Inside the Chinese Fishing Village that Was Swallowed by Nature

Houtouwan, China
Houtouwan, China | © Joe Nafis
Photo of India Irving
Social Media Editor18 June 2018

In the tiny Chinese town of Houtouwan, nature has created a lush spectacle that looks more like a movie set than an earthly wonder.

Houtouwan is located east of Shanghai on Shengshan Island, a three-mile wide stretch of land in the Pacific Ocean. Shengshan is one of almost 400 islands that make up the Shengsi Islands, and the hilly terrain is home to quite a few fishing villages, including Houtouwan. The once thriving town was established in the 1950s only to be abandoned by its population in the 1990s.

Houtouwan, China | © Joe Nafis

Although five of the former 2,000 inhabitants remain, the entire town and all its buildings have succumbed to nature over the course of more than 20 years, creating a stunning spectacle that attracts tourists from around the world daily. The island is easily accessible from mainland China, making it a popular stop on their itinerary.

For former residents however, the only way to get in and out of town when the seas were rough was by walking up a small winding path carved into the hillside. This, along with a port too small to accommodate the larger modern ships, and problems with education and food delivery, caused families to leave the town behind.

Houtouwan, China | © Joe Nafis

Drone photos taken from above Houtouwan showcase the village’s trademark verdant landscape; structures overtaken by bright green ivy, the ground overflowing with roots and trees, caved-in roofs and holes in walls caused by rain, wind and heavy vines. Some of the buildings are even sprouting flowers.

Houtouwan, China | © Joe Nafis

The current five residents include 60-year-old Lin Fazhen, who sets the record straight when asked whether or not the leafy ghost town is haunted. He told the AP: ‘I’ve lived in this world for such a long time, and have never met one [ghost], right?’

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