About 55 kilometers from the city center in east Shenzhen's Longgang District is Dapeng Fortress, which has just been listed as one of the city's top eight scenic spots.
Many people usually think of Shenzhen as having been a small and backward border town. But Dapeng Fortress contributed much more to Shenzhen's history than most people imagine.
"Dapeng Fortress is a place where we took great efforts exploring its tourism potential. When we first saw it, we were really amazed at this mini ancient city in such a modern and young city," said Wong Songling, head of the Dapeng Fortress Museum.
Photos, illustrations and ancient books on display at the museum guide visitors through the history of Dapeng Fortress. Although the exhibits at the small museum are quite old with some having been lost through decay, there is still a lot to learn about the city's past.
To resist Japanese pirates in the southern coastal areas of Guangdong, the Ming Dynasty built a military base in Dapeng which was to safeguard an area that now covers Hong Kong and the east of Shenzhen.
On September 4, 1839, five British naval vessels launched a surprise attack on the maritime forces of Dapeng Fortress in the waters off Kowloon. Chinese troops in fishing boats, led by General Lai Enjue, defeated the better-equipped enemy. The Kowloon naval battle is now widely considered the start of the Opium Wars.
Not long after the battle, Lai was promoted to commander of the Guangdong navy. In 1844, the emperor allocated a large sum to build a 2,500-square-meter mansion and inscribed "Zhenwei General Mansion" on the board above the gate. The stately Lai Mansions then became one of the biggest attractions in the fortress. The fortress survived natural and civilian disasters over 600 years. Three gates of the fortress, General Lai and his clan's mansions, General Liu Qilong's mansions, Tianhou Palace, Houwang Temple and Zhaogong Temple are all still in good condition.
The complex structures at the general's house feature painted carved beams and columns and many couplets are posted on the door. You can see the high level of architecture typical of the Ming and Qing dynasties.
Lining both sides of the narrow stone streets are residential buildings that feature black tiles and exquisite carvings on the window panels and eaves, completing the unique rural scenery. For people tired of the bustling metropolis, the place is a mecca for relaxation.
However, years of being exposed to the elements and migrant workers flocking to the area for cheap accommodation put the buildings and environs at risk of being damaged. Fortunately, the Shenzhen municipal government recognized the problem and took measures to protect the fortress. In 1996, the Dapeng Fortress Museum was set up to manage and research historical relics as well as to boost tourism.
Later in 2001, the site was taken under state protection and now it attracts international attention. Last month, a group of World Bank experts began researching the fortress with the aim of helping with protection. Shenzhen is expected to obtain special loans from the World Bank for the protection of cultural relics if a report on the fortress is adopted in about two months.
If you are planning a holiday at Dapeng Township, you can add some other destinations to your travel agenda. The Golden Sands Bay Beach must be on your most-want-to-see radar if you are an avid seaside lover. Located in Xiasha village in the town, it offers a good view of Hong Kong just two kilometers away. You can enjoy the sunshine, sea breeze and flowers in bloom.
In the distance, you can see the waves rolling in from the Pacific Ocean and the beautiful Pingzhou Island.
The Daya Bay Nuclear Power Plant at Dakeng village is a good place to learn about the nation's biggest nuclear power plant.
If you are curious about how pearls and abalone are cultivated you can see this being done locally.
Address: Pengcheng Village, Dapeng Township, Longgang District
Buses: 360, 364, 818
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Please chick here for reservation.
(Shenzhen Daily July 27, 2004)