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The Last Village of Jida

October 18, 2011
looks like a 19Th Century Irish grange behind modern high rises


If anyone over 31 tells you they were born in Zhuhai, they are lying or just very confused. Zhuhai did not exist before 1980.

The city is comprised of former villages of Zhongshan city creating the second Special Economic Zone after Shenzhen. However, the villages within Zhuhai date back several hundred years. Such as NanPing, the home of Yung Wing. Hong Kong Court translator and Qing Dynasty diplomat who traveled to America and became the first Chinese graduate of Yale in 1854. Part of Nanping Village is now known as Hua Fa, literally translated as ‘development.’ Villages like this are disappearing. When villages disappear they are given new names by real estate companies,  which gives Chinese history a very long and scattered paper trail.

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Jida is one of the more expensive neighborhoods in Zhuhai, though most new highrises are located on the main streets like Shui Wan Lu and Jiu Zhou Lu. The side streets of Zhuhai are made up of industrial communities.

Zhuhai apartments are marketed to wealthy people who don’t like big cities. The selling points are clean air and low population. The value of an apartment depends on the view of the ocean. The villages that last the longest offer no ocean view, and sometimes take years to be destroyed. Villages in big cities like Guangzhou are destroyed quickly.

Jida’s Da Lau Chuen (local nickname, ‘big old village’) has been in a perpetual broken state for several years. I lived in Zhuhai in 2009 and remember when the demolition started. It hasn’t finished. This neighborhood is hard too hard to sell.

Three days ago I photographed this village and saw a child playing in a stairway of an abandoned building, I asked if his parents were around and he said they were just next door. They were. In fact, a majority of the village is still living all the rubble. Zhuhai is an expensive city, and this is a very affluent neighborhood.

Imagine being a child exploring the remains of your neighbors home, while rich people in surrounding high rises can watch you from their balconies.

I talked to one resident who’s home had been marked for demolition for several months, he hasn’t been given an actual date. People here have to be ready to leave at any given moment, keeping their fingers crossed for a large sum of cash from the government.

This village faces a field of weeds that have grown around the walls of partially demolished houses. Some of these homes are covered in weeds and look like a 19th century Irish grange.  Only 20 yards away from Jiuzhou Cheng shopping mall and the Zhuhai museum. Jida is decorated with high rises while people living in fields of rubble are the back yards of gated communities. Wrapping a semi-destroyed village in fancy apartments is like bleaching a decaying tooth.

It’s an amazing contrast. To see it, take the public bus, 3, 3A, or 40 and get off at Jida bus station. Walk through the parking lot on the north side of Shui Wan Lu.

Keep in mind that these remains are very expensive. Click on this link to see exactly how expensive.

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