The salty sea air and deep blue water of Gouqi Island, situated in the East China Sea a four hour ferry ride from Shanghai, is reminiscent of fishing communities all over the world. The locals diligently care for their island. The elderly clear the beaches and mend the nets torn ensnaring the day’s catch.
The younger generations tend to the shops in town, fish the waters, and process their haul. The store nearest my hotel shelves only a small selection of food items and using my rudimentary Mandarin I inquire if they sell ice. They don’t. The elderly woman sitting on a low, wooden stool in the corner smiles at me; foreigners are a novelty on the island. Drawing my wallet out of my bag, I notice her daughter using an abacus to total my purchases.
In its 1950s heyday, Hou Tou Wan was a bustling fishing village of 3,000 people. Perched on the hillside of the eastern edge of the island, this village was difficult to supply and education options for the young limited. Over time villagers saved enough money to move to more accessible towns on the island, leaving the village abandoned. The deteriorating concrete and wooden shells of buildings are all that remain as residents took every thing they valued. The jungle has seized much of the village over the subsequent thirty years.
The soil has grown rich with neglect and the nutrients of the dense foliage. There are small signs that at least a few locals work to reclaim the land. If not for living, at least for farming.
In the evening, the local monastery plays host to tourists and locals alike. The monks tend to their evening prayers, providing a soundtrack of soft chanting as we watch the sunset.