Nantou is located in the western corner of Shenzhen, founded in the 4th century AD, with traces of civilization dating back to the Shang Dynasty (1700-1100 BC). In the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), Nantou was a busy commercial port, serving as the gatekeeper of the Pearl River and was at one time the center of government for the Pearl River Delta.Nantou is a walled city that still has thousands of residents in modern apartments within the city's ancient ramparts. Much of the city has been preserved as historical landmarks and museums, scattered among the modern and ancient buildings. The city of Shenzhen also renamed the town Xin'an Old City and build a museum outside the walls in an attempt to create a historic destination. However, Nantou remains more a lived-in historical area than a museum showpiece, with modern life continuing in its narrow alleys.
The city is entered through several gates in the Ming Dynasty walls. I walk down Shennan Boulevard from my hotel 12 km (7.5 miles) away and enter through the South Gate at the corner of Shenzhen Boulevard and Nanxin Road.
The narrow streets have a lot of character, although they are now mostly filled with shops for the residents of the modern buildings in the ancient city. When Shenzhen was designated as China's first Special Economic Zone in 1980, spurring its incredible growth from the small town to the over 10 million current residents, the rapid influx of people caused many of the historic buildings to be demolished and replace with modern multi-story residences.
And, outside one ancient shop, the Angry Bird ride for use by modern kids.
Scattered among the shops are small, restored one- and two-room museums with pictures of the city in prior days.
And, as I leave the Nantou area, walking down Shennan Boulevard, I pass a police box, with an ATM inside. What a great idea for safe ATM access!
And, a little further along, in this busy, commercial city, people are taking a break to go fishing in the river, across from the heavy construction.