There’s much in the media about the architectural marvels of China: the Shanghai Tower (the second tallest building in the world), the Great Wall of China (the longest wall on the planet) and the Grand Canal (the longest canal/man made river ever). Chinese construction projects definitely have a “go big or go home” mentality!
While some developments “go big,” others simply “go home,” as many of the the mammoth sites are completely vacant. From lonely theme parks to spooky ghost towns, as you will soon see, some of the eerie destinations listed below take the prize as the top five most notoriously abandoned places in China.
1. Wonderland, Beijing
Wonderland, Beijing. Photo: creativecommons.org
Located 20 km outside of Beijing, Wonderland had high hopes of becoming the largest amusement park in Asia. This Disneyworld-like fairytale land boasted majestic castles, roaring rides, radical roller coasters, and everything else that you need to pass an entertaining day with the family. Unfortunately for the investors of Wonderland, construction stopped during the Asian financial crisis in 1998. While there have been efforts to revitalize the park since then, all of them have failed, resulting in partial demolition in 2013. Remnants of Wonderland still exist, but they’re being bulldozed by the minute.
Interestingly enough, the company behind Wonderland (Reignwood Group) has decided to establish a massive luxury supermarket where Wonderland once stood. So stay tuned to the 2020 updated edition of this article, where we will add “World’s Largest Abandoned Supermarket” to this list.
2. Ordos Ghost Town, Inner Mongolia
Ordos Ghost Town. Photo: creativecommons.org
China is riddled with ghost towns (i.e. recently built cities with little or no inhabitants). A testimonial to China’s unprecedented construction boom, ghost towns can be found in every province – becoming a symbol of Chinese overproduction and property bubbles. There is no better place that illustrates the iconic ghost towns better than Ordos, nestled deep in the heart of arid Inner Mongolia.
Ordos Kangbashi holds the trophy of “China’s Largest Ghost Town.” The city was originally developed to house over 1 million people, complete with government offices, schools, a sports stadium, several museums, a theater, a gigantic mosque, a horse racing track, and enough crazy modern architecture to make Beijing scream “WTF!?” Unfortunately, despite having vast reserves of coal, no one wanted to move to this new town. While residents are starting to slowly trickle in, as seen by this 2016 Forbes article, Ordos is certainly still the largest ghost town in all of China.
3. The New South China Mall, Guangdong
The New South China Mall. Photo: creativecommons.org
The New South China Mall is the largest mall in the world based on gross leasable area at 659,612 sq m, and the second largest in terms of total area at 892,000 sq m (The Dubai Mall is first). Located in Dongguan, it was supposed to attract eager shoppers from Guangzhou and Shenzhen. But as the developers soon discovered, that plan didn’t really work out given that both of these megalopolises are more than an hour away.
The mall is divided into seven areas all replicating famous world cities and regions: Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, Venice, Egypt, the Caribbean and California. There is an Arc de Triumph, Venetian gondolas, a go kart track, and a roller coaster. The luxurious Shangri-la Hotel was even planning to open its doors inside the complex. The New South China Mall is now 99% vacant, but like Ordos, there are rumors that more and more shops are beginning to open up, attracting more visitors by the day.
4. Nanjiecun, Henan
Collective farms were the be-all end-all during the communist days. They were designed to feed the entire nation and give millions of farmers jobs all while living inside a communist utopian commune. Nanjie Village in Henan Province was of of the many in Red China, and believe it or not, it is still in operation today.
Well, sort of… It’s still in “operation” as a tourist attraction; there’s not a lot of farming going on. And for the schools, apartment complexes and hospitals, well… they’re all completely unoccupied – giving Nanjiecun the title of not only China’s last collective farm, but also the most abandoned collective farm. I had the chance to visit Nanjiecun several years ago to explore this old communist masterpiece – click here to learn more about this interesting destination.
5. Abandoned Villages of Guangdong Province
We’ve already explored the massive ghost cities of China in this article, but what about the smaller ghost villages? Yep, China has got those too. According to the Culture Trip’s Eerie Landscapes: 7 Abandoned Villages in China, Guangdong Province in China’s south just isn’t home to the New South China Mall, it also has a cluster of ancient abandoned villages.
Daqitou, located between Guangzhou and Foshan, has a ghostly presence, while Dajiangpu is dotted with deserted temples. Yuxian is protected by the government and named as one of “China’s Historic Villages,” so don’t count in this one being bulldozed any time soon. Qinshiyuan is the oldest, dating back to the Tang Dynasty, but it has been remolded and developed by the works of various other dynasties since then.
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Keywords: Ghost towns in China Abandoned places in China
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