Guidebook writers say Shenzhen, China is a pointless destination. It’s new, it’s gaudy, it has no soul or history. They are wrong. The city has been unfairly maligned. There is a lot to see and do in Shenzhen, China. In case you’re in the neighborhood, my list of 10 Must Sees in Shenzhen, China.
Shenzhen is the third largest city in China, no small feat for a city only 30 years-old. What started as a fishing village of 30,000 has grown into a modern metropolis of 12 million. A city, with a population of one-third of Canada’s: Tell me that’s not something you must see?
Visit the Diwang Building
The Diwang building in Shenzhen’s downtown is the ninth largest building in the world and the largest steel skyscraper in China. Visitors can ride to the observation deck and look out over the city, Guangdong province, and on a clear day, Hong Kong. A nighttime visit offers stunning views of some of Asia’s newest and most creative buildings.
Shop in Dongmen
Definately another of the must sees in Shenzhen. Near the Hong Kong border is Dongmen Shopping Street (East Gate), a mecca for shoppers. Clothes, housewares, electronics: Anything you can imagine can be bought at Dongmen in the Luohu District of Shenzhen. Hone your bargaining skills beforehand, and haggle for the best deal while shopping in Shenzhen.
Fairy Lake Botanical Gardens
This huge park in east Shenzhen features walking trails, a petrified forest, and museum. Fairy Lake is also home to Hong Fa Temple, the largest Buddhist temple in Shenzhen. Another attraction is a tree planted by former Chinese leader Deng Xiao Ping. The late Chairman Deng, who conceived of Shenzhen and its special economic zone status, is revered in the city.
Chiwan Village, part of western Shenzhen, features an ancient temple to Tianhou, (or Matsu) the Mother of Heaven, and goddess of fisherman. She is worshiped across Asia. The original temple was built in 1410 after the fleet of Admiral and Explorer Zheng He was caught in a typhoon in the South China Sea. The temple offers visitors a glimpse of Chinese religion and myth – one of the must sees in Shenzhen – off the beaten path.
Nearby the Tianhou Temple in Chiwan is the tomb of the boy-emperor Song Shao, Last Emperor of the Southern Song Dynasty. He died when the Mongols chased the remnants of the Song court to China’s southern coast in 1279. A court official leaped into the sea with the boy, lest he be taken by the invaders.
Crane Lake Hakka Village
Another of the must sees in Shenzhen if you’re history buff. The Hakka were Northern Chinese, driven south by war. Their migration south started in the third century and lasted hundreds of years. They made their homes in walled communal villages in South China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. During the cold war the American military thought these villages (many round in shape) were missile silos. Crane Lake was the home of the Luo clan, and was completed in the 1800s. Visitors can see the partially restored buildings of the settlement, and learn more about the Hakka people and their culture.
Still on history, another must sees in Shenzhen is the Dapeng Fortress. Built during the Ming Dynasty, the Dapeng Fotresss once protected eastern Shenzhen and Hong Kong from Japanese pirates. In 1939 the British Navy, in an act that is considered the first of the Opium War, launched an attack. Chinese troops, in fishing boats, defeat the modern and better-equipped navy. The old fort features the residence of General Lai, General Liu Qilong, and three temples. Dapeng Fortress is a piece of history, witnessing almost 600 years of tumultuous events.
See Phoenix Mountain Temple and the Dragon King Temple
Very close to each other, these temples, are located in Shenzhen’s northwest. Legends say that sometime during the Tang Dynasty (618-907) a phoenix lived in a cave on a nearby mountain. During the Southern Song Dynasty a General walking in the area had a dream of Guanyin, the Goddess of mercy. She asked him to build a temple near the famous cave. The Buddhist temple is a popular site, attracting worshipers and tourists. Nearby is a temple to the Dragon King, famous in Chinese folk tales. The temple is small but extremely ornate. The area of the two temples has been developed into a large park with walking trails and green spaces
Visit Xinan Old Town – Nantou Ancient City
Shenzhen’s Nanshan District is the home of Xinan Old Town also called Nantou Ancient City, a former government county seat, dating to the Ming Dynasty. The area was first constructed in 331 and was designated a heritage site. Archeological digs at the ancient city have uncovered more than 3000 artifacts, now stored in a nearby museum. Some of the original city walls and gate, as well as ancient wells and buildings, and a temple to Chinese Hero Guan Gong, still remain.
Eat and Drink at Sea World
When you hear Seaworld, you think of Shamu and leaping dolphins. Not the case in Shenzhen. Sea World in the Shekou area is Shenzhen’s expatriate hangout. The centerpiece of the promenade is a former French cruise ship cemented into the ground, now being used as a hotel, and containing several restaurants and bars. The area also has international eateries, and offer visitors a chance to eat and drink something different than Chinese fare.