Nantou Ancient Town: The Origin of Shenzhen's Urban History

A Thousand-Year-Old Ancient Region

The walled city of Nantou is the start of Shenzhen's urban history, and began with the establishment of Dongguan Commandery and Bao'an County in the sixth year of the Eastern Jin dynasty (Year 331).Emperor Cheng of Jin split the Nanhai Commandery into two—the eastern and southern parts—creating the Dongguan Commandery, whose government was located in what is now Nantou.

Map of Xin'an CountyNanshan Museum

This is a Chinese and English bilingual map of Xin'an County drawn by an Italian missionary who lived in Hong Kong between 1862 and 1866.

Xin'an County is the old name for what is Shenzhen and Hong Kong today. (Xin'an takes its name from the sayings "out with the old and in with the new" and "to turn peril into safety.")At that time, it had jurisdiction over a large area, including Dongguan Commandery and Guishan County (known as Huiyang County today) to the north and Hong Kong to the south.

From here, we will learn about the Walled City of Nantou, which has both a wealth of history and modern urban vitality.

South Gate at the Walled City of Nantou

The south gate was built over 600 years ago, during the early Ming dynasty.The four characters "Ling Nan Zhong Zhen" on the plaque above the city gate were inscribed by Jin Wenmo, a county magistrate in Xin'an County during the Kangxi Emperor's reign in the Qing dynasty.

Ming Dynasty South Gate in Xin'an County, NingnanNanshan Museum

The two characters "Ning Nan" in the gateway were also inscribed during the Ming dynasty.

Walled City of Nantou by Chen ZonghaoNanshan Museum

In 1573, the Ming dynasty government established Xin'an County, with the county government located in Nantou.

Gazetteer of Xin'an CountyNanshan Museum

According to historical records, the Walled City of Nantou was the administrative center of the coastal Lingnan region for 2,000 years, an important military town for coastal defense, a river and sea transportation stronghold, and a center for foreign trade.This is why the Walled City of Nantou is also known as "the first commandery of East Guangdong and the origin of Hong Kong and Macau."

33. Jin Wenmo wrote in Volume III Geography Gazetteer of the Gazetteer of Xin'an County that "Yicheng was located in Chengzigang, which is now Dongguan Shouyu City.…It was built in the first year of the Wanli Era.”Nanshan Museum

Shenzhen became prosperous due to the salt industry. As early as 265, during the Three Kingdoms period, the position of Chief Commandant of Salt was established here and a fortress was built.

Looking around, we can see that we are in the barbican of the ancient city. This square was mainly used for defensive purposes and formed part of the ancient city wall.

During the Republic of China, nearby residents began to rely on the city wall to build their houses, diluting its defensive function, so much of the city's walls disappeared as time went by.The existing Ming dynasty city wall ruins are valuable and require protection.

A thousand years later and now the square is a tree-lined park full of the smell of grass and a beautiful spot in the garden city of Shenzhen.

Now, let's walk into the Walled City of Nantou together and look at the fusion of past and present, old and new in this ancient city.

There are more than 40 archeological sites and culturally significant buildings in the ancient city, which reflect a Cantonese architectural style, as well as influences of Hakka, Chaoshan, and Nanyang styles from different periods.

Dongguan Assembly Hall

The Dongguan Assembly Hall, also known as the Bao'an Assembly Office, was the chamber of commerce for businessmen of the time in Dongguan County. The name in the middle of the hall was written by Liang Jin'ao, who witnessed the bustling scenes of the Walled City of Nantou during the Qing dynasty, in the Tongzhi period.

The Dongguan Assembly Hall runs west to east and is three rooms wide and two rooms deep. It was a meeting place for Dongguan businessmen to discuss business and negotiate prices.You can just imagine the kind of bustling events and occasions that would be held here.

The assembly hall has undergone several renovations during the Republic of China and modern times.In June 1984, the Dongguan Assembly Hall was listed as one of Shenzhen's key cultural relics that require protection by the Shenzhen municipal government.

Xin'an County Government Office

As "the first commandery of East Guangdong and the origin of Hong Kong and Macau," the Walled City of Nantou was the administrative center of the historic coastal Lingnan region.

During the Ming and Qing dynasties, Nantou was the home of the county government.Therefore, it can be presumed that the Xin'an County Government Office was witness to many major historical events.

After the First Opium War, Hong Kong was removed from Xin'an County. The struggle between the British and Chinese to set a new boundary was intense, and it became the front line of the Chinese national resistance against foreign invasion. The Xin'an County Government Office became the headquarters for many battles during the war and was witness to historical changes in Shenzhen, Hong Kong, and Macau.

The current Xin'an County Government Office is not an ancient building. The original site is next to the Baode Temple. Because the original site was occupied, the office was relocated and rebuilt elsewhere.

Credits: All media
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