The Influence of Moral Knowledge on Urban Villages in Shenzhen, China

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Chinese moral knowledge, immensely informed by the primitive cosmology and the ethical philosophy of Confucianism, had deeply affected people’s attitudes and way of life. It had been practiced throughout history by framing and ordering social practice on the land, becoming a part of the path of Chinese beauty (Li 1988). However, when China has gone into its fast urban development that is much influenced by the global economy and political movements, these traditional practices face extensive challenges from the dominant western paradigms. The understanding of the traditional knowledge as cultural forces shaping the distinct characteristics of Chinese spaces and urban life (Li 2004) is urgently needed. Chinese urban village is one of the areas where the local traditions confront modernisation. It is a particular phenomenon where the traditional rural villages are gradually surrounded by built-up urban areas in the process of rapid urbanisation (Wang et al., 2009; Pan and Du, 2021). Shenzhen, a metropolitan city in southern China, has more than 1000 urban villages (Du, 2020). The urban village has its essential roles in cities: it offers social opportunities to migrants, including the facilitation of temporary practices that meet their aspirations and needs; it fits into the landscape and generates inclusive social interactions beyond the lineage origins; it also embraces the notion of urban heritage that recognises its existing cultures and accumulated experiences as related to diversity and identity (UNESCO 2019). As the city’s land resources are quickly consumed driven by the market benefits, urban villages as such have become the main target for urban redevelopment. Huaide Village is no exception, and the process is demolished-oriented. Existing studies started to acknowledge the importance of urban villages, but they mainly focused on affordable housing, typologies, and other physical elements. What are the core values of urban villages that make the distinct characteristics of Chinese spaces? How should the values of urban villages be recognised in the transitional time towards sustainable development? This paper explores the concept of moral knowledge and analyses how it influenced the spatial configuration that bears the socio-ecological values in Huaide Village in Shenzhen. The lessons and insights from the tradition provide alternative ways for future urban renewal strategies that engender better citizen engagement.
Shenzen, Confucianism, morality, China