Category Archives: Culture

WOOF! Canines in Shenzhen

Many of you will not be shocked by my first topic of choice for Transplanet. My beloved pooch, Hank, is in Portland while I am abroad and I’m sure he is just as happy as when I am home. This blog works to describe a dog’s life in Shenzhen. I will attempt to draw out different angles regarding the topic such as: Shenzhen’s street dogs, new fads of dog ownership and the weird market of the selling and buying of such dogs.

It’s no lie that Chinese culture feasts canine cuisine for over centuries, particularly during the Lunar New Year. Today, it is even still a respected cuisine that is still visible in Shenzhen’s night markets. However, alongside urbanization, an individual’s need for status has transformed canine culture from slaughtering for dinner to actually, their most loyal companions.

Many shop and business owners within Shenzhen city limits and within the many urban villages have what are visible to the average person as a street dog, but many are actually guard dogs. I should know as I approached one to say hello and it fiercely growled at me. Lesson one so far about dogs in Shenzhen: Do not pet a guard dog and avoid eye contact with them. They mean business. However, not all dogs that appear homeless are really without home. Many wander the streets with their owners just behind them, maybe 50 to 100 feet away, with no leash at all. It is obvious they know the path to wherever as they maneuver thru traffic without a scratch or scare. They are agile and resilient. At home, we consider giving chicken bones to dogs deadly and harmful. Here in Shenzhen, dogs feast on chicken legs consuming meat, bones and all in nearly one gulp. Other street dogs can be loving as they crave attention. I approached one for a photo using ‘kissy’ noises and her ears perked and gently approached me. I held out my hand and she licked my salty, sweaty skin. She loved my pets and head scratches and even followed Eric and I for a bit before she realized we were not going to feed her. Lesson two: be cautious with the street dogs, some are pleasant, others not so much.

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Collared and leashed dog in street protects its chicken leg.

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He nearly eats the entire bone in one bite!

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Saying hello to a friendly street dog.

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She enjoys my pets and head scratches.

Much like the United States, one must register their dog in China. However, most cities regulate a household to only having one dog, known as the One-Dog Policy. Somewhere in the midst in the shift of perspectives to own dogs there were complaints about barking and other such nuisances. The policy also outlines size and breed restrictions which millions of dogs in China do not comply. Authorities offer a discount to licensing if you spay or neuter your dog, similar to the Unites States. Many refer to this policy as a solution offered Public Security Bureau. As with many regulations, there are loopholes around having more than one dog. Residents may register only one dog per household, yes, but if say your uncle of another household does not have a dog, you can register your additional dog to that address.  I do not think Shenzhen enforces this policy but, I do not know for sure.

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Owner of what it looks to be two dogs, takes them for a walk through Baishizhou urban village.

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The two play and wrestle in the street off leash.

Speaking with a few Chinese natives, they will tell you dogs are trendy here. Right now, the big thing is to have these white fluffy dogs known as Bichon Frise. There is another dog here that is very popular and looks much like a Bichon, but it is brown and fluffy, however, I am unsure of its breed or mix. While visiting Dafen, an urban village targeted for artists, a seller of Bichons was standing outside a gallery hoping to make a sell.To the eye he did not seem  to have any takers on his six Bichons but there were many photographs being taken including from yours truly. Back in 2013, all the hype was about Tibetan Mastiffs, which sold anywhere from $10,000 to $200,000 USD. Although it is still said, that if you can afford to purchase, board, and feed a large animal you rank a high status in China’s society.

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Bichon Frise dog breeder awaits tourists and Dafen urban village goers to hopefully make a sell of this trendy breed.

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Owner of a large Mastiff shows off his status through the streets of Shui Wei.

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Two puppies await a home in Baishizhou urban village. They were very happy for attention and love from Eric and I.

Many of the streets at night are filled with dogs and owners, as it is very hot here during the day. People look to bring their dogs out to socialize with other canines and children. With dogs roaming off leash, people are not afraid or angry about this, they embrace it, greeting each friendly dog that approaches them. Often you can tell a young dog from an older one if it is on a leash or not. Somewhere in Shenzhen you can get your dog or puppy fix and much like in America be cautious when approaching a dog you do not know.

Enjoy!

Olivia H

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This Vibrant Public Life – posted by Lauren

I think I’ve become somewhat of a curator of this blog. I read it all, in reverse chronology, on an especially smoggy evening when I dared not venture outside. If you make it all the way back to the very first post you’re rewarded with this stellar video. Thanks 2011 interns, you guys were hilarious.

It’s just that when I think of a post topic I want to see what others have said, because we MURPs are interesting, insightful people. As my time here at CAUPD is drawing to a close, one the biggest impressions I’m left with of China is the incredibly vibrant public life on display. And lo and behold, I count one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve other posts commenting on the same thing.

