Guangzhou, traditionally romanised as Canton, is the capital and largest city of the Province of Guangdong in southeastern China. Located on the Pearl River about 120 km (75 mi) north-northwest of Hong Kong and 145 km (90 mi) north of Macau, Guangzhou was a major terminus of the maritime Silk Road and continues to serve as a major port and transportation hub.
Guangzhou is, at the moment, the 3rd-largest Chinese city, behind Beijing and Shanghai; holds sub-provincial administrative status; and is one of China’s five National Central Cities. In 2015 the city’s administrative area was estimated to have a population of 13,501,100 and forms part of one of the most populous metropolitan agglomerations on Earth. Some estimates place the population of the built-up area of the Pearl River Delta Mega City as high as 44 million without the Hong Kong SAR and 54 million including it. Guangzhou is identified as a Beta+ Global city. In recent years, there has been a rapidly increasing number of foreign residents and illegal immigrants from the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia, as well as from Africa. This has led to it being dubbed the “Capital of the Third World”. The migrant population from other provinces of China in Guangzhou was 40 percent of the city’s total population in 2008. Most of them are rural migrants, and they speak only Mandarin.
Guangzhou was long the only Chinese port permitted for most foreign traders. The city proper fell to the British and was opened by the First Opium War. It lost trade to other ports such as Hong Kong and Shanghai, but continued to serve as a major entrepôt. In modern commerce, Guangzhou is best known for its annual Canton Fair, the oldest and largest trade fair in China. For the three consecutive years 2013–2015, Forbes ranked Guangzhou as the best commercial city on the Chinese mainland.
Guangzhou is divided into ten districts. Among them, Yuexiu and Liwan, the cradle for the Cantonese culture, has been the city center since the imperial era. Tianhe, which was a farming village decades ago, has been constructed into a new business center with some biggest shopping malls and highest skyscrapers in the city.
For travelers, the most useful road is Zhongshan Road, a 9 KM long highway horizontally cutting through the downtown of Guangzhou. The highway is divided into 8 sections. From Zhongshan 6 Road (中山六路）to Zhongshan 8 Road (中山八路) it covers around 80% tourist attractions and all famous restaurants. This area is well connected by Metro Line 1 from Changshou Lu (長壽路), Chen Clan Academy (陈家祠), Ximenkou(西门口） to Gongyuanqian (公园前).
- Yuexiu (越秀 Yuèxiù) — The Zhongshan 6 Road area, which covers the original area of Yuexiu before its expansion in the 2005, has been the very core since 214 AD. Highlights include Yuexiu Park, Guangzhou Museum located at Zhanhai Tower, Orchid Garden, Mausoleum of Nanyue King, Guangxiao Temple, Temple of Six Banyan Trees, Huangsheng Mosque, Beijing Lu Shopping District, Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall, Temple of Five Rams, Shishi Cathedral. It also has many popular wholesales market including Yide Road Market and Baima Market.
- Liwan (荔湾 Lìwān) — On the north of the pearl river makes up the old Guangzhou area and home to the standard Cantonese accent (Xiguan Accent, literally West Gate Accent). Tourist highlights include the colonial Shamian Island, Xiguan Old Houses, Xiangxiajiu shopping Street, Liziwan Lake Park and Chen’s Clan Academy.
- Tianhe (天河 Tiānhé) is the business district, thriving with many skyscrapers and shopping malls. The newly developed Zhujiang New Town (珠江新城) is a showcase of futuristic urban planning and avant-garde architecture. It is also home to the oldest messy urban village Shipai as well as most expat communities. The district serves as a transportation hub for trains to Hong Kong. Highlights include Guangdong Museum, Central Library, Opera House and Shipai village.
Around the Center
- Haizhu (海珠’Hǎizhū’) — At the south of the Pearl River, the former industrial district has transformed into more residential and business today. It is home to the city’s latest landmark Canton Tower and the South Campus of Sun Yat-Sen University, which is a well-preserved historic building complex of the 1920s. Traders come here often for the Canton Fair in Pazhou.
- Panyu (番禺 Pānyú) is an area getting more popular among local tourists. Its Lianhua Mountain boosts 100,000 blooming lotus flower and sits a huge Bodhisattva Guanyin statue. Various theme parks have attracted thousands of tourists. The area is covered by many historic villages and towns that give you a peek into the life of traditional Southern Chinese.
- Baiyun (白云 Báiyún) — This district is where the old airport is located. The Baiyun Mountain is a major attraction.
