Shamian Island

Hi all, and wel­come to neigh­bor­hood! Shamian Island is one of the many “islands” float­ing among the water­ways in Guangzhou– home of the Pearl River Delta. I say island hes­i­tantly, as it is tech­ni­cally a sand­bar with two canals dug out from the sides fac­ing land. This was done a few hun­dred years ago, when the island was handed over to Euro­pean offi­cials who built their man­sions and their offi­cial build­ings here to keep sep­a­rate from the locals. In fact, no Chi­nese cit­i­zen was allowed to cross the bridges with­out proper iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, and after 10pm if they did so they were liable to be shot. Up until about sixty or so years ago, this still was the case. Today what remains are beau­ti­ful brick roads going through the island lined with large, weep­ing banyan trees, and strik­ing clas­sic euro­pean archi­tec­ture from the 19th and early 20th cen­turies. It’s quite a dif­fer­ent feel from the blocky high rises and flashy steel tow­ers built around the rest of the city.

Because of the beauty and seren­ity of the island, it’s a pop­u­lar leisure spot for locals and tourists alike. Groups of middle-aged friends play a ver­sion of Chi­nese hackey sack on the river walk­ways. Work­ers nap on the benches in the shade dur­ing their lunch hour. The elderly sit, stroll, ride on their bikes through every road and alley. They bring their chil­dren, and their grand­chil­dren who run through the court­yards, pick fresh flow­ers, and climb on the statues.

What you see most, how­ever, are what the Diplo­Man and I like to call the tri­fecta of Shamian Island. Truly, within five min­utes of walk­ing out of our build­ing, you will see one, if not three of the following:

1) Photo shoots: (of the B-list vari­ety) Guangzhou is one of the largest man­u­fac­tur­ing cities in the world. The ports around Guangzhou/Shenzen rank fourth in the world’s largest ports, for there are hun­dreds of mil­lions of tons worth of goods com­ing in and out each year. Things are “Made in China”, and there is a good chance that most it comes from Guangzhou. With cloth­ing, these man­u­fac­tures need to cre­ate cat­a­logues for their buy­ers, thus where the over­done mod­els and cheesy photo shoots come in.

2) Wed­ding pho­tos: Young amer­i­can cou­ples are known to have engage­ment pho­tos taken. In China, it seems to be the cus­tom to dress up in a lacy white dress, get made up, and pose for pho­tos with your hus­band who wears a white tux. These dresses are rentals, how­ever, and often times you will see the bride wear­ing her jeans under her dress. Wed­ding com­pa­nies have set up shop on the island, and you will often see them zip­ping cou­ples around in their go-carts, from one shoot loca­tion to another.

3) Amer­i­can cou­ples with their Chi­nese babies: So many of these. We live next to the White Swan Hotel, who swells in pop­u­lar­ity with the num­ber of Amer­i­cans who come to meet and adopt their future chil­dren. This started a few decades ago, when the Amer­i­can Con­sulate was built next door (where we live). The visa sec­tion of the offices have since moved, but the Amer­i­can cou­ples stay­ing at the White Swan have not. As a result, a sep­a­rate mini-economy has boomed on the island. There are signs at the laun­dry shop to rent a stroller for the day when you drop off laun­dry. Lit­tle shops sell­ing children’s cloth­ing and shoes are lit­tered through­out the streets. Sou­venir shops sell all sorts of lit­tle trin­kets, engrav­ing names both in Chi­nese and Eng­lish to com­mem­o­rate your new baby’s newest given name. At Lucy’s every day dur­ing lunch time, where they serve clas­sic Amer­i­can dishes like burg­ers, fries, and faji­tas, you’ll see exactly what I’m talk­ing about.

It’s all a lit­tle odd.…and I wish all of you at home could see these things, first hand. To give you more of a taste though, here is more of a look around the island.…

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

CommentLuv badge