China is a country with a booming economy and big ambitions. Sometimes those ambitions lead to the destruction of existing settlements, and sometimes they lead to the premature creation of towns and cities that fail to attract residents. In either case, they lead to some awesome urban exploration opportunities.
Tianducheng, the ‘Paris of the East’
The Chinese love Paris. They love it a little bit too much, if the recent complaints about the deluge of Chinese tourists is anything to go by.
So if you were a Chinese nouveau riche with more money than taste, where would you wanna live? How about in a replica version of Paris?
Tianducheng, some two hours west of Shanghai, sports a 300-foot replica of the Eiffel Tower (about a third of the size of the real thing), Renaissance-era fountains and Paris-style façades for the uninhabited apartments. It even has a ‘priest’ who will marry amorous Chinese couples in the Western style.
So why isn’t it overflowing with affluent Europhiles? One simple reason: location. Tianducheng is two hours away from Shanghai with little in the way of connecting infrastructure, and if there’s one thing the rich like, it’s easy access to their mod cons.
Houtouwan Fishing Village, Shengshi Island
Now this is some Last of Us shit.
One of the consequences of a rapidly growing economy is a whole bunch of economic migration and a lot of abandoned places. Such is the fate of Houtouwan Fishing Village, just off the coast of Shanghai. A lack of education and easy access to food deliveries led to its downfall; the village once sported a population of 2000, and now only a handful live there.
The spectacular moss-overgrown buildings and post-apocalyptic photo ops are leading to an influx of tourists, so get there before it’s overrun.
In 2008 a major earthquake hit China’s Sichuan province. No settlement was harder hit than the town of Beichuan, 150 or so kilometres north of the provincial capital of Chengdu.
The 7.9-magnitude earthquake was felt as far north as Xi’an (I can personally attest to this, having lived there at the time) and killed some 90,000 people in Sichuan. 8,600 people died in Beichuan – around half of their population.
After the earthquake, the authorities had two options – face the massive logistical nightmare of cleaning up the ruined town, or simply evacuate everyone and leave it to the elements. They chose the latter.
Beichuan is now an ‘open-air earthquake museum’ that visitors can freely visit. The authorities have shored up the more dangerous buildings so they don’t collapse on anyone’s heads, but it’s still a very unstable area.
Lion City, Atlantis of China
In 1959, the Chinese government needed a hydroelectric power station in Zhejiang province, east China. So naturally, they built a man-made lake and flooded one of the region’s oldest and most important cities.
Shi Cheng – or Lion City – is a 2000-year-old city that is just jam-packed with ancient temples, some 265 wooden archways and completely preserved buildings (except for all the water).
Unless you’re an experienced diver, exploring the city is a tad difficult. China is never one to let a tourism opportunity pass by, however, and there has been talk of building glass tunnels to capitalise upon the frankly breath-taking underwater vista.
Jing Jin Eco City, Tianjin
Another in the long line of poorly planned gated towns for the ultra-rich, Jing Jin Eco City is full of faux-European architecture and half-finished villas.
The town has 3,000 villas, two colleges, a five-star hotel, a hot springs resort, a golf course, and almost no people. Once again, Chinese developers have built first and asked questions later. It does make for some pretty spectacular photos, however.
Kangbashi-Ordos, Inner Mongolia
The Grand Mack-Daddy of Chinese ghost towns, Kangbashi-Ordos is a sprawling city in Inner Mongolia that was again built before investors bothered finding out if anybody planned on showing up.
The sights of the Ghost City are so spectacular that our sister site Young Pioneer Tours runs regular tours there, and our other sister site mediapioneers.net offers the opportunity to shoot movies there. In fact, one movie has already been shot on location at the eerie Ghost City.