Go inside the abandoned Chinese village that nature is taking back one house at a time

Houtouwan Chinese village
After abandonment, nature has begun to reclaim the village. Damir Sagolj/Reuters

Nearly fifty years ago, more than 2,000 people called this bucolic Chinese village home.

Now, only a handful remain.

Houtouwan clings to the lush green coastline of a tiny island in the Zhousan archipelago at the mouth of the Yangtze River in China. Half a century ago, it was a busy regional center and a port of call to a sizable fishing fleet.

But as was the case with so many agricultural communities in China, the lightning speed of the country’s modernization has left Houtouwan a virtual ghost town.

The photos below, taken by Damir Sagolj for Reuters, show how the force of nature has retaken this village in a matter of decades — and turned into a tourist attraction.

[slideshow]
[slide
permalink=”/#a-former-resident-of-houtouwan-is-in-charge-of-guiding-visiting-tourists-through-the-ghost-village-on-shengshan-island-about-80-miles-southeast-of-shanghai-1″
title=”A former resident of Houtouwan is in charge of guiding visiting tourists through the ghost village on Shengshan Island, about 80 miles southeast of Shanghai.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/55b8e8f02acae72d5f8ba717″
caption=””
credit_href=”http://pictures.reuters.com/”
]
[slide
permalink=”/#residents-began-to-leave-the-village-in-the-early-1990s-as-their-fishing-fleet-outgrew-the-small-bay-on-which-the-town-sits-2″
title=”Residents began to leave the village in the early 1990s as their fishing fleet outgrew the small bay on which the town sits.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/55b8e8f72acae710008bb0ec”
caption=””
credit_href=”http://pictures.reuters.com/”
]
[slide
permalink=”/#finding-proper-education-was-another-problem-as-the-island-is-rather-remote-3″
title=”Finding proper education was another problem, as the island is rather remote.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/55b8e8fd2acae74c2f8b8971″
caption=””
credit_href=”http://pictures.reuters.com/”
]
[slide
permalink=”/#by-the-mid-90s-most-residents-had-left-leaving-the-village-empty-but-intact-4″
title=”By the mid ’90s, most residents had left, leaving the village empty but intact.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/55b8e8f52acae719008bb002″
caption=””
credit_href=”http://pictures.reuters.com/”
]
[slide
permalink=”/#soon-the-forces-of-nature-began-to-take-over-now-most-of-the-village-is-covered-in-plants-and-vines-5″
title=”Soon, the forces of nature began to take over. Now, most of the village is covered in plants and vines.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/55b8e9012acae76e098b9a76″
caption=””
credit_href=”http://pictures.reuters.com/”
]
[slide
permalink=”/#this-striking-phenomenon-has-made-the-abandoned-town-a-popular-tourist-attraction-in-recent-years-and-those-looking-for-breathtaking-photo-opportunities-are-not-disappointed-6″
title=”This striking phenomenon has made the abandoned town a popular tourist attraction in recent years, and those looking for breathtaking photo opportunities are not disappointed.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/55b8e8fa2acae7a6098bae20″
caption=””
credit_href=”http://pictures.reuters.com/”
]
[slide
permalink=”/#xu-yueding-and-his-wife-tang-yaxue-who-left-the-village-over-20-years-ago-come-back-every-day-to-their-former-house-to-welcome-visiting-tourists-and-sell-water-bottles-7″
title=”Xu Yueding and his wife Tang Yaxue, who left the village over 20 years ago, come back every day to their former house to welcome visiting tourists and sell water bottles.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/55b8e8fb2acae78b0e8bae51″
caption=””
credit_href=”http://pictures.reuters.com/”
]
[slide
permalink=”/#most-of-the-houses-are-in-pretty-good-condition-considering-theyve-been-empty-for-over-two-decades-8″
title=”Most of the houses are in pretty good condition considering they have been empty for over two decades.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/55b8e9002acae717448b8853″
caption=””
credit_href=”http://pictures.reuters.com/”
]
[slide
permalink=”/#here-a-picture-of-a-chinese-god-of-fortune-is-stuck-to-a-wall-in-a-house–a-reminder-that-people-once-lived-here-9″
