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Crossing over 国境を超える

March 23, 2010

Recently, a group of friends and I headed across the border into Shenzhen.  Thirty years or so ago Shenzhen was essentially nothing more than a small village of indigenous Hakka people.  Today, it’s an SEZ (Special Economic Zone) in China and is almost double the size of Hong Kong in both area and population.  What’s interesting about the population is that it’s made up primarily of migrant workers from all over the mainland.  As a result, despite the fact that this part of southern China is predominantly made up of Cantonese speakers, Mandarin (Putonghua) is what you’ll hear while walking around Shenzhen.


Most people head across for a few main things: to catch a train or plane to other parts of China, a massage and lunch day, or shopping for knock-offs.  Our trip consisted of massage, lunch, painter’s village then dinner of Peking duck (special request by one of our member after he missed out on the previous trip).


The painter’s village, Dafen,  is a bit of an oddity.  It’s not really a village per se but it is chock full of galleries that cater to the selling of copies of famous and not-so-famous works.  Sure, there are some original works available but they are very much in the minority.  According to one source I read, around 60% of the world’s paintings come out of Dafen.  Not really hard to believe.  The highlight of the trip to Dafen was the Sunrise gallery.  This is one gallery that is owned by an artist and he creates his own works as well as represents other original artists.  The gallery is housed in a main two-story building encompassing a traditional courtyard.  Inside you find ambient music, reclaimed-wood furniture and traditional Chinese tea service available at every table.  There’s also a second smaller building attached which is an old Hakka long house.  I thought this was particularly cool, especially the large circular entry at the front and the egg-shaped (oval) door at the back which lead to a small Chinese/Japanese style garden.  The same reclaimed wood furniture as in the main building could be found inside the annex.  This is definitely worth spending some time in if you go.


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