Guangdong is a manufacturing powerhouse that produces roughly one third of the country’s exports. It is home to 104 million residents and Wang Yang, an ambitious the provincial party secretary who has partly staked his reputation on promoting the well-being of Guangdong’s residents and by trying to gauge the level of their happiness.

Guangdong Province is where Guangzhou (Canton) and several Special Economic Zone manufacturing hubs like Shenzhen are located. When the Deng reforms began opening up the Chinese economy in 1980, investors flocked to Guangdong because of its proximity to Hong Kong, perks offered by Beijing and the presence of provincial government proud of its independence from Beijing (See Shenzhen Below).

By 2000, Guangdong was beginning to be eclipsed by Shanghai as China's undisputed business gateway despite the construction of a new airport, new initiatives to clean up the environment and the opening of technology parks with names like Photon Valley, Science Town and International Bio-Island.

But that doesn’t mean Guangdong has become an economic or manufacturing slouch. As of 2005, Guangdong Province was home to 60,000 factories producing $300 million worth of goods a day. At that time the economy in Guangdong has been growing at 15 percent a year, higher than the rest of China.

Guangdong accounts for about 30 percent of China’s exports and a third of the world’s production of shoes and much of its textiles, apparel, toys, Christmas ornaments or other cheap goods. For every shipping container bringing materials into Guangdong Province, nine go out filled with exports. The region is currently going through a make over as it tries to clean up its environment and create an economy based more on services and higher value products. In some cases Makers of labor-intensive products like shoes and furniture that want to open new factories there are being told to look elsewhere.

Guangdong is home to around 90 million permanent residents plus between 50 million and 100 million migrants from other provinces who have come to Guangdong to work. The province is also densely populated. In some places hundreds of houses are squeezed into a few acres of land where there are no streets, no yards, no trees; nothing except for houses. Guangdong covers 180,000 square kilometers and embraces 3,368 miles of coastline on the South China Sea. It has been a major trading center and gateway to the outside world since the 16th century. Tourist Office : Guangdong Provincial Tourism Bureau, 185 West Huanshi Rd, 510010 Guanzhou, Guangdong, , China, tel. (0)-20-8667-7426, fax: (0)-20-8666-5039



Guangzhou (about 160 kilometers north of Hong Kong) is China's forth largest city after Shanghai, Beijing and Tianjin, with 11.2 million people (two thirds of them residents and one third of them migrants). It has long been regarded as the most Westernized city in China. Even in the Mao era people picked up Hong Kong radio and television stations and could buy international newspapers on the streets.

According to legend Guangzhou was surrounded by barren land before five men riding five rams came to the city pronging prosperity. The legend is immortalized with a statue that stands at the center of Guangzhou. As early as the 7th century Guangzhou had 200,000 foreign resident, including Arabs, Persians, Indians, Africans and Turks. It was the main trading center between China and Europe before Opium Wars and was where the events that sparked the Opium Wars took place (See History, 19th Century History, Opium Wars).

In January 2007, Guangzhou became the first Chinese city to reach a per capita income of $10,000, often seen as the threshold for developed status, and considerably more than the $1,740 per capita income of the China. Later the figure was lowered to $7,800 because the $10,000 figure only counted the city’s 7.5 million residents and not the 3.7 migrants that lived there.

Guangzhou from space
People from Guangzhou have a reputation for being ambitious, good at business and good cooks. A slogan commonly written on the billboards in Guangzhou is Look to the Future. The Chinese word for "future" sounds almost the same as the one for "money," and many Chinese say Guangzhou's real slogan is Look to the Money!

Guangzhou has a pleasant semi-tropical climate and is not without its charms. It has a few wide tree-lined boulevards and several nice parks. It doesn't have much to offer tourists, though, except a few cheesy sights, good food and restaurants that specialize in snakes and other weird meat dishes. Virtually nothing from the colonial era remains. Guangzhou will host the Asian games in October 2010. A Ferris wheel planned to open for the Asian Games will be the highest and largest in the world. In 2008 Guangzhou announced that the number of cars on its roads had reached 1 million (New York as 2 million). The metropolis has several auto factories, and aspires to be China’s Detroit. Around 180,000 new vehicles hit the city’s roads, the government said. That’s nearly 500 a day.

