Map Project

Across Shenzhen River


Map of China highlighting Shenzhen (English)


Google Earth


1. Shenzhen: Fishing Village to Major Port; 2.Shenzhen Old Pictures; 3. China Mike; 4. BigCoup; 5. Dragon Fruit Events; 6. Shenzhen; 7. Reaching ‘The World’ In Hong Kong!; 8. Hong Kong Night View


  1. Google Earth; 2. Luo, XD


Cartography is a visual means to express ideas. But maps bear more utilities than simply visual representations. According to Harmon and Clemans, “maps act as shorthand for ready metaphors: seeking location and experiencing dislocation, bringing order to chaos, exploring ratios of scale and charting new terrains.”(Harmon and Clemans, Introduction 10) People create maps in both artistic and practical ways. Inspired by Alban Biaussat’s The Green(er) Side of the Line, I create my map project in a similar fashion. Biaussat explicitly illustrates the border between Israel and West Bank by taking photos of the physical place where the border is situated. It shows how the cartographical metaphors work. By changing the scale of the border, people do not only view the border on the map, but also take a close look at it through the photos.


In my work, I use maps to illustrate how China develops in the past 30 years. This is a huge topic and difficult to articulate in a few pages. However, by using maps as a tool, readers can get a rough idea and feeling of what the development and change are like. About forty years ago, when China was still under the control of Chairman Mao, the country was isolated from outside world. Free markets were not permitted. The country was extremely poor and on the verge of collapse. After Mao’s death, the new governors decided to open up China and reform the political system. From then on, the country is on the track of extraordinary development. The reform began with Shenzhen, a small town on the southern border of China in 1970s, and immediately north of Hong Kong. In 1978, Shenzhen was selected as one of the special economic zones, which were characterized by market liberalization. Very often treated as the epitome of China’s economic growth, Shenzhen develops at an astonishing speed. It was a fishing village thirty years ago but now is one of the major metropolitan cities in China. On the other hand, though located on the southern border of China, Hong Kong was a British colony until 1997. The political and legal systems are almost from Britain. In this sense, Hong Kong is a “western” society. Therefore, the choice I make here is to compare and contrast Shenzhen and Hong Kong, which also shows the comparison between China and the western world.


The title of the whole group of pictures is Across Shenzhen River, which is the natural border between Shenzhen and Hong Kong. The first picture is an actual map that shows where Shenzhen is located in China and the second one is a satellite view of the two cities on which the Shenzhen River is marked in red. Then the group of pictures illustrates the comparison between Shenzhen and Hong Kong. In 1970s, Shenzhen was a small town while Hong Kong was a growing big city. In 2010s the two cities are both huge and modern. Another comparison here is the development of Shenzhen from later 1970s to 2010s. The next picture shows what the border, Shenzhen River, looks like. The buildings have extended to the river on the side of Shenzhen while the land on Hong Kong’s side is unused. When we zoom in the corresponding part from the satellite view map, we can in fact observe this phenomenon.


Like many artists, I create this work to reflect the social and economic globalization, with the emphasis on China’s development. (Harmon and Clemans, Introduction 10) Going beyond Biaussat’s green ribbons, I do not only include the spatial border in the work, I also compare how the two sides of the border change during the past thirty years. Maps have the power to identify location and change the scale so that we can view the landscape as a whole and at the same time in detail. Thanks to the advancement of modern technologies, like Google earth and photography, we are able to view the world in God’s eye. (Harmon and Clemans, Introduction 16) The satellite view makes us integrate different pieces of information from photos together and realize the whole story. The river used to be a border that separates two worlds: inside the border there was an under-developed country in the Far East while outside the border the “western” world was fast and energetically developing. Now if we view the pictures of the two cities, we cannot clearly distinguish them. They are both modern and fancy. When we get across the river, the border is no longer a separation. The two cities are unified and people commutes between them frequently. In the meantime, the old country has more connections with outside world and the border between them is vanishing.


Dragon Fruit Events, “SHENZHEN: The world’s newest meeting place”. Web. 19 Jun. 2013.  <;

Google Earth

Luo, XD , “My Shot”. “Your China Photos”, National Geographic. Web. 19 Jun. 2013. <;

Harmon, Katherine, and Gayle Clemans. The Map as Art: Contemporary Artists Explore Cartography. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2010. Print.

“Shenzhen: Fishing Village to Major Port”, 30 Sep. 2011. Web. 19 Jun. 2013. <;

BigCoup, “Hong Kong in 1970s”. Web. 19 Jun. 2013. <;

China Mike, “HONG KONG HISTORY FOR DUMMIES | PART 4”. Web. 19 Jun. 2013.  <;

“Hong Kong Night View”, 18 Jun. 2012. Web. 19 Jun. 2013. <;

“Map of China highlighting Shenzhen (English)”. Web. 19 Jun. 2013. < >

“Reaching ‘The World’ In Hong Kong!”. Web. 19 Jun. 2013. <;

“Shenzhen Old Pictures”. 12 Sep 2012. Web. 19 Jun. 2013. <;

“Shenzhen”. 18, October 2011. Web. 19 Jun. 2013. <;



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