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Nantou Ancient City, the root of Shenzhen's history
Latest Updated by 2006-12-25 08:57:35

When I was led by a cowboy-turned-guide to visit Nantou Ancient City on a sunny afternoon, I was ready to cross time and space.

Located in Jiujie Village in Nanshan, Nantou Ancient City has a history that can be traced back to 331 in the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420), when Dongguan Prefecture was built.

From the Northern and Southern Dynasties (386-589) to the Tang Dynasty (618-907), Nantou Ancient City was the administrative center of both Dongguan Prefecture and Bao'an County, one of the seven counties under Dongguan Prefecture's jurisdiction.

In the early Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Nantou Ancient City was Dongguan's defensive castle accommodating 1,000 soldiers. It was called Xin'an County in late Ming and the Qing dynasties, administering areas which now form Shenzhen and Hong Kong.

Today's Nantou Ancient City, covering 0.49 square kilometers, is a crowded and noisy village, home to more than 30,000 people, mostly temporary residents. The houses inside the city were built after 1949. Local people are the landlords and you can find just about everything you need within the city.

My guide, Wei Youneng, a 30-year-old man from the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, who lives with his wife and 1-year-old daughter inside Nantou Ancient City, told me he had been a cowboy in his hometown before coming to Shenzhen in the mid-1990s as a construction worker. Thanks to his agility and ability to speak clearly in both Mandarin and Cantonese he was hired by the Nantou Ancient City management office as a guide in 1999.

Wei said the Nantou Ancient City wall relics, currently under provincial protection, are the historical remains of the South Gate and northern city wall constructed in the Ming Dynasty.

The South Gate relics, including the gateway to the ancient Ningnan Gate and part of the walls, are the remains of Dongguan defense castle constructed in 1394 (27th year of the rein of the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty Zhu Yuanzhang).

The gate was built as part of the Dongguan castle against the growing numbers of rampant Japanese pirates in Chinese coastal waters. The gate has since been renovated many times. Some of the large bricks date from the Ming Dynasty while some of the smaller ones are from the Qing Dynasty.

Nearly 12 meters in length and over four meters high, the South Gate bears the inscription of "key position in South China" by Jin Wenmo, a magistrate of Xin'an County. The gate was called "Ningnan," meaning "peace" in the south.

Remains of the northern city wall lie in the city's oldest park, Zhongshan Park, built in 1925.

The area is now planted with trees, with some rocks partly visible on the hill. The relics stretch 680 meters from east to west, and 500 meters from south to north.

As for the other gates of Nantou Ancient City, the North Gate was demolished in 1575 by Wu Daxun, the first magistrate of Xin'an County as it pressed down the Dragon vein, a superstition believed in by the ancient Chinese.

The East Gate was demolished and rebuilt in 1995, while the West Gate has disappeared, although its original site is known to be in Nantou Middle School.

In Ming and Qing dynasties, the South Gate was a propitious gate through which newly weds would pass, whereas the West Gate was a gate through which people were sent for burial or criminals sent to be beheaded, said Wei.

To preserve the relics uncovered within Nantou Ancient City, the Nantou Ancient City Museum was founded in 2004, collecting over 3,000 historical items and exhibiting more than 300 pieces.

Entry to the museum costs 20 yuan (US$2.5), but it is free to visit Nantou Ancient City and the nearby Zhongshan Park.

Editor: Donald

By: Source:Szdaily web edition
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