Xichong recognized as first intl. dark sky community in China

Writer: Wang Jingli  |  Editor: Zhang Chanwen  |  From: Shenzhen Daily  |  Updated: 2023-04-07

Xichong in Dapeng New Area in eastern Shenzhen has been officially recognized as the first International Dark Sky Community in China, according to the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) on Thursday.

“The Xichong International Dark Sky Community demonstrates that creating a safe, nocturnal environment that benefits the community and protects the natural world using thoughtful lighting design is possible. It brings people and nature together and sets an example for others to follow,” Amber Harrison from IDA said in an annoucement.

The starry sky over Shenzhen Astronomical Observatory in Xichong, Dapeng New Area, in this undated file photo. Li Delai

The Xichong International Dark Sky Community is located at the southeast end of Shenzhen and covers an area of approximately 10.9 square kilometers. The community is about 60 kilometers away from Shenzhen’s urban center and holds the city’s most well-composed natural ecosystem. The forest coverage of the community reaches 90%, with rich animal and plant resources.

The community includes Shenzhen Astronomical Observatory, Xichong Beach, the city’s largest beach, and eight natural villages with about 2,500 villagers. The area is surrounded by mountains on three sides with one way facing the sea and is well-shielded from urban light pollution, where visitors can view and take beautiful photos of the starry sky.

The starry sky in Xichong. Zhang Yipeng

The starry sky in Xichong. Lu Miao

The star trails in Xichong. Li Delai

In August 2021, to serve the needs for stargazing and professional astronomical observation of citizens and astronomy enthusiasts, as well as a goal to build a stargazing place within an hour’s ride, the city’s meteorological observatory, the city’s urban management authority and Dapeng New Area government jointly launched a program to turn Xichong into a certified international dark sky community.

A certified international dark sky community requires little light pollution and very dark skies at night. Given this, it is necessary to control the lights in the dark sky community and its surrounding areas at a certain time period.

Last July, about 51% of a lighting fixture renovation project in Xichong was completed, according to the municipal meteorological observatory.

A scene of fireflies in Xichong. Zeng Yuepeng

After these efforts, the Xichong International Dark Sky Community’s nighttime and ecological environment has been significant enhanced, with a growing firefly population.

Xichong now has become a well-known stargazing spot in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. Residents no longer need to travel to other provinces in the country such as Yunnan, Qinghai, Sichuan or Tibet to admire starry skies and galactic landscapes, Mei Lin, a research associate with Shenzhen Astronomical Observatory, said.

Zheng Liang, director of the China Academy of Urban Planning and Design’s Research Center for Urban Lighting and Planning, which is responsible for urban lighting planning in Shenzhen, said: “The designation of Xichong International Dark Sky Community is expected to raise Shenzhen’s international influence further. It demonstrates the city’s endeavor in dark sky protection and dark sky economy development to the rest of the world.”

As of now, a total of 39 international dark sky communities around the world have been certified by the IDA, including Xichong, according to the website of the IDA.

IDA is a U.S.-based nonprofit organization devoted to preserving and protecting the nighttime environment and the heritage of dark skies through environmentally responsible outdoor lighting.