Chinese New Year in Shenzhen the world electronics capital

Shenzhen wasn’t a town 30 years ago, it was barely a village. Almost nobody is from Shenzhen, people come here to make money and send it to family in other parts of China. Over the Chinese New Year, that two week period when you can’t order from Seeed Studio, tons of eBay vendors, and all of Taobao, Shenzhen empties out and shuts down.

Market stands that display hundreds of components in Huaqiangbei are covered in newspaper and put to bed. I’m told this is a Hokkien thing, a cultural group from the southern part of China known for trading. Usually impassable streets are deserted, normally mobbed subway stations seem eerily post apocalyptic.

Pictures of deserted Huaqiangbei below, as well as some random Chinese New Year stuff. I’ll try to get some before and after comparisons after the holiday.

This street near the tool building is normally crowded and sometimes impossible to get through. Everyone’s gone home.

No cars, not people. Nothing. A city the size of New York empties for two weeks.

Exit A of the Huaqiangbei metro station is normally a sea of runners bringing boxes and bag of components to and from the market. A mob forms waiting for the escalator, I’ve never seen it empty. Today I’m almost alone.

Buildings are shuttered and stands wrapped in newspaper.

What few people remain are celebrating with family. Most seem to speak Cantonese or Hokkien instead of Mandarin, the sound of the street is noticeably different. As many locals have pointed out, there’s less spitting too. Spitting is more prevalent in the culture of northern Chinese workers who go home for New Year.

A New Year flower and plant market in Louhu, the “old” part of Shenzhen. These strange fruits tied into a tree bring luck or fortune, or something.

Candied strawberries. Delicious, but expensive at 10 RMB each ($1.60).

Mandarin orange trees are the totem of Chinese New Year. Many are decorated with red envelopes (hongbao) filled with a little money.

While technically not allowed in Shenzhen, there are of course fireworks. The white styrofoam boxes atop baskets are full of fireworks sold by kids aged 5 to 14. Parents wait in the alley with extra stock as things are sold.

There’s also several tables where groups of mostly men play a Hokkien gambling game called prawns and crabs. Bet your favorite sea food, if it comes up on the dice get double your money.

Both activities are out in the open but not legal. Occasionally the city council patrol walks through the street and everyone scatters. The firework kids grab their box and run through the winding alleys, the gambling tables fold up in an instant and everyone stands around like they’re just chilling. Its like something out of a movie. As soon as the patrol passes everything is back on just as fast as it stopped.

Happy Chinese New Year. May all your shipments from China resume ASAP!

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  1. Hi Ian, Nice post. Reminds me of how the traffic jammed behemoth that is Jakarta becomes a ghost town during the end of Ramadan. Next Ramadan I should take some before and after pics from here in the Big Durian. Happy CNY – David

  2. Ian: thank you! I love seeing past the “front page” of cultures. The short explanations go a long way to help understand that particular culture. Please do more of this.

    @David: yes, please do a posting on Ramadan as you described.

    The more all of us see about all of us, the less “us vs them” attitudes happen.

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