Along with increased affluence has come increased traffic, construction and pollution. Among Chinese Guangzhou is known for having one of the highest crime rates in China. The crime rate in Guangzhou has soared in recent years, particularly the number of thefts, purse snatching and robberies. Violent crimes such as muggings are also on the rise. Around 100,000 crimes are reported to police; many more go unreported.

The motorcycle thieves in Guangzhou are particularly brazen. In October 2005, a woman that tried to stop motorcycle thieves from stealing her purse had her hand chopped off. Thieves apparently worked for a gang that called itself the Hand Choppers. These and other crimes prompted the city to ban motorcycles from the downtown area of Guangzhou.

Street vendors in Guangzhou do a brisk business selling switchblades, metal rods and other devises intended for protection. When the mayor there told police they needed to get tough on crime, using their weapons f necessary, the police responded by shooting five mugging suspects.

Guangzhou has banned motorcycles and motorized bicycles in many parts of the city mainly as an anti-crime measure. Many Guangzhou residents blame the high crime rates on migrant workers and support capping the number of migrants allowed into the city or allowing only “high quality” ones in the city.

The region between Guangzhou and Hong Kong is home to Special Economic Zones like Shenzhen and Zhuhai. The highway between the two cities has been described as one long construction project and some people joke that the local bird is the crane. Between 2001 and 2006, in Guangzhou itself 58 buildings 30 stories or more were completed, under construction or proposed. Much of the city is currently torn up by construction for the subway.

Tourist Information: Guangzhou Tourist Information Center, 1/F Equare (Yitai Guangchang), Entrance A or B1 Yuexiu Park Metro Station No. 986 Jiefung Bei Lu, Guangzhou tel. 666-2325. Guangzhou Tourism Bureau, 6/F 180 West Huanshi Rd, 510010 Guanzhou, Guangdong, , China, tel. (0)-20-8666-2769, fax: (0)-20-8666-8083

Web Sites: Wikitravel ; Life of Guangzhou ; official government site and Travel China Guide ; ;

Maps: China Map Guide ; Yahoo Maps ; Lonely Planet ; China Hotels ; Maps of China ; China Map Guide

Nike factory

Orientation : The filthy Pearl River spits Guangzhou in two and is filled with ocean-going freighters, hydrofoils bound for Hong Kong. and small cargo boats. The layout of the city is kind of confusing and a detailed map with names in English and Chinese as well as subways stops and bus routes is helpful. Before you head off to somewhere, it helps to have detailed written directions in both English and Chinese and the name of a landmark near your destination. To get back to your hotel bring a card with the name of your hotel in Chinese and English. Since taxis are cheap, it often worthwhile to take a cab if you don't want to walk. The subway is good and getting bigger all the time. Buses are crowded. There are less bicycles in Guangzhou than in other Chinese cities.

Entertainment : Guangzhou has some night clubs, dance halls, video game rooms, bowling alleys, movie theaters and lots of karaoke bars. It is not particularly well-know for its nightlife or cultural activities. The area around Taijin Lu and the Garden Hotel used to be known mostly for its prostitutes, late-night noodle shops and cheap dim sum shops. Now its more of an upscale place with wine bars and fashionable boutiques, popular with affluent Chinese, ex pats and arty types. Guangzhou also has a new Opera House Web Sites: Alloexpats ; Oriental Travel ; gz nightlife News Gd


Restaurants are plentiful and good. It is said that the Cantonese spend a third of their income on food. The city is famous for its dim sum, seafood and stir-fried dishes made with shrimp, pork, eggplant, noodles, chicken and vegetables. Many travelers make their first stop in Guangzhou the Chinese restaurants on Shamian Island. Many of the best restaurants are located in the large hotels.

