If you have visited Shuiwei, or several of the other urban villages in Shenzhen, you might have noticed one of the things that distinguishes Shuiwei from the others is that there is no parking barrier set up at the entrance to the village.
“We want people to know that once they come to Shuiwei, they are part of the community,” said Zhuang Haihua, Shuiwei’s Party chief.
Having once been a water-bound village, Shuiwei — with a history of over 600 years — has now become a true international community inhabited by around 400 foreigners. Shuiwei is also home to nearly 5,000 people from Hong Kong and Macao due to its location close to Futian Checkpoint.
Zhuang told the Shenzhen Daily that the idea to build an international community was first brought up in 2014, when the village was selected by the municipal government as part of the urban renewal project.
“Our work on building an international community has been focused on three aspects, namely public facilities and infrastructure, services and an inclusive and open environment. For example, we have added English to road signs and help foreigners apply for residence permits. Additionally, we have a rock museum housing hundreds of stones with a garden nearby, which is free to visit for everyone,” said Zhuang.
At present, public facilities and infrastructure occupy nearly 25 percent of the total village area. Next, the village plans to introduce facial recognition technology to build a smart system that allows residents to enter their apartments by scanning their faces in order to ensure safety.
Like so many other international communities, Shuiwei also organizes different annual events, like a food festival. However, Zhuang maintains that they don’t just do this because they feel that they should.
“We do not want foreigners to get the feeling that they are being persuaded or even forced to attend events. Instead, we just want to offer platforms and opportunities for those who want to learn more about traditional Chinese culture,” said Zhuang.
A regular reading event organized by Book Exchange has been held in Shuiwei since 2014. Book Exchange is said to be the city’s biggest expat library, with around 800 English books and 200 Chinese and foreign-language ones.
Chen Yujun, a key volunteer with Book Exchange, said that he appreciates that Shuiwei offers a wonderful place for expats and book lovers to share book reviews and insightful ideas.
Additionally, around 50 expats in Shuiwei have voluntarily joined the local volunteer team to participate in the daily management of the society.
Walking around Shuiwei Village, you cannot miss Shuiwei cultural block 1368, where you can enjoy foods from nearly all countries around the world. According to Zhuang Guoping, a local Shuiwei resident, the number 1368 represents the time when the offspring of Zhuangzi, the pivotal figure in the classical philosophy Daoism, moved there from North China and built the village.
“I like the life here. Everything is combined,” said Tiago Ferreira, who owns a Brazilian bar in Shuiwei cultural block 1368, adding, “If you go to Shekou, everything seems to be perfect. But in Shuiwei, you see kids running around. You see different kinds of people, poor and rich, old and young. You just feel so many different lives here.”
“Some days, we don’t have enough chairs for our customers. Our neighbors are always happy to lend us some,” Ferreira told the Shenzhen Daily, sharing just one tiny moment that makes him feel the friendliness of the people in Shuiwei.
“We want to make people feel safe, feel at home when living in Shuiwei and we welcome everyone as long as they are not breaking the law,” Zhuang said. It is evident that everything they have been developing is centered around this simple but profound vision.