title=”Here, a picture of a Chinese god of fortune is stuck to a wall in a house — a reminder that people once lived here.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/55b8e8fd2acae72c008bb129″
caption=””
credit_href=”http://pictures.reuters.com/”
]
[slide
permalink=”/#many-professional-photographers-flock-to-the-village-to-make-images-of-its-stunning-views-110″
title=”Many professional photographers flock to the village to make images of its stunning views.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/55b8e8fb2acae70f008bb09a”
caption=””
credit_href=”http://pictures.reuters.com/”
]
[slide
permalink=”/#tourists-walk-between-buildings-covered-with-vegetation-this-house-is-starting-to-show-signs-of-its-age-111″
title=”Tourists walk between buildings covered with vegetation. This house is starting to show signs of its age.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/55b8e8f72acae732118bad12″
caption=””
credit_href=”http://pictures.reuters.com/”
]
[slide
permalink=”/#these-childrens-clothes-were-left-on-a-sofa-in-an-empty-house-in-the-village-112″
title=”These children’s clothes were left on a sofa in an empty house in the village.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/55b8e8fb2acae716008bb11b”
caption=””
credit_href=”http://pictures.reuters.com/”
]
[slide
permalink=”/#every-year-the-vines-creep-further-along-the-houses-swallowing-them-in-verdant-green-layers-113″
title=”Every year, the vines creep further along the houses, swallowing them in verdant green layers.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/55b8e8f52acae7c23f8b879e”
caption=””
credit_href=”http://pictures.reuters.com/”
]
[slide
permalink=”/#only-a-few-hearty-residents-remain-refusing-to-leave-their-native-home-114″
title=”Only a few hearty residents remain, refusing to leave their native home.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/55b8e8f02acae78a008bb16d”
caption=””
credit_href=”http://pictures.reuters.com/”
]
[slide
permalink=”/#sun-ayue-one-of-the-handful-of-the-remaining-denizens-of-houtouwan-prepares-dinner-in-the-room-where-he-lives-115″
title=”Sun Ayue, one of the handful of the remaining denizens of Houtouwan, prepares dinner in the room where he lives.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/55b8e8f02acae7c23f8b879d”
caption=””
credit_href=”http://pictures.reuters.com/”
]
[slide
permalink=”/#sun-a-59-year-old-former-fisherman-doesnt-leave-the-village-except-for-an-occasional-game-of-mahjong-in-the-town-across-the-hills-116″
title=”Sun, a 59 year-old former fisherman, doesn’t leave the village except for an occasional game of mahjong in the town across the hills.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/55b8e8f12acae7cc3f8b88bd”
caption=””
credit_href=”http://pictures.reuters.com/”
]
[slide
permalink=”/#he-lives-alone-in-a-house-with-no-running-water-and-electricity-117″
title=”He lives alone in a house with no running water and electricity.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/55b8e8f42acae7b7188bac74″
caption=””
credit_href=”http://pictures.reuters.com/”
]
[slide
permalink=”/#getting-through-the-town-is-very-difficult-and-tourists-have-to-traverse-narrow-footpaths-overgrown-with-plants-and-vines-in-between-buildings-118″
title=”Getting through the town is very difficult, and tourists have to traverse narrow footpaths overgrown with plants and vines in between buildings.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/55b8e8f12acae710008bb0eb”
caption=””
credit_href=”http://pictures.reuters.com/”
]
[slide
permalink=”/#but-the-spectacular-morning-mists-that-roll-off-the-east-china-sea-make-the-trek-worth-it-119″
title=”But the spectacular morning mists that roll off the East China Sea make the trek worth it.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/55b8e8f52acae78a008bb16e”
caption=””
credit_href=”http://pictures.reuters.com/”
]
[slide
permalink=”/#only-time-will-tell-how-the-village-will-look-another-twenty-years-from-now–or-if-it-will-still-be-there-at-all-220″
title=”Only time will tell how the village will look another twenty years from now … or if it will still be there at all.”
content=””
image=”http://static.businessinsider.com/image/55b8e8f12acae732118bad11″
caption=””
credit_href=”http://pictures.reuters.com/”
]
[/slideshow]