Formerly known as Canton in the West, the city of Guangzhou has a history dating back roughly 2,200 years.
A legend tells of five celestial beings riding into the area that is now Guangzhou on five rams carrying sheaves of rice. The celestials bestowed blessings on the land and offered the sheaves to the people of the city as a symbol of prosperity and abundance. After the celestials left, the rams turned into stone, and Guangzhou quickly developed into an affluent and influential city. Due to this legend, Guangzhou has gained several popular nicknames: Yangcheng (羊城; City of Rams), Suicheng (穗城; Sheaves of Rice City) and Wuyangcheng (五羊城; City of Five Rams). In addition, due to the abundance of flowers along the city’s main thoroughfares, Guangzhou is often referred to as Huacheng (花城; City of Flowers).
According to historical records, the city was built in 214BC and was known as Panyu (番禺). The name Guangzhou actually referred to the prefecture in which Panyu was located. As the city grew, the name Guangzhou was adopted for the city itself.
As a major sea port, Guangzhou’s history is full of color. In 786 the city was sacked by the Persians and in 1711 the British East India Company established a trading post here. In 1757, the government designated the city as the only port allowed business transactions with foreign nations. This continued until 1842, the signing of the Treaty of Nanking, when four other ports were added. Losing the exclusive privilege pushed Guangzhou to become more industrialized later.
Guangzhou was also part of the so called “Maritime Silk Road” that linked southern China with India, South-East Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. As a result of its links with the Middle East, a mosque was established in the city in 627, and a small Muslim community continues to live in Guangzhou to this day. Additionally, the sixth patriarch of Zen Buddhism was born in Guangzhou and taught the famous Platform Sutra in the city. As a result, Guangzhou has retained a strong connection with this school of Buddhism, and the monastery where the sixth patriarch studied is considered a local treasure. The first Protestant missionary in China, Robert Morrison, entered Guangzhou in 1807.
Public transportation system is comprehensive in Guangzhou like most other big Chinese cities. If you stay in Guangzhou for long time, purchase a multi-purpose Ling Nan Tong – Yang Cheng Tong (岭南通-羊城通) stored value card, which can be used to pay fares in metro, bus and ferries and used for many convenience stores, public phones and vending machines.
However, to return the card at the end of the trip, you need to go Gongyuanqian (Exit J) and Tiyu Xi Exit G, and East Railway Station. (Exit HJ). It may be worth simply keeping the card as a souvenir.
Despite the sheer size of the city, walking is a great way of exploring the traditional Liwan and Yuexiu districts. The easy tour is to walk through Zhongshan 6 Road (中山六路, Zhongshan Liulu) which covers most tourist attractions including Liurong Temple, Guangxiao Temple, Huaisheng Mosque and many huge markets. It also has the two most popular pedestrian streets , Beijing Lu and Shang-xia-jiu for shopping mania.
To give you some sense of direction whenever you get lost, figure out the location of two major horizontal lines, which are Zhongshan Road and the Pearl River (Zhu Jiang) , you will easily tell every direction. This area is also well connected by Metro Line 1 and Trolleybus 104, 107, 109 and 78(Night Bus) which is the only trackless tram system in South China.
Bicycles are promoted as a low-carbon mode of transportation. Over 100 rental outlets are now available along many BRT lines and subway stations. The rental fee is by the hour and up to ¥30 a day. One popular bike route is along the Pearl River on the Haizhu District side. Other dedicated bike lanes are slowly appearing in the city center, including Tianhe District. Yangchengtong Card is accepted in many public rental outlets.
New bikes are available in major hypermarkets from ¥500 for a reasonable cheap single-speed to around ¥2000-3000 for a 21-speed mountain bike. Giant and Merida are the two most common international brands. High-end bicycles are also available to affluent customers in this rich city.
You will see brightly colored shared bikes almost anywhere nowadays. In order to rent these, you must create an account with their respective APPs, including passport number and WeChat/AliPay/Chinese bank card. The most popular in Guangzhou are Mobike, Ofo, Bluegogo, and Xiaoming. After paying a deposit between ¥50-200, each half hour is generally ¥0.5-¥1.
Folding bikes are permitted on the subway (sometimes not on buses) and tax, but non-folders are not permitted on any form of public transport other than the cross-river ferries. Bicycles are not permitted to cross the river via the Zhujiang Tunnel or Zhujiang suspension bridge, but are permitted to go on the public ferries for ¥1 (see below).
Edited by staff