Shenzhen Museum #1 – Ancient Shenzhen 古代深圳 (221 BC – 1839 AD)

Part Five: Ancient Immigration 古代移民

Shenzhen 深圳 is a city on the southeast coast of China just next to Hong Kong. It has a history of over 7,000 years of human inhabitation, over 1,700 years of evidence of townships and urban settlements, and over 600 years of coastal defence. The ancient population was mainly Cantonese and Hakka migrations. But it was the last 50 years that saw its meteoritic growth onto the world’s stage.

Timeline : Growth of a Metropolis

  • Qin – Han

    In 214 BC, Qin Dynasty conquered Lingnan 岭南 and set up Nanhai Commandery 南海郡, and by Western Han included 6 counties: Panyu (番禺), Boluo (博羅, which covers what is modern day Shenzhen), Zhongsu (中宿), Longchuan (龍川), Sihui (四會) and Jieyang (揭陽). During the Han Dynasty, the official that was stationed in Nantou 南头 (modern day Nanshan District 南山区) referred to as Dongguan 东官 (because he was east of Panyu).

    Map of Nanyue / Nanhai Commandery around 200 BC
  • Three Kingdoms – Eastern Wu 东吴

    Eastern Wu setup Dongguan County 东官县 (which includes modern day Shenzhen) around 229 AD and Dongguan Salt Field 东官盐场 and in 265 AD appointed a county-level lieutenant of salt 司盐都尉. Diaspora arrived from Central Plains escaping the wars in the north.

    Full scale model of the burial chambers in Tiezai Mountain 铁仔山南朝砖室墓
  • Jin – Sui – Tang

    Two new commanderies were split off from Nanhai during Eastern Jin: Dongguan (東官) in 330 and Xinhui (新會) in 420. Dongguan was removed during Sui, and Bao’an County 宝安县 drawn into Guang Protectorate (广府). In 757 (Tang Dynasty), Bao’an was renamed to Dongguan 东莞.

    Copper coins unearthed from Kaiyuan period of Tang Dynasty
  • Song – Yuan

    Salt production reached its peak in Song Dynasty, setting up 6 salt fields in and around Bao’an County. The area was interchangeably called Bao’an and Dongguan during Song and Yuan dynasties, but it covered what’s considered the size of modern day Shenzhen as well as part of New Territories and Kowloon.

    Locations of the salts fields in Guangdong
  • Ming – Qing

    Dapeng and Dongguan Garrisons were setup in 1394, divided Dongguan County into Xin’an County 新安县 in 1573 to increase tax collections from the bourgeoning salt fields. The name, Shenzhen Market 深圳墟, first appeared in official records in 1410 as a village. In 1688, 21 piers were setup in Xin’an that included Shenzhen, Yantian, Dameisha, Xiaomeisha, etc.

  • Nationalist – Republic of China

    1914, The Nationalist government renamed Xin’an County to Bao’an County 宝安县, which approximately covered the current Shenzhen Economic Zone. Shenzhen Town 深圳镇 was setup in 1931, which is modern day Luohu District 罗湖区. Shenzhen was “liberated” by the PLA in 1949.

  • People’s Republic of China

    In 1979, a massive economic plan was approved for the setting up of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone. Bao’an County was split and Shenzhen City were formed, reporting directly to the Guangdong Provincial Government. And in 1992, Bao’an County was split into Bao’an 宝安 and Longhua 龙华 districts, Huiyang County 惠阳县 was redesignated as Longgang District 龙岗区, and all three were absorbed into Shenzhen. In 2018, Guangming District 光明区 was split from Baoan, forming the tenth district in Shenzhen.

    Modern zoning of Shenzhen

The Great Migrations

Migrations into the Shenzhen region can be divided into three main waves; 1) during the Jin-Song dynasties when the diaspora was escaping the wars of Central Plains, 2) after the Great Separation and 3) during the formation of Shenzhen Special Economic Zone.

Ancestral Shrine of the Chen Clan

The ancestors of the Chens in the western part of Shenzhen came from Henan Yingshui 河南颖水, hence they refer to their ancestral halls as Yinchuan Hall 颍川堂. Chen Chaoju 陈朝举 (1131-1213) led his clansmen to migrate to Gui’de Salt Field 归德盐场 during the Song Dynasty. His descendants can still be found around Shajing 沙井, Songgang 松岗, Nanshan 南山, etc

The Hakka 客家人 have been called guests, gypsies, nomads, barbarians, outsiders, even Mongolians. Among their progeny they claim the likes of Sun Yat Sen, Deng Xiaoping, Singapore’s Lee Kwan Yew and Taiwan’s Lee Teng Hui.  Da Wan Residence 大万世居 in Longgang District 龙岗区 is a fortified Hakka walled house built by the Zengs 曾氏 in the 56th year of Qing Emperor Qianlong 清乾隆56年 (1791). It is one of the largest Hakka walled houses in Shenzhen.

Penthouse view of Modern Shenzhen

The final ongoing batch of migration comes from all around the world. When Shenzhen Special Economic Zone was setup, the liberal and commerce friendly policies attracted talents and workforce from all around China and the world. The moniker of “Shenzhenese” 深圳人 welcomes people of different race and culture. That led to its miraculous rise among the cities to become the Top 10 cities in China, and made Guangdong provide the richest in terms of GDP. We are witnessing the second wave of the economic boom, with the formation of The Great Bay Economic Region 大湾区, which included Chaozhou, Dongguan, Hong Kong and Macau into a megalopolis within 2 hours travels from the centre, Shenzhen. The best is yet to be.

Shenzhen Museum of History and Folk Culture

Shenzhen Museum was founded in 1981. It consists of 4 museum sites including Shenzhen Museum of History and Folk Culture, Shenzhen Museum of Ancient Art, Dongjiang River Guerrilla Command Headquarters Memorial Museum and Shenzhen Reform and Opening-up Exhibition Hall. 

Located in Shenzhen Civic Center, the Shenzhen Museum of History and Folk Culture, opened in December 2008, takes up 12,500 square meters of land, and covers a construction area of 33,600 square meters. The exhibition building has a total of 3 floors, including 5 basic exhibition halls and 2 special exhibition halls, with an exhibition area of more than 10,000 square meters. The ground floor is a storehouse of cultural relics. In addition, the exhibition building also has multi-functional report Hall, VIP Hall, teahouse, souvenir shops and other ancillary service facilities.

Opening hours : 10:00~18:00 (Visitors are not allowed to enter the museum after 17:30. Closed on Mondays. Open during major festivals and closed the first day after major festivals)

Visited in Jan 2022

2 comments on “Shenzhen Museum #1 – Ancient Shenzhen 古代深圳 (221 BC – 1839 AD)

  1. Pingback: Shenzhen Museum #2 – Folk Culture 深圳民俗文化 – live2makan

  2. Pingback: Nam Giao @ HCM – live2makan

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