Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Ghost Town of Dantu

My first placement this summer was in a small district, Dantu, which means red bandit. I was told that Dantu was one of the infamous Ghost Cities of China; being of an age that had watched numerous old western movies I had visions of broken down shacks and tumbleweeds but in the case of China, the term is a label which, in the West, has become synonomous with at best, poor planning, and at worst, grand scale corruption. Ghost Cities are a phenomenon of the Chinese revitalization scheme which began in the late '70s whereby entire cities, with complete infrastructures were erected but never populated. According to Western media, this was a huge metropolitan experiment, with a pricetag of roughly $500 billlion US, which failed on a grand scale and is an indication that perhaps the current leap forward was doomed to failure. "The ghost city of Dantu has been mostly empty for over a decade,"Business Insider reported in 2010. "In most neighborhoods of Dantu, there are no cars, no signs of life," reported the Daily Mail. (
On the streets of Dantu
A fellow teacher with China Connections had also told us that Dantu was a deserted area with absolutely no people and if we wanted to have any social interaction or shopping we would need to travel to nearby Zhenjiang, the larger metropolitan area located next the the Yangstze. She had been assigned to this district in 2011. I was looking forward to actually having first hand experience with a city such as Dantu, and envisoned myself walking through deserted buildings and streets with my camera ready to record the tangible effects of this social experiment!

Alas, it would seem that either western media reports, often relying on satellite imagery, are highly exaggerated or three years has made all the difference. As we entered Dantu, our guide, Millie, informed us that Dantu was indeed a new District but it was obvious that it was far from "deserted" and not exactly what I would consider a Ghost Town!
Our little store that we go to daily.
Many buildings are still being erected with scaffolding and builders in plain view. Although it is true that the conjestion and traffic of cities such as Shanghai and Beijing is non existent there are people, cars, shops, and businesses thriving in Dantu. There are shops, rent a bike stands, a mall and a very large square in front of the Dantu convention centre in which we stayed. Families gather in the square nightly where stalls and games are set up for children; groups of line dancers are scattered throughout the park as well as some mainly older individuals making slow moving gestures which is the hallmark of Tai Chi. Where-ever I have travelled in China, each evening, someone brings out a boom box and starts playing music and a flash mob of line dancers seem to miraculously appear. This can occur in a park, a mall or just on the side walk. You can't go for a stroll in Dantu in the evening without tripping over a line dancer.
I can't help but wondering if my visit to this reportedly oldest example of a ghost town in China is indicative of the others. I guess the only wasy to truly discover the truth is to visit!
Clearly inhabited buildings in Dantu

Stores and shops in Dantu
Outside the mall in Dantu.
Relaxing in the Dantu Square
Not many ghosts here!
Butcher/Produce shop in Dantu

Family eating outside their shop in Dantu

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