Guancheng by Foot

0814_SCENE_Guancheng by FootThe rich history and culture of Dongguan, a city formed from the delta almost 1,300 years ago is being appreciated now more than ever in the form of walking tours through the old political, cultural and economic center of Guancheng. The city’s history and culture have been overshadowed in recent decades, by industrial triumphs rushing the city planners to make quick decisions between saving locations of significance and modern progress. And some old Dongguaners have had to speak up to save such places.

Now, Guancheng local Qi Kaijun, 40, has taken it upon himself to discover and record places of interest. Back in 2011 he began walking deep into the dark and narrow alleys behind prosperous shops and malls, visiting descendants of historic figures, officials, craftsmen and scholars, to journal the old houses.

Relying on a collection of historic books bequeathed him by an uncle, Qi’s discoveries in Guancheng have been chronicled bi-monthly in a blog on bbs.sun0769.com. Gradually, his efforts attracted readers, who increasingly requested to join Qi on his strolls. In July, motivated by the response, he organized a tour starting with the Keyuan Garden Museum to acquaint attendees with Lingnan (Southern China) Architecture, followed by another trip through the back alleys of Guangming Road.

“I remember one time, there was a downpour. After interviewing an 80-year-old lady, I still wasn’t satisfied with what I had found. So I went to Baoji Alley in the rain and accidently found ‘Little Luofu,’” Qi said proudly. The stylish mansion dates back to 19th century and is named after a famous mountain in Huizhou because of a hill that dominates the backyard.

“Sometimes you need to search several times because you may not run into the right person to talk to. Everything I did, was to preserve Guancheng’s culture,” Qi said. “I couldn’t do it if it is for fame or wealth.”

Qi has trekked the north, west and the central sides of Guancheng. Next he will scour the Zhenhua Road area, a spot located just outside old downtown prominent in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and former outskirts like the Boxia Community.

Qi will then arrange the material with hopes of publishing a book. To follow the latest tours, which occur periodically, updates can be found on China Tencent social networks WeChat, at account ID communitypractice, and at Weibo.com/dgmen. Both the sites and the tours use Chinese only, but organizers welcome all who wish to join with interpreters.

Tags Dongguan
Category The Scene