Shengsi Islands are a group of approximately four hundred islands that constitute the Zhoushan Archipelago. Zhoushan is an urbanized archipelago in Zhejiang Province, China. Each of the islands in the Zhoushan Archipelago is more than five hundred square meters in area. These islands are a homage to Mother Nature, in fact, a whole definition of Nature itself.
With green ivy engulfing houses like wildfire, this island is the true definition of wildness. Only 18 islands out of these mesmerizing islands are habitable, the rest are filled with wilderness. Gouqi Island belongs to the Shengsi Islands. Houtouwan is an exquisite village, a gift from Mother Nature that lies on the Gouqi Island. The prime source of the economy used to be fishing since most of the villagers indulged and had their lives depending on it. Fishing used to be their prime source of income.
Primarily, at the Houtouwan Village, people’s livelihood thoroughly depended on fishing. But nearly half a century ago, along with new business strategies came experimentation of alternating businesses such as tourism, ship building, repair, industrial services, etc. With the introduction of new ideas, a major decline in fishing was witnessed by the village people. What used to be a welcoming charm for Nature and its foundational elements turned out to be the perfect home for green ivy and has completely swallowed this paradise-like a tsunami.
Over the decades, houses were left unused and the local vegetation of Gouqi Island invaded the entire Houtouwan village. Soon nature showed its traits on pathways, roofs of houses and fishing ports, furniture in homes, etc.
Cause of Abandonment: Why was this Paradise left by its Dwellers?
At the end of the 20th century, new business strategies were introduced which gradually altered the lifestyle of many in Houtouwan. Not many benefitted from these unexpected series of changes. These new businesses included ship building and repair since Gouqi Island is a part of the Zhoushan Archipelago and increased demand for industrial services.
Tourism was undoubtedly a beneficial step towards the development of Houtouwan and its people but not everyone had a will to indulge in the business of tourism. With not many being able to continue fishing, a maximum of the village dwellers left the Houtouwan Village in Gouqi Island quite early leaving behind a trail of empty abandoned spaces with nothing but a rich history of cultural backgrounds.
Present Condition and the Dominance of Nature
Today, this green paradise has become a major tourist attraction to thousands all over the planet. With its lush green, ivy-covered houses, it almost seems like a model of life and growth designed by nature itself. The ivy-covered houses throw impressive impressions on this massive stretch of land urging one to explore and observe every single chunk of Gouqi Island.
Roofs and walls of some of the houses have collapsed while others are treated with miscellaneous materials such as grasses and local vines. There is a fishing port in Houtouwan that perfectly reflects the history of commercial trade that took place decades ago. The houses are connected in a tight nexus of roads which seems almost like snakes in a pot.
If one wishes to visit Gouqi Island, forgotten furniture, art pieces, household materials are easily seen to be degrading due to moisture and local plants paving their way through surfaces and spaces like a viral infection but instead, it all seems so weirdly beautiful.
Future Expectations and Proposals
As a tourist attraction, Houtouwan Village in Gouqi Island is being visited by many per year. Soon there will be thousands exploring this green paradise. It takes about five to six hours to reach the village Houtouwan since there is a network of ferries that easily takes one to their destination. So, reaching there is not a problem. There are many among the human race who want to explore the rarest and weirdest places on the planet because these unexplored existences are the purest form of adventures and Houtouwan Village is on such an incredible miracle. We hope the villagers will return to this everlasting paradise in order to safeguard their culture and secure their hometown’s gracefulness.
Once a bustling place now looks like a part of nature itself. A place where humans lived with nature, not against it. Are change and development an advantage or a way of discouraging and disrespecting the environment? Do these advancements prove to be beneficial aids or ruin the natural aspects step by step?
These questions and challenges make us; designers, planners, and environmentalists think thoroughly about every single step that is taken towards building a new space. The ecological balances need to be maintained to sustain these ecological spheres. There is still time to start thinking about these environmentally dependent spaces if we are willing to take the responsibility to conserve them.
fashion.com, L. side of (2016). Gouqi Island is an Abandoned Green Paradise East of China. [online] Medium. Available at: https://medium.com/@leftsideoffashion/gouqi-island-is-an-abandoned-green-paradise-east-of-china-97dac307e30b [Accessed 27 Aug. 2021].
CNN, B.M.H.W. (n.d.). China’s forgotten village swallowed by nature. [online] CNN. Available at: https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/houtouwan-china-ghost-village/index.html [Accessed 27 Aug. 2021].