People in Guangzhou are known for their fondness of eating wild animals. The First Village of Wild Food restaurant offers flying fox, civet cats, small deer, several species of birds, dark-haired pigs and plump rabbits. Most of the animals are kept down stairs in cages. Customers can pick out the animals they want and eat it upstairs. Butchers who have tables near the cages quickly kill and skin the animals which are then prepared by cooks in the kitchen

The Yumin seafood restaurant is a huge place with an of exotic dishes. Crocodiles with their mouths taped shut crawl along the floor. The Sent Down Youth No. 1 Village Wild Flavor Restaurant in Lianbian outside Guangzhou offers herons, snakes, baby deers, flying foxes, and dozens of other species in a dining area decorated with kitschy Mao era posters. Their specialty is “Dragon, Tiger, Phoenix,: a stew made with snake, wild cat and crane. Web Sites : Life of Guangzhou ; Fodor’s ; Asia Expats

Tianhe Front Shopping Center


Shopping: The major shopping streets are Liu Er San Lu, Dishifu Lu, Remin Lu, Beijing Lu and Zhong Shan Liu Lu. The major shopping areas in Guangzhou are: 1) the intersection of Beijing Lu and Zhongshan Lu, the main shopping district; 2) Nafang (near the entrance to Cultural park), the main department store; 3) two Friendship Stores (one near the China Hotel and the other near the Baiyun Hotel); and 4) the Nam Fong International Plaza Shopping Mall (also near the Baiyun Hotel). Web Sites : Life of Guangzhou ; Travel China Guide

Qingping Market on the Pearl River sells turtles, salamanders, snakes, dogs, monkeys, tortoises, foxes, birds, wild boars, pangolins, owls, and giant toads and over 600 varieties of vegetables and meats. There is one merchant that specializes in house cats. Nearby restaurants serve rat, dog and snake.

Xinyuan Marketis the largest bird and animal market in Guangzhou. Pigeons, boars, cats, dogs ostriches, rats, civets, badgers, racoons dogs are all sold here. Trucks deliver new batches of animals every day. Many people live and sleep in their small stalls among the caged animals. In the butcher shops spilled blood collects in pools and dogs and other animals are slaughtered and skiined before customers eyes. The animals are often treated horribly. It is not unusual for dogs to arrive on trucks from Henan Province with three animals in a one-by-three-foot cage. Some think the SARS epidemic began here with the transfer and mutation of the SARS virus from animals to humans.

Tianhe Front Shopping Center

Accommodationin Guangzhou tends to be expensive. There are several top-end hotels including a Holiday Inn, and the White Swan Hotel, which has a delicatessen, discos, salad bar, air-conditioned bowling center and a waterfall in the lobby. The Garden Hotel is the biggest hotel in China, with 1147 rooms. There are also some standard hotels and budget hotels. They tend to be centered around the Pearl River Area, Shamian Island and the Railway Station. The CITS office can sometimes help you find an expensive or moderately-priced hotel. The Lonely Planet books have good lists of cheap accommodation options. Web Sites: Guangzhou Hotels ; China Hotels ; Hotel Travel


Sights are scattered the city. Most people get around on foot or by taxi (most use meters). Billions of dollars are being spent on an underground subway system to relieve congestion brought on by the city's rapid growth. The buses are crowded and difficult to sort out. Bicycles are not recommended unless you know what you are doing.

Guangzhou is building an extensive subway system very rapidly. It had 110 kilometers of subway lines on 2009, most opened on the three previous year with another 130 kilometers is set to open by the end of 2009 along with an underground tram and a high-peed commuter rail system. A long term plan calls for at least 800 kilometers of subway and light rails

The long distance bus station is located on Huanshi Xilu, not far from the main train station. It is big and confusing and has several levels. Construction began on a new $1.6 billion train station in 2005. It is expected to open 2008 and will be the hub for a $16.8 billion high-speed train network. Ths networks is expected to go into operation in 2010. Boats to Wuzhou from Guangzhou leave from Dashatou Harbor Passngeer Terminal. Th trip takes 17 hours. The Catamaran from Guangzhou to Wuzhou takes 5 hours. Web Sites: China Highlights Guangzhou Metro: Wikipedia ; official site Guangzhou Metro Map: UrbanRail, Net Joho Maps ; China Highlights

Guangzhou Airports: There are five major airports with 80 miles of Guangzhou: in Guangzhou, Hong Kong. Macau, Shenzhen and Zhuhai. Baiyun Airport in Guangzhou opened in August 2004. Just 80 miles away from Hong Kong, it cost $2.4 billion and has two runways and will be able to handle 25 million passengers a year by 2010.

