China’s rampant development has sent nature into full retreat, but in one village the countryside has managed to creep back to reclaim lost ground.
Houtouwan was once a thriving fishing community of sturdy brick homes clinging to the steep hills of the island of Shengshan. But it’s now abandoned, with entire houses completely overgrown as if shrink-wrapped in a lush layer of green.
The former hub is one of many examples of small villages in China that have become deserted in the early 1990s after residents have moved away to find better prospects in cities.
Houtouwan was established in 1950 and prospered over the decades on the sea’s riches, but its tiny harbour eventually proved too small for the larger vessels needed to sustain fishing, and the ships were diverted to nearby ports instead.
The big seas that lash the coast at certain times of the year often made it too dangerous to land small craft, meaning the only connection to other communities on Shengshan was a strenuous trek up a steep, winding path.
The remote village has recently been attracting tourists who crave for a full immersion into some greenery, far away from the nearby bustling city of Shanghai. It’s one of the 400 villages that make up the Shengsi Islands to the east of China’s Zhejiang province.
These visitors are the only thing disturbing the bush’s re-conquest of the village, located 140 kilometres (87 miles) from Shanghai by its fairy-tale setting and East China Sea vistas. The island, a few hours east of Hangzhou Bay, is a stark contrast to the vibrant metropolitan skyline of Shanghai – an image conjured up in many westerners’ minds when imagining populous China.