Chang’an has been a famous place throughout China’s history. Unfortunately, that Chang’an is the ancient city now known as Xi’an. Dongguan’s Chang’an history is only remarkable in how unremarkable it seemingly is, though it does boast a historical connection to one of Guangdong’s favored sons, Sun Yat-sen. The beloved doctor, famed for founding the Republic of China and the subsequently tumultuous ups and downs that followed, is still connected to the area by an ancestral hall located in Chang’an’s Shangsha Village. Since the reform and reopening of China, however, Chang’an has prospered more than most towns in the province.
Today, Chang’an is one of the richest towns in Dongguan. The villages of Wusha and Jingxia in Chang’an make regular appearances on the list of top 10 richest villages in Dongguan. In 2011, Wusha topped the list.
This considerable wealth, combined with excellent town planning and careful local governance, has led Chang’an to be awarded the title of Model Town for National Small Town Construction by the Beijing government. A quick read online will let you know about the RMB 500 million the town has invested in building public enrichment projects that include The Culture Center, the Chang’an Library and The Theater of Cantonese Art.
At times, however, it seems Chang’an has shown hubris. When the local government opened their building in the town square they were met with criticism. Critics complained that it too closely resembled The Great Hall of the People in Beijing and it was said the Beijing government were less than impressed with the Chang’an government.
WHAT CAN I DO?
Much of the talk around Chang’an these days is about the two shopping malls that opened this year; Wanda and Vanke.
First to open was the Wanda Plaza. Just like its sister shopping mall in Dongcheng, it offers a modern shopping experience. Also, Chang’an has a number of cinemas, but the IMAX 3D cinema in the Wanda Plaza is the place to watch new releases.
The Vanke Center opened even more recently. With five floors of high end clothing chains and restaurants covering all kinds of cuisine, the Vanke Center would not look out of place in Hong Kong, let alone Dongcheng.
One of Chang’an’s first bars, Western or Chinese, was the original Hollywood Baby, which celebrated its twelfth anniversary this Halloween. This bar is a community bar with a core group of friendly regulars. A short walk from the Park Lane Hotel, the bar is just outside Taoli Garden. If you ever end up there for a drink make sure to ask the owner about Rule 44.
Around the corner from Hollywood Baby is Gecko Pizza; the number one restaurant in all of Dongguan on Tripadvisor. The restaurant may be renowned for its pizza, but they have a full menu of interesting and delicious pastas, sandwiches and snacks. If you fancy a drink with your meal then you might consider trying one of their forty imported bottled beers.
Up the road from Taoli Garden is the Bar Street, which boasts more than thirty bars and restaurants, at the center of which is Jim’s Roadhouse. The bar is busy every night with a friendly mix of foreigners and Chinese. Friday night is their biggest night and every now and then they have a band in to play a raucous mix of rock and country.
Overlooking the Chang’an bars, restaurants and malls is Lotus Mountain. The mountain is said to look like a lotus flower in bloom, with its three peaks resembling the petals, the highest of which has an altitude of 520 meters.
Near the foot of the mountain is the Long Island Golf Course. The 27-hole course was built in cooperation with the USPGA and has a resort including tennis courts, a swimming pool and a spa.
The Express 2 bus goes to Chang’an straight from Dongguan Main Bus Station and costs RMB 16. If you go by freeway, it takes about 45 minutes and should cost around RMB 110 from downtown.
Location: Southern Dongguan
Area: 97.8 sq. kilometers
Journey Time: Around 45 minutes from downtown
Local Attractions: Lotus Mountain, Vanke Center, Wanda Plaza, Bar Street