For many people around the world, Dongguan is not actually that well- known, considering the fact that much of the world’s products are made here, but Humen Town is a name likely spoken in many history classrooms, especially if hailing from the U.K. During the 1800s, Humen was a major shipping port and it was here that a Chinese official named Lin Zexu, tiring of the effects that opium had on society, took it upon himself to stop its trade. In 1839 he confiscated a large shipment of opium belonging to the British, which kindled the fire that led to the first Opium War, and the concession of Hong Kong Island. Also making history, bodyguard to Sun Yat-Sen and famous child of Humen Jiang Guangnai, was promoted to commander in chief of the 19th Route Army in 1932 after he led the battle to repel the Japanese during the “January 28 Incident” in Shanghai. Later he became a statesman and minister of textiles in Chairman Mao’s government, dying in 1967 at the age of 78.
Humen, also known as Taiping, is best known today for its bustling markets and clothing manufacturing, in fact there’s a good chance that the shirt you’re wearing was made in this town. Aside from the factories in Humen, it’s a well known fact that you can find some of the best discount shopping in Dongguan. A well-known landmark here is the Humen Pearl River Bridge which spans 888 meters, connecting Dongguan to Guangzhou. An interesting fact about Humen is that it is the second biggest town in China with a population of more than 577,000 according the 2000 census.
What Can I Do?
Let’s begin where we started. The historic parts of Humen are very well preserved and the best place to see this is at the Weiyuan Fort that is located on a small island. Here you can see some of the gun emplacements and sea defenses. There are also some small tunnels that you can visit but be warned they are a little eerie. This island has also been turned into a tourist attraction with quad-biking, horse-riding and small rides amongst other things. The Island is easily accessible by motor-boat (for a small fee) from near the Sea Battle Museum, which is also worth a visit. It is full of rich Chinese propaganda about history, and while I am not going to be biased, the museum of course is. If you’re British like me it’s probably best to adopt a different accent when you walk in, as the information, which is presented in both Chinese and English, talks a lot about how bad we were towards the Chinese during this period, and culminates with pictures and information about the 1997 handover of Hong Kong, again biased towards the Chinese side. If you like history you will love this part of Humen. For the history-haters there are other things that you can do such as shopping in some of the busiest markets I have seen. Anything that you can wear can be found in Humen, and at a very reasonable price, much lower than you could expect in downtown Dongguan. So make the journey worthwhile and give your arms a workout.
Finally, if you don’t like history and you don’t like shopping, then I hope that you like eating, because here in Humen there are many restaurants to choose from. And close by to the Sea Battle Museum you can also find many “Pick Your Own” farms that charge a very reasonable rate to go and pick some delicious fruit, in particular strawberries.
The most convenient way is to take the L1 tourist bus. This bus passes through the town itself and also has its final stop at the area around the Sea Battle Museum. The journey should take no longer than one hour.
Location: At the south of Dongguan bordering Shenzhen.
Area: 178.5 square km.
Population: More than 577,000.
Journey time: about 1 hour.
Local Attractions: Sea Battle Museum, Weiyuan Fort, Humen Bridge, Shajiao Fort, The Opium War Museum aka Lin Zexu Memorial Museum, Shopping.
Photos by Adam Crase