An ancient city made of intricately carved stone sits silent at the bottom of a lake, a replica of Paris complete with an Eiffel Tower is eerily empty, and a city leveled by disaster has been cordoned off indefinitely as a memorial to those who were lost. China might just be home to more ghost cities than any other nation on earth, and most of them are of the modern variety, as the push for economic progress has led developers to get a bit ahead of themselves constructing vast communities, malls and amusement parks that never caught on with the public.
China’s Atlantis: Lost Underwater City
Roughly one hundred feet below the surface of Thousand Island Lake (Qiandao Lake) is one of the world’s most stunning submerged historical treasures: Lion City. This ancient city was built during the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-200 CE) and measures about 62 football fields. The city, which is complete with incredibly intricate relief sculptures all over the stone walls of its buildings, was intentionally flooded in the 1950s to create a dam. Evidently, authorities felt that attempting to preserve the city wasn’t worth the trouble. But now that it’s underwater, it has become a diving destination, and various tours have popped up allowing visitors to explore it. Some have even proposed building transparent floating tunnels and other new construction that could make it more accessible to everyone.
Paris of the East: Replica Ghost City
Paris is one of the world’s most vibrant cities, bustling with hundreds of thousands of people. At least, the one in France is. The meticulously built replica city in China – not so much. Tianducheng, in China’s Zhejiang district, was modeled after the real Paris, complete with a 354-foot replica of the Eiffel Tower as well as other landmarks. Intended to be a luxurious gated community that could house 100,000 and draw rural families into a centralized urban location, the city has been a ghost town since its construction in 2007. Only about 2,000 people moved there, and that small number seems to be dwindling by the day. But work is still in progress, and officials are hoping to get more people there before the whole complex is totally complete in 2015.
Ordos: A Modern Ghost Town
It seems as if the entire population of a large city simply vanished into thin air. In reality, they were never here in the first place. The Kangbashi New Area of Ordos is a planned community for one million people, envisioned as the Dubai of Northern China – but only about 20,000 people live there, and you’d never even guess there are that many residents based on the eerie photos of deserted streets and empty skyscrapers. It’s close to abundant natural resources and has plenty of public infrastructure, and economic woes aren’t actually a problem. The government just can’t seem to convince people to move here. Some of the architecture, like the Ordos Art Museum, is really quite stunning, and it’s strange to see it accumulating dust as it waits for visitors that might never come. City officials are still hoping that many of the 1.5 million residents of the old section of Ordos, located 15 miles away, will decide to make the move.
Beichuan: Left Behind After a Disaster
Imagine an entire city leveled by an earthquake, roped off and left to rot as a sad and rather dangerous tribute to all that was lost. It happened in Christchurch, New Zealand (sort of – they do plan to rebuild, and the process has already begun) and it happened in Beichuan, China. A deadly earthquake killed thousands of residents and displaced tens of thousands more, and the damage is so extensive that reconstructing it would require leveling almost all of the remaining buildings. So, it’s now basically a memorial park that you shouldn’t enter unless you’re keen to get trapped in the rubble and join the other victims.