I am a girl (yes, girls also engage in this strange subculture of « ruin exploration ») who loves to visit abandoned places in Chinese cities as a reversed though naturally connected experience of long-term field research in China. I don’t like climbing over dangerous fences, I prefer squeezing in, go under or through the fence somehow, like Shadowcat.
I started exploring abandoned places a long time ago in France. There is an old railway surrounding the inner city of Paris, called La Petite Ceinture (the little belt), which has been abandoned for decades and where I have been going many times. You can read my report about this lovely place here. But recently, La Petite Ceinture has been undergoing gentrification processes (the railway is transformed in gardens, divided into different sections, train tracks are being removed, etc.), so I went looking for more « underground » places, in the figurative sense as well as in the strict sense: I went to the unofficial Catacombs of Paris, more than 130 km of galleries right under the city (and more to the south). This place is not so much visited (even if it is quite well-known!), and is very interesting for its unique atmosphere and for its centuries of history. From there, I also went to abandoned places in the Paris suburb where nature has started to grow on the built environment like this old military fort located near the Versailles castle or a sanatorium in the forest. I still would not travel too far only to go urbexing even if I know that some sites in Italy, Japan, Belgium, and Taiwan are fascinating. About photography, I am not a professional photographer at all, I visit ruins because it’s a sensorial experience, in situation… I enjoy spending time exploring the places, understanding the space. Taking photos is mainly a way to document these places as they might disappear and to keep a good memory of the trips. There are already a lot of excellent photographers like Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre, able to take pictures that reproduce atmospheres and processes of decay way better than I ever will.
Being back in 2015 after a long absence from China, I got extremely interested in abandoned places that I knew about in the past but never had the chance to visit. At the same time, I found the amazing BURBEX website by Brïn, really inspiring, which encouraged me to try « urbex » in China. He is a great teacher! Alexander Synaptic’s explorations in Taiwan (with excellent pictures!) are also one of my main sources of inspiration.
More generally, I think that urban exploration is a necessary complementary perspective on city evolution, and a really exciting hobby during my free time. I believe this practice is also part of my critical thinking philosophy. You learn about an abandoned place what you could not learn in books: the materiality of its structure, the atmosphere of decay it conveys. I like discovering the new silent part it plays in the city, by being a witness of the past or of what could have been and an anti-example of the present. In China, exploring ruins gives access not only to abandoned places, but also to architectural or symbolic abnormalities I call « dystopias ». Some buildings/areas were originally conceived as utopias (garden-cities or eco-cities), others were « heterotopias1 » (amusement parks, shopping malls, for example), and now after falling into decline or decay, they are true « dystopias »…
In any case, trespassing in abandoned places is justified when it is for the purpose of learning as well as a modest but real contribution to the redemocratization of public spaces in neoliberal cities. When a sign says « forbidden access », when walls hide a place, why should we obey, why should we respect a so-called « restricted property », and stay ignorant? Anyone can and should trespass as long as they respect the limits of privacy and are aware of the danger. Come on, start opening your eyes on the urban space. And next time, just jump the wall, and experience reality by yourself.
- to quote a term by Michel Foucault. If this notion interests you, you can read http://web.mit.edu/allanmc/www/foucault1.pdf ↩
11 thoughts on “About me / 关于我”
Hi Jude! This is Stephanie. I enjoy your blog so much and was sentimentally evoked when I saw how you started the urbex journey because I once tried to enter La Petite Ceinture myself during my study in Paris!
I’m working as a culture reporter in Flamingo Shanghai, an insight and brand consultancy and I’m a big architecture fan myself. I believe there is so much to be learned from those never-built or abandoned architecture just as much as those in existence and formed the cities. You’ll be an amazing person to talk to! I wonder if you are currently living in China? Really looking forward to your reply!
Thanks and have a nice day!
Thanks for your blog, it’s really inspiring. I just arrived in Shanghai a few days ago, and I’ve already been to a part of the world expo. Many pavillons have been brought down I think, only a few still up, but worth the climb. Many wonderful pictures.
Glade you liked la petite ceinture and la gare Lisch, two of my favorite spots at home, and good point for quoting Debord too, I see that you discovered many of the finest sides of France ! ahah
I’m currently looking for exploration-mates here in Shanghaï, if you’re interested or if you have some places you could advice me, feel free to send a mail.
I wish you good fortune in your next adventures !
Thank you for your nice message! I moved to Hong Kong but I still hope to go back to Shanghai. By the way, I am French so I visited abandoned places in Paris and elsewhere too, and I also read French thinkers like Debord.
I wish we could explore together, but since I work in Hong Kong, I cannot always be in Shanghai. If you come to Hong Kong, maybe we can go see what’s here together!
I hope you enjoy Shanghai!
Hi! This is probably a lost cost but I just stumbled upon this amazing blog and saw your response. I’m very new to shanghai (2nd day as of today!) and I love exploring abandoned places. Definitely going to check out some of them while I’m here, and hope to discover new ones. If you’re interested in exploring together, please let me know!
Thank you for your message! Unfortunately I am no longer in Shanghai, but enjoy exploring this city, I’d be interested in exchanging with you on your experiences!
@Michelle i also just moved here and would love to explore with you! Let me know if you want to get in touch.
Would I be able to get in touch with you about a picture you took at the old beer factory – i would love to use it.
how can i email you?
hi！i am a shanghaiese and your story is really inspiring!BTW,If someone wants to find a local guide and exploration mate,just add my wechat:13761782837
Hello, I just stumbled on this website and planning to read some articles here. It’s just not everyday I found this kind of blog, so yours has recalled to a blog named Spike Japan. The guy whose named Richard Hendy (if I’m not wrong) shared similar stories like yours.
With the slogan « A look at the overlook » and « lust for rust », the stories take the readers to explore decaying towns in Japan. A bitter truth that Japan is now an aging country with lesser young generation, especially in rural area. The glory of the past have now been silenced by time and even no one to look at them. I did like read it couple years ago, but the blog also stop update since ago. Maybe you can pay a visit here:
I bookmarked your blog for later read. Have a nice day!
Thank you very much for your positive comment on my blog, and for the link on Japan. I will read it with much interest.
Have a good day!
I discovered your website last year and found it very interesting.
I am also living in China, doing photography and interested by the same topic, and i would be happy to participate in your research.
I have a website if you want to have a look to some pictures :