2020 Book of the Year Award by ASU Institute for Humanities Research

Dr Juan Du, Associate Professor in the Department of Architecture, Associate Dean (International and Mainland China Affairs) and Director of the Urban Ecologies Design Lab (UEDL) of the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Hong Kong (HKU), has been presented the 2020 Book of the Year Award for Interdisciplinary Research by the Arizona State University (ASU) Institute for Humanities Research (IHR) for her book The Shenzhen Experiment: The Story of China’s Instant City (Harvard University Press, 2020).

The Shenzhen Experiment, published by Harvard University Press, unravels the myth of Shenzhen, a modern “miracle” that grew at an unprecedented rate from a rural border town into a megacity of 20 million within 40 years. Ten years in the making, the book reveals a surprising history for this so-called “instant city” and its success, which is not only attributed to centralised planning and economic policies, but also due to its diverse, vibrant communities such as indigenous farmers and migrant workers.

The IHR Book of the Year Jury commended The Shenzhen Experiment to be “beautifully written, masterfully narrated, rigorously researched, convincingly argued, and acutely relevant in today’s world. Du has brought environmental studies, urban studies, ethnic studies and the power of narrative non-fiction to bear on an illuminating story about the politics and possibilities of massive societal transformation.”

The Shenzhen Experiment has been reviewed by Architectural Record, ICON, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Asian Review of Books, Asian Affairs, Asian Century Institute, The Journal of Asian Studies, The China Quarterly, The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Foreign Affairs, Frankfurter Allgemeine, and Nature.

Reviewers commented that “Du’s new book provides historical context on this city’s development. And context is sorely needed: much coverage of Shenzhen’s development repeats the same lazy, government-derived tropes of a ‘fishing village turned megalopolis’ or a technological city of the future.” “The early history of the Shenzhen region is also a fascinating story, and Du is a masterful storyteller. She demonstrates the importance of this area and how it and Hong Kong were not just a barren area inhabited by pirates before the Opium Wars, but that the region was China’s most important salt depository going back millennia.”

Juan Du is an award-winning scholar, architectural and urban designer with extensive experience in architectural education and practice in Asia, United States and Europe. Her works have been featured by international journals and media, such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Foreign Affairs, and CNN. She was recently featured in New Chinese Architecture: Twenty Women Building the Future by Thames & Hudson Publishers (London).

About ASU Institute for Humanities Research Book Award
Established in 2008, the IHR Book Award offered by the Arizona State University has been awarded annually to a non-fiction work of humanities-based scholarship. The Book Award acknowledges the significant contribution of outstanding writers to the field of Humanities.

For IHR Book Award official website, please visit:

About The Shenzhen Experiment

HKU Press Release [Chinese] [English]