Airport to City Transportation in Guangzhou : The light railway that will connect Baiyin airport to Guangzhou’s Metro lines is expected to be completed in 2007. In the meantime people take taxis and buses, using the airport expressway that connects the Guangzhou -Shenzhen and Beijing-Zhubai highways.

For Other Kinds of Information such as lists of specific hotels and restaurants, tourist agencies, currency exchanges houses, post offices, telephone offices, shops, bookstores, night clubs, sports places, theaters, swimming pools, embassies, churches, and airline agents, maps, hospitals, pharmacies, car rentals and bike and moped rentals, consult the Lonely Planet Guides and other travel guides.

Sights in Guangdong

Memorial Park of the Martyrs commemorates the people who died in the Ghangzhou Uprising in 1927. Inside the park are pavilions, gardens and a huge burial mound surrounded by a marble wall. The remains of the 5,000 people that died in the uprising are buried inside the mound.

Shamian Island is a half-mile-long island situated within the Pearl River. After the Opium War, Britons built mansions and a fort on this island which at the time wasn't much more than a sand bar. No Chinese were allowed. Today, the mansions are used by the government. There are several nice places to stroll around or ride a bicycle. Banyan trees line the banks of the river and gardens and palm trees surround the mansions.

Worth a look are Qingping Market, with a wide assortment of animals (See Shopping Above); a cultural center with operas in the evening; Beijing Lu, a street with some interesting shops and restaurants; the Nangfeng Department Store, the largest departtment store in Guangzhou;

Guang Xiao Si Temple is one of the oldest temples in Guangzhou. In the 1970s workmen accidently broke a Buddha statue, which turned out to be hollow and had 70 little figurines inside. Unfortunately most of them were quickly snatched as good luck charms and not that many of them are left.

Chen Clan Temple (Zhongshan Road) is massive, luxuriously furnished complex constructed in typical southern architectural style. Financed by the Chen family for Emperor Guangxi in 1890, the temple contains six courtyards, nine main halls and a collection of art that includes wood carvings, stone carvings, lime carvings, pottery, and cast iron pieces decorated with historical figures and mythical figures. The temple now houses the Provincial Museum of Folk Arts and Crafts.

Six Banyan Tree Temple (Liurong Street) was built in 537 and named after six banyan trees that once grew in its courtyard. Inside the temple complex sits the wondrously decorated, 175-foot-high Flower Temple, which for a long time was the tallest structure in Guangzhou. In the main hall there are stone tablets and three giant bronze Buddhas, each weighing 10 tons, that are the biggest old bronze pieces in Guangdong province. Nearby the temple is the Mosque Dedicated to a Saint which is the oldest mosque in China. The famous "naked minaret" is found on this mosque.

Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall was built on the site of the house that Dr. Sun occupied when he was the provisional president in 1922. Located inside the beautiful 247-acre Yue Xiu Park, the Memorial Hall includes an octagonal palace and 4,700-seat auditorium.

South Jade Crafts Factory is a busy place where mostly soapstone and agate are carved up into jewelry and various objects. Describing it, Timothy Green wrote in Smithsonian, the floor was humming "with activity as nearly 200 workers bent over drills and polishing machines, sustained in the oppressive heat by endless cans of Coca-Cola. One floor specialized in jewelry, another in highly embellished carvings of exotic boats, ornamental swords and pastoral scenes. Many of the carvings, I soon discovered, were in soapstone and serpentine. But a few workers were carving jadeite."

