So, on Saturday, we left from the Shenzhen urban area and drove north to Longmen county. It took us almost five long hours to get there because of the traffic jam. We rented a car for this day, a Citroen C-Elysee, maybe ten years old. My exchange partner Jiaqi was on the wheel and she told me that when they planned the construction of Shenzhen, they set a border creating an “inside” and “outside” area. So they firstly wanted to focus on Shenzhen’s development inside this border line. Especially in the inside area, the traffic was really chaotic and people would just drive and follow their own way no matter what – which we effectively experienced. A truck came from the right lane and switched to our lane striking us at the right front side of our fragile little car. Huh. And that after only a half hour drive with our rented car. As we arrived in Longmen, we checked the damage and it was visible, indeed. Of course, we were wondering about the consequences when returning the car in the evening…
But at first, when we arrived in Longmen, we had lunch with a few others and someone from a social enterprise who had once organized a few projects in the villages nearby promoting the preservation of their cultural heritage. His name was Tim and he later showed us around in the villages. Longmen also seemed to me a little urban, but it was not a commercial center. There were high-rise buildings and apartment houses, vivid streets, hotels. Rather touristic and agriculture surrounding it. It was the first time for me to see Chinese countryside and it was stunning. And everything was oh so green. And I saw rice fields, fields where they grew sweet potatoes, melons, mangoes… The villlages we saw were typical villages from the Hakka people. The first village we passed by was the smallest village I’ve ever seen (sorry no photos). About, maybe, five buildings! – As I mentioned in the Hubei article, Chinese villages are family-based. The first village we stopped at was called “Seeing the Dragon”, probably about 300 years old. The village has the form of a half circle around the family shrine (see the Hubei article), in front of which there is a collaborative pound, initially used by the villagers for fishing. Today, it is not used for fishing any more.

The village’s pound

The shrine has a middle gate through which humans are not supposed to step through – including me, haha. I stepped through it feeling awkward because I kind of guessed that I made an imprudent decision. The gate is thought to be for the gods and good spirituals. On the right and left side of the shrine there are the boys’ bedrooms, the girls bedrooms are behind it. The village grows from the inside to the outside with every generation. It also had a watch tower which was probably built between 1840 and 1930. In the case of war, the whole village would stay in the spacious, but today brittle and decayed, watch tower.

The entrance gate of the family shrine
The girls’ bedrooms
The watch tower in the background

The farming takes place around, or rather in front of the village. In front of the “Seeing the Dragon” village, they grew rice for the villagers. It was a magnificent scenery with the mountains behind the fields. Tim, who showd us around, is planning to help the village being provided with an internet network, which is currently not present.

Rice fields in front of the village “Seeing the Dragon”
Me in front of rice fields wearing a hat Tim gave me
A fisherman on the Zeng river
The gate of another village next to a modern vehicle 🙂 they were working on an electricity line mast

The eldest people of a village have a certain privilege. Nowadays, young people usually leave their village, visiting only for the old people’s birthdays or during festival times. I was told that some younger generations coming back to their place sometimes build up another village right next to their home village of which houses stay rather abandoned and their constructional condition need improvements – the condition of traditional architecture which is to be preserved when maintaining a sustainable village. But what is most important for a sustainable village is to have people there and to keep the place vivid. So, it is necessary to make people realize what they are being surrounded of, that the place they live in witnesses a rich and meaningful history. So, they can (re)connect with their environment and build an emotional relationship with the place they live in. And also “outsiders” must know about the history of the place and at the same time, they must be aware that the village is valuable for the people living there. A successful work supporting a sustainable village would be to communicate with both “outsiders” and “insiders”, so that people want to stay there and contribute to a good living quality.

When driving back, we passed by a large damp from a river called Paradise. It was really beautiful. Right by the lake behind the damp was a hotel and café with wooden constructions, very expensive to spend the night there. Who would spend their vacations there…

Lake Paradise
The damp

When we started our way back to Shenzhen, it heavily started to rain, that we had to drive very slowly because we could barely see. Then, the night came and we could even see less because the lighting of the street left a lot to be desired, as well as the highest angle of our car’s front lights. And what made us additionally drive even more slowly was the condition of the road – one deep pothole after another which we mostly couldn’t see in the dark! So, another four hours for our way back home. But the car returning was no problem, they didn’t even check the car’s state…