I spent the first 25 years of my life in sprawling placeless suburbia, USA. There was zero public street life (the yearly Christmas parade doesn’t count). The main culprit seems to be the urban form and car dependency. I lived about 4 blocks from my elementary school but was driven to and from there every day. When I finished my undergrad I lived in a loft apartment downtown and worked at a law firm about 6 blocks away, where I also drove to and from daily. I remember working from home once because the roads were icy and I didn’t want to drive on them. It took moving to Portland and leaving my car in the Midwest before I realized these boots were made for walking. It was an epiphany.

Joplin was the primary reason I was drawn to my workshop project, 4th Plain Forward. 4th Plain suffers from the same trappings of a placeless suburban arterial. It could be anywhere USA, where you go from your car to the parking lot and back to your car. What do you do with a place like that? My workshop team had some ideas, and reorienting auto-oriented suburbia is no doubt one of the biggest planning challenges we face. Aside from the environmental and health problems associated with this kind of development, it just lacks a soul. In the majority of America, public street life just doesn’t happen. I think US planners desperately want to create vibrant public spaces, but for the most part we aren’t successful.

That is probably why China seems so remarkable. You would be challenged to find a non-vibrant public space here. The dance groups are legendary, and you’ll also find people exercising, eating, playing games, selling wares, flying kites, chasing kids, repairing bikes, and just sitting in public, living their life. It feels completely different, in a life-changing sort of way. Every day I walk by an exercise playground frequented by elderly folks and think of my own frail granny who has lost her strength because she only sits and watches TV all day. How different would her life be if she could walk down to the park for some Tai Chi and socializing?

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There is danger of it eroding as the cityscape changes and losses ever more ground to the automobile, but many streets are still public spaces unlike any I’ve ever experienced in America. And it all just seems to happen organically. Is it the density? The urban form? The culture? The planning? As many have noted, the parks here are amazing. But I’ve also seen a 30+ conga line in a narrow space between the sidewalk and the entrance to an insurance company. Vibrant public life just happens everywhere.

I think Hannah could be onto something with her observations about private space and less emphasis on personal possessions. When you have less to call your own are you inclined to share more with the community? My husband Eli, a Sinophile if there ever was one, thinks the culture plays a huge part. It is one of the oldest civilizations in history, and has gone through some brutally trying times to now be the global hegemon. The shared history is probably going to make you feel connected to your community. Or is there just innate vibrancy in a dense city of millions?

I’m all questions with no answers, but would love to know what others think. It has been one of the most enjoyable experiences of living here, and I haven’t had enough! I’ll be living somewhere in China for the foreseeable future, so if future MURP interns want to hit me up you can (vtylep at gmail).

I’ll leave it at this video, a spontaneous chorus in the park that we stumbled across. They had more heart than any church choir I’ve ever heard.

再见!

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Favorite Places in Shenzhen – Rae-Leigh

I have found many places in Shenzhen that are just fantastic. I want to share with you my favorites to show the diversity of the city. They range from old dense housing to a modern industrial park. Some of these places were created quite organically, while others were thoroughly planned to the smallest details. Each place creates a different human experience based on how they were planned and who they were designed for.

OCT Loft

The OCT Loft was a redevelopment of a vacant factory. It’s home to art galleries, restaurants, shops, and entertainment. The area has kept its industrial feel with an artistic flair – they repurposed the buildings perfectly. On Saturdays the OCT Loft hosts an outdoor market with vendors selling their art and crafts, the restaurants have live music, and there are many people out enjoying the day. The OCT Loft is also home to many art studios, architecture and urban design firms, and creative spaces for hair, crafts, or graphic design. From what I can tell, the area attracts a wide range of people, but mostly young people. Shenzhen is a city of young people, so it a perfect city for a place like this. 

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Urban Villages

There are several urban villages in Shenzhen. The urban villages represent the original housing in Shenzhen. They were built quickly and densely to handle the huge influx of people moving to city. Since their construction, they’ve become home to many people, as it is one of the only affordable options in the city. It is amazing to see the different eras represented throughout the buildings in the villages. You can see layers of time among them. The alleys are narrow and electric wires are exposed. While these are considered as not the perfect example of housing, these villages create neighborhoods and promote interaction among the residents. People of all ages are out playing games, running around, or enjoying a moment to relax. People take care of their daily shopping here and live with their windows and doors wide open. It is a nice change of pace from modern Shenzhen that consists of skyscrapers and wide roads.

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Qianhai Shenzhen – Hong Kong Youth Innovation and Entrepreneur Hub

Qianhai is home to the Innovation and Entrepreneur Hub as well as a new industrial park, which opened in December 2014. Qianhai is located on the far west side of Shenzhen. There is also a large development (largest in Shenzhen) under construction and a new Metro line that will connect to the rest of the city’s system. The Innovation and Entrepreneur Hub and industrial park isn’t up to capacity yet. Once the Metro line is finished, it will help populate this area and reach its potential. At the Innovation and Entrepreneur Hub you can see groups of people working together. The environment looks like it supports creativity and allows innovators to brainstorm together over a cup of coffee. I wouldn’t mind working there!

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