Shenzhen travelogue graphic novel

Animator and comics artist Guy Delisle's travelogue Shenzhen is a fascinating, meandering look at one of China's most storied new cities: Shenzhen, the enormous, lightspeed boom-town factory megalopolis just the other side of Hong Kong. Delisle was stationed there as a supervisor for some animation that had been outsourced to China, and he dwelt there in an introspective solitude, drawing and writing about the city as he inhabited his own mind.

I'm endlessly fascinated by these Chinese new cities (I'm working on a novel that's partly set in them), where buildings can grow by a storey a day, where people flock from the countryside to do information-age labor at pre-industrial wages, where commerce and control wage an endless war for dominance in the most populous nation on Earth.

Shenzhen is a really lovely, idiosyncratic, first hand warts-and-all account of the city as seen through the eyes of foreigner. The good, bad and ugly are here, built around Delisle's running account of the daring food adventures he takes himself on. Link


  1. I’ve read his “Pyongyang: a Journey in North Korea” and really enjoyed it a lot. I’ll have to check this one out too.

  2. This book is awesome, but the author’s Pyongyang is even more so — if only because the place itself is even more different from our experiences.

  3. I’m totally fascinated by the rise of the new China. It’s been a decade since I’ve been there, but even then there were all sorts of incongruent novelties among older, dusty relics.

    Walking through the streets of Datong, a grim coal-dust coated city in the north, with broad sidewalks lined with pool tables, I came across a shiny, new brewpub one afternoon, and went in, but no one there knew anything about the beers they brewed or how much they cost. So the staff just kept bringing me mugs of each of the different kinds to sample, as they sat with me and practiced their English and I my Chinese. At the end, they refused to accept any money from me.

    (Someone once commented to the effect that every day in China, you’ll see something that just doesn’t make any sense, and for which you’ll never find an explanation.)

    I recently read another book about one of the major players in the South, Lai Changxing, Inside the Red Mansion, by Oliver August. It sounds like Delisle’s book is similar in mixing personal narrative with keen observations of an economy racing ahead at light speed, with little regard for anyone or anything that stands in the way.

  4. Like the previous poster said, Shenzhen is good but Pyongyang is even better. Both are definitely worth reading.

  5. This looks fantastic! However, Amazon is only showing “New & Used” copies for sale. Did this post cause it to sell out? :-) Is there any place else selling it?

  6. If you’re interested in some aspects of life in China, via a westerners eyes. Maybe have a read of Beachhutmans blog It’s a kind of personal and domestic style of blogging, but an interesting insight into what it’s like in Beijing at the moment.

  7. As many comments already point out

    Pyongyang by Guy Delisle is an even more interesting book, mainly because we know so few about north korea.

    His last one is regarding Myanmar, or birmany. It really worth reading.

    Guy Delisle is one of my favorites writers, he really puts some humanity into his drawings. Read id, you wont regret it!

  8. Ehh…I read his book on Pyongyang and mostly hated it. What the guy above says is correct, though. Because there’s NOTHING out there on North Korea, it becomes interesting by default. But the book is no damn good, and Delisle seems like kind of a prick.

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