South China Mall: Worlds Largest Shopping Mall

Posted by Charlie @ Discovering Mandarin Sunday, 11 October 2009
South China Mall : Largest Mall In The World & Empty

The South China Mall is the biggest shopping mall in the world and opened in 2005. It is more than twice as big as the next largest (and previous biggest) shopping mall; The Mall of America in Minnesota. It has leasable space for over 1,500 stores in approximately 7.1 million square feet of total floor area.

The South China Mall is located in Dongguan (东莞) Dōngguǎn near Guangzhou (广州) Guǎngzhōu in Guangdong (广东) Guǎngdōng province in South Eastern China. It’s a glorious place: a gargantuan seven-million-square-foot of retail and entertainment in the heart of China’s southern Pearl River Delta.

Alex Hu, a local Guangzhou boy who made it big in international business, wanted South China Mall to be a hometown monument to his success. Guangzhou has no major airports or highways nearby yet is the largest shopping mall in the world. Four years after its construction, the South China Mall sits virtually empty of both shops and shoppers. It has an eerily empty theme park and shop owners may see one or two customers a day, lucky to make a sale.

South China Mall was built with a ‘build it and they will come’ attitude but the lack of infrastructure has hindered its progress. South China Mall is considered too big to fail though. A government funded group bought the property from the previous owners in order to save it from bankruptcy. Employees are required to line up for flag-raising ceremonies and pep talks about “brand building” before going off to maintain the deserted concourses.

This mall has seven zones modelled on international cities and regions, including Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, Venice, Egypt, the Caribbean, and California.

The Arc de Triomphe that stands in the very middle of the South China Mall leads you out of Paris and into either Venice or Amsterdam though this half of the mall has never been finished. The exotic palm trees lining the sidewalk have been invaded by homegrown south-China weeds.

There are of course lots of empty malls throughout America and the rest of the world; there’s even an American website,, where photos are traded of once-great, now-desolate shopping malls. What sets the South China Mall apart from those others, besides its mind-numbing size, is that it never went into decline. The tenants didn’t jump ship; they never even came on board. The mall entered the world pre-ruined, as if its developers had deliberately created an attraction for people with a taste for abandonment and decay. It is a spectacular real-estate failure.

For more interesting facts watch this great documentary which brought this mall to my attention.

Utopia, Part 3: The World’s Largest Shopping Mall :

Also this is an insightful article from someone who has been there.
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