Shipai is known as “Red Stone Town” because of its Yanling Ancient Quarry, a provincial cultural heritage site in Yanwo Village. The quarry, rich with red sand stone, was mined in the Ming and Qing Dynasties as well as in modern China, that’s around 600 years of history carved into the rocks.
After the centuries, the quarry is approximately 8 kilometers long and 400 meters wide, with red cliffs, a variety of stone landscapes and some aesthetic calligraphy carved into the surface of the stone. In 1999 the local government forbid mining.
Bring up Shipai today, and many local Dongguaners will tell you about drama that unfolded around the town’s efforts at a free education for its citizens. In 2010, the local government announced a plan to pay for Shipai Hukou holders (people registered as residents) to attend school from kindergarten through doctorates.
The news sparked a storm of discussion. It was the first town in Guangdong to instate such an ambitious policy. If fulfilled, it would pay for 25 years of tuitions for each student, and Shipai is one of Dongguan’s least developed economies. Adding tens of millions to the town’s budget, the city was skeptical of the policy’s feasibility. After just three years, the policy was dismantled in 2013 proving the skeptics right.
Ranked 27th in 2014 among Dongguan town’s GDP, Shipai is still recovering from the budget bust, with its major industries working within optical communications, modern logistics and creative culture. The town is also developing a new industry in eco-tourism. One major project is the beautification of 15 kilometers along the East River (Dongjiang).
In 2014, Shipai Town was voted as one of the ten “Most Beautiful Small Towns in China” in a campaign sponsored by Renmin Net, a national website. In order to consolidate its reputation with the red stone, on May 15 this year, a small movie The Love for Red Stone was launched by the local government.
What Can I Do?
One of the most popular tourist sites is the Tangwei Ancient Village. The block of over 200 historic buildings includes sotto portico homes, shrines and temples surrounding a pool. With its crab-like design plan and well-preserved structures, Tangwei was rated on China’s list of scenic villages in 2014. And if you’re into the leisurely thing, nearby in Tianbian Village, Xiaoban Lake is a nice place, with more than two kilometers circling the water and attracting cyclers. Fans of folk art should check out Zhongkeng village’s lion dancing. Once featured on CCTV, the “Kang Wang Bao Dan” at Tangwei Ancient Village celebrates a famed soldier and patriarch named Kang Baorui. On day seven of the seventh month of the lunar calendar, a day said to be his birthday, locals hold a parade for blessings.
Being on the river, fresh fish is a popular cuisine in Shipai. Meaning the island of fish, Li Yu Zhou is a prized recreation spot. It’s a 1,000-acre island in the middle of the East River where local peasants grow crops and fishermen try their luck with nearby restaurants selling their river harvest.
Walking in Shipai, you might not see many happening businesses until you arrive at Lifeng Square, which is its most prosperous business center. Supermarkets, shops, coffee houses, restaurants all gather around Lifeng City Garden. This whole place is already very close to the Dongguan Railway Station in Shilong Town.
Also, Shipai can be a good place for someone who’s looking for cheap secondhand bicycles. The Fulong Market, which is in Shipai Road, was said to be Dongguan’s biggest secondhand bicycle market. Inside, vendors lobby for your business. Overall, prices are cheap. Now the market has become more diverse with retail shops selling new bicycles and offering upgrade services.
To arrive in Shipai from Dongguan by car, go through the East Expressway. If you want to arrive in Shipai by bus, go first to Dongguan Bus Station in Wanjiang, then take bus 108, 75 or 101, you will be able to reach Shipai in less than an hour. The express K18 is quicker, but it only crosses a small part of Shipai.
Location: East Dongguan
Area: 48.7 sq. kilometers
Journey Time: Around 40 minutes for downtown
Local Attractions: Yanling Ancient Quarry, East River Green Corridor, Tangwei Ancient Village, Xiaoban Lake, the island of fish, Lifeng Square