Zhangmutou gets its name from the trunk of a camphor tree. During the Qing Dynasty, the emperor, passing by the area called Tai’An at the time, observed a camphor-topped mountain ridge and was enchanted by its fragrance. As the story goes, he was moved to camp at the spot for the evening and renamed the area. Due to the construction of recent history the camphor trees are no longer as abundant.
Without the presence of Han Chinese villages, Zhangmutou is the only pure Hakka town in Dongguan. The Hakka, pronounced Kejia Ren in Mandarin, are named so because it means guest people, and at the time of their settlement in Southern China, that is what the locals would call outsiders. After their migration in the 4th and 9th centuries, mainly to Guangdong, Guangxi, Jiangxi and Fujian, they have been best known for their large, round cultural homesteads. Though travellers to Zhangmutou won’t be able to see them here, with a little luck their customary dance, known as Kylin, can be experienced.
Zhangmutou has been nicknamed “Little Hong Kong” because the easy commute, via Zhangmutou Railway Station, attracted many Hong Kongers during the 80s. At one point residents from Hong Kong reached as many as 150,000, but this number has dropped significantly in recent years to around 50,000.
What Can I Do?
Guanyin Mountain is the town’s principal attraction. With its height of 488 meters, plan about half a day to clamber to the top through winding paths, but maybe a little more should be set aside to appreciate all the attractions.
The mini-zoo is a good example. It features small animals and birds, like ostriches, parrots and even a lone vulture. As you get closer to the summit, the Guanyin temple appears. This statue is the largest of granite Guanyin in the world, and is certainly a pleasing sight – if only because it means the victory rest is imminent. For the daring, getting down is a little easier by way of a zip line that descends part of the trip. The views are exhilarating.
Lower down the mountain near the entrance is the Old Tree Museum, an outdoor exhibit showing about 50 unearthed trees. The trees are said to be ancient, and are worth an addition of 20 minutes to the trip. In the same area is a small amusement park with a “House of Horrors.”
After the trek, the overly energetic trekker can stroll Zhangmutou Town’s shopping districts. Living up to the nickname of Little Hong Kong, streets wind around and markets dot the area, assuring a bargain will soon be found. Also in the downtown area is an interesting Ferris wheel mounted high above the town that gives spectacular 360 degree views.
If you have time, then a visit to Guangdong’s largest private-owned museum is well worth it. Guanhe Museum features many different exhibits, from Rosewood furniture and weapons to musical instruments and furnishings, the site has earned its National AA scenic spot designation. Entry is RMB 30 and is a good value.
Zhangmutou isn’t close to downtown Dongguan, but it is very easy to get there by taking the L4 bus, which passes through Zhangmutou Bus Station and on to Guanyin Mountain. Be aware that sometimes the bus will not go further than the bus station. In this case, you can dismount and take another local bus to the mountain.
Location: Southeast Dongguan.
Area: 66.6 square km.
Population: 23,000 + 200,000 floating.
Journey time: About one hour by bus.
Local Attractions: Guanyin Mountain, National Forest Park, Guanhe Museum, Ferris wheel, Shopping.
Photos by Adam Crase