance to Macao and shipped affordable seafood daily from the Wanzai Pier. After urbanization, these families shifted from fishing to the production of salted, marinated, and cooked seafood. Now, the area...

    (pp. 202-202)
    (pp. 203-203)