Shenzhen is the latest addition to our list of Chinese megacities. This vibrant city grew out of nothing to become one of the largest cities in the country. Shenzhen is thoroughly modern, with wide avenues and modern skyscrapers. Fantastic architecture is everywhere, interspersed by wonderful parks and thematic scenic spots. Not only that. Several ancient towns and villages dot the city, giving it a traditional Chinese atmosphere. Finally, since fantastic Hong Kong is just across the border, you can literally walk there. To us, the following are the 10 most interesting facts about Shenzhen.
01 Shenzhen Is China’s Sixth Largest City
Shenzhen is China’s sixth-largest city, ahead of Chengdu and Nanjing. It is also one of the fastest-growing metropolises in the world. According to the latest Official Census, in 2010, the population of Shenzhen stood at 10.4 million. Shenzhen is the only large city in mainland China with the same urban and municipal population. That means that 100% of its residents live within the urban area. In the last decade, the population in Shenzhen grew at a stable pace and is now estimated to be 12.3 million. Shenzhen is part of China’s largest metropolitan area, the Pearl River Delta. The only bigger city in the delta is fantastic Guangzhou.
02 Its Name Means Deep Drain
The first historical record of the name Shenzhen is from 1410, during the reign of the Ming Dynasty. Local dialects call the ditches or drain between fields Zhen. On the other hand, the word Shen means deep. Thus, Shenzhen’s name refers to the Deep Drain that used to be near the village. Even the names of other districts in Shenzhen come from nature. For instance, the city’s central district Futian got its name from the words Fu and Tian that mean blessed fields or farmland. Likewise, Shenzhen’s oldest district Luohu bears the name of a nearby lake.
03 Shenzhen Is China’s Youngest Metropolis
Shenzhen has a short history as a megacity. In 1980, Shenzhen was just a small town of some 30,000 inhabitants. That same year, it became China’s first Special Economic Zone. Since then, Chinese and foreign companies invested millions in massive new factories. Initially, Shenzhen was a manufacturing hub for processed food, textile, electronics, pharmaceuticals, and building materials. However, as the economy improved, the city shifted gradually towards the service industry. Due to its enormous success, thousands of workers from all around China moved to Shenzhen. Consequently, the city grew at an astonishing pace. Today, it is one of China’s main financial centers and technology hub.
04 There Are Several City Centers
Shenzhen is a fairly large city scattered between the mountains and the sea. Since Shenzhen is not a compact city, there is no main city center. Instead, all mayor districts have a central area. In the Luoho District, the center is around Shennan East Road and the Dongmen Pedestrian Street. Futian District has two large pedestrian areas: Huaquiang North Pedestrian Street and Citizen Square. The Former is Shenzhen’s main shopping street, while the latter hosts local government offices and several important cultural institutions. On the other hand, the peripheral Nanshan District has a small center. The district’s main pedestrian area is the Coastal City shopping center.
05 Shenzhen Is All About Modern Architecture
As we’ve discussed, Shenzhen is a modern city with a plethora of cool contemporary architecture. However, during the first three decades of its status as a Special Economic Zone, Shenzhen didn’t pay much attention to design and architecture. Things changed dramatically during the last decade when Shenzhen saw an explosion of high-quality architecture. One of the first buildings to emerge on the world stage was the OCT Design Museum. The large round building from 2011 seems to float above the ground. The Longgang Cultural Center from 2019, is a huge compound of four buildings creatively joined together. Among the numerous modern skyscrapers, the SBF Tower and the China Resources Headquarters are the most spectacular ones.
06 Several Ancient Towns and Villages Dot the City
Endless skyscrapers dominate Shenzhen’s skyline, interspersed by ancient towns and villages. These are a testament of times long gone. Since Shenzhen doesn’t have a proper old city, the closest to the center is the Old Town of Nantou (Xin’an). The Walled City of Nantou was the gate to the Pearl River and Guangzhou. Only parts of the wall and a few houses have survived the test of time. They date back to 1394. The Dapeng Fortress, east of the city, is from the same year. Within the fortress lies a collection of gorgeous old houses. Nearby Dongshan temple is splendid. Among the several ancient villages in Shenzhen, the nicest are Fenghuang Village and Gankeng Ke Hakka Village.
07 Wonderful Parks Decorate Shenzen
Shenzhen has so many parks that it is one of China’s greenest cities. Not only that, but lush green mountains surround the city. The city proper has over 20 large public parks. The most popular one is the centrally located Lianhuashan Park. The 150 hectares (370 acres) park sits on a hill overlooking Futian’s central business district. Shenzhen Bay Park is a 13 kilometers long green area on reclaimed land from the Deep Bay. It’s a wonderful park with outstanding views of Shenzhen and Hong Kong. Wutong Mountain, east of Shenzhen, is a large green oasis only a step away from the city. At the foot of the mountain, the Xianhu Botanical Garden houses more than 8000 species of plants.
08 It’s a City of Theme Parks
Shenzhen is home to several theme parks. We are talking about large scenic areas with reproductions of traditional Chinese towns and world-famous landmarks. Several theme parks are in the eastern part of the Nanshan District. Splendid China, Chinese Folk Culture Village, Window of the World, and Happy Valley Shenzhen are part of a complex called Overseas Chinese Town. The first two showcase Chinese traditional architecture, including the houses of China’s ethnic minorities. The Window of the World hosts world-famous sites, including the Taj Mahal, the Pyramids, the Acropolis, the Coliseum, and the Eiffel Tower. The Happy Walley Shenzhen is a large amusement park.
09 Hong Kong Is Right Across
The fabulous city of Hong Kong is literally right across the border. Since downtown Shenzhen is next to the border, you can walk to Hong Kong. This extraordinary world metropolis is a city with a fascinating past. When the First Opium War ended in 1842, China lost Hong Kong Island to Britain. In 1860 they lost Kowloon too. By 1898, Britain had control over the whole area known as the New Territories. Under treaties signed with China, the British rule would last 99 years. Today, Hong Kong is a wonderful mix of British and Chinese cultures. Cars drive on the left, and there are double-decker trams. Yet, its markets and restaurants are typically Chinese. Since the return of Hong Kong to China, the two cities have increased their connection. There is even a fast train that covers the distance between them in 14 minutes.
10 Shenzhen Metro Is China’s Seventh Largest
When Shenzhen Metro opened in 2004, it was the fifth metro system in Mainland China after the ones in Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. Since then, the system never stopped growing, and it now has 8 lines. With a total length of 303.2 km, Shenzhen’s metro is China’s seventh-longest. Lines 1 and 4 southern terminals are right at the border with Hong Kong. From there, two train lines take passengers to Hong Kong’s city center. The metro’s logo is an imitation of Hong Kong’s metro, but with two stripes instead of one. Even some metro lines have Chinese names, just like the lines in Hong Kong. Most regular metro lines in Mainland China have only numbers.