From a former shopping paradise to a place of national pride, Shenzhen's 250-meter-long Zhongying Street remains one of the city's top tourist destinations.
Zhongying Street in Shatoujiao Township, Yantian District lies between Wutong Mountain and the South China Sea. Stone markers were placed along the middle of the street in 1898 to mark the border between Hong Kong, which was under British rule, and the Chinese mainland. Half of the street is still part of Hong Kong. That is why it has been called Zhongying Street, which means Chinese-English Street.
Famous for its one street with two systems, Zhongying Street is listed as one of Shenzhen's top eight scenic spots. Despite its rather mundane surroundings, the street remains historically and culturally important amid Shenzhen's young and dynamic atmosphere.
The street is the product of a treaty signed by China and the United Kingdom in 1898. Eight boundary stones divide the street into two parts. One side used to be under British control and the other under Chinese sovereignty. The street records the differences of the two sides over the past hundred years.
Big and small stores pack both sides of the street and remind visitors of Hong Kong's hustle and bustle. Most Chinese people remember the buying craze in Zhongying Street during the 1980s and early 1990s. From daily necessities such as soap, socks and shampoo, imported fruit such as mango, to precious gold and jewelry, consumers were spoiled with choice.
"Zhongying Street was once the nation's No.1 Gold Street. Lots of Hong Kong businessmen came here to cash in the market. Today, there are around 50 stores selling gold items, which do not just have fashionable designs but are also cheaper than those in other places," said Mr. Luo, an old resident living near the street. The duty-free products' affordable prices and refined quality make the street popular among travelers to Shenzhen.
Standing in Zhongying Street, you get the feeling that you are standing at the intersection between Chinese and Western cultures. There are bilingual inscriptions reminding people of the street's history.
Anyone who has been to the street cannot miss the 110-year-old banyan tree with its luxurious leaves and straight trunk. Rooted on the Chinese side, the tree has already grown over to the Hong Kong side. People often remark that the tree is a symbol of the two cultures, and has provided a source of inspiration for various artistic creations.
Since Shenzhen's rapid economic development, the street has gradually lost its former commercial glory. The government has also repositioned it as a site of historical interest, incorporating shopping, sightseeing and entertainment. "We invited many domestic and foreign experts to come up with plans for the future use of Zhongying Street. They reached a consensus of retaining the street's original flavor but adding modern touches," said Deng Shenghua, an official from the municipal tourist bureau.
According to Deng, Zhongying Street will be divided into two parts: One will be preserved for its historical interest, while the other will be modernized and include features such as a tourist beach.
Its famous past as a shopping paradise will remain in the public memory, but the new Zhongying Street will take on even more of a tourist appeal.
How to get there: Take bus 202, 238, 103, 208, 363.
Important: Tourists need special permits to get to Zhongying Street. Please contact a tourist agency to obtain your permit.
(Shenzhen Daily October 11, 2004)