Crocpark Guangzhouis the world’s largest crocodile farm with 60,000 to 70,000 animals. Thai crocodile wrestlers perform stunts like reaching down the throat of crocodiles and sticking Their heads in the animal’s mouth.

In 1997 and 1998, taking advantage of low prices caused by the Asian financial crisis, it bought 40,000 crocodiles for as little as 75 cents a piece. The crocodiles, ranging in size from a few centimeters to six feet, filled the holds of five 747 cargo jets. The park loses money because it can't get the crocodiles to breed. To make money it has opened its doors to tourists who pay $1.25 for a bamboo pole with two chicken torsos attached to them to feed to the crocodiles.

Other Guangzhou Sights include the Guangzhou Zoo, South China Botanical Garden, Daxin Ivory Arts and Crafts Factory, Qingping Market, Foshan Ancestral Temple, Shiwan Artistic Ceramics Factory, Folshan Folk Arts and Crafts Society and Dali Town. Liuhua Park and Yue Xiu Park are among the nicer parks. There are good views of the city from the TV tower in Yue Xie Park and Alqun Hotel on Shamian Island. Hauisheng Mosque contains a towering minaret.


SOUTH CHINA SEA is the world's largest sea. According to the Guinness Book of Records, it covers 1,148,500 square miles. In the last 2,500 years mariners for Malaysia, China and Indonesia navigated the South China Sea to trade sandalwood, silk, tea and spices. Today it carries roughly a third of the world's shipping and accounts for a tenth of the world's fish catch. China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines all have 200-mile coastal economic zones in the South China Sea. All of these countries also claim the Spratly Islands which are in the middle of the sea

Below the South China Sea is an estimated $3 trillion worth of oil, gas and minerals. Fisheries in the South China Sea have been decimated by overfishing and polluting chemicals from shrimp farms and factories. Web Sites: Wikipedia Wikipedia South China Sea Virtual Library South China Sea Virtual Library

Shenzhen : See Separate Section

Pearl River Delta : See Separate Section

Bruce Lee

Shunde (two-hour boat ride from Hong Kong) is ancestral home of Bruce Lee. In 2006, it was announced that a Bruce Lee-themed park be built to honor than popular action move star with a statue of Bruce Lee, memorial hall, martial arts academy and conference center and a rollercoaster that let out a Bruce Lee howl. The park is expected to cost $25.5 million and was hoped to be completed in time for the Olympics in 2008 but didn’t make that deadline. The actress Betty Ting Pei donated a pair numchucks that Lee once used. Shunde was the hometown of Lee’s father and grandfather. Lee was born in San Francisco and only visited the town once when he was a kid.

Bruce Lee Museum (in Shunde) is a tea house filled Bruce Lee memorabilia that opened in 2002. As of 2006, 300,000 people had paid the $1 admission to see the collection of Bruce lee letters, posters and other stuff that will be placed in the theme park when it opens.

Seven-Star Crags (near Star Lake National Park near Zhaoqing, which is 110 kilometers from Guangzhou) are seven oddly-shaped limestone formations that form a pattern similar to the Dig Dipper. Sometimes compared with Guilin, the area around Seven-Star Crags also features five lakes, eight caves and 80 scenic spots. Nearby is Tripod Lake, which has many scenic spots, lakes and temples but is most famous for its diverse plan tlife.

Foshan in an industrial city of 5.8 million people with a large migrant worker population, many of whom work in factories that produce toys, ceramics, and household appliances sold in by Wall-mart, K-Mart and Home Depot and elsewhere. Foshan is also where the first case of SARS was reported and is a source of some of the worst pollution in the Pearl River Delta area.


Kaiping (160 kilometers west of Guangzhou) was declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2007. It is a place famous for it buildings that mix Eastern and Western styles of architecture in very idiosyncratic ways. The towns boast more than 2,000 fortified towers that were built in the late 1800s and early 1900s by Chinese immigrants who went toe the United States, South Asia and Australia to build railroads and prospect for gold and brought back western ideas about architecture along with money to build them.

The 2,000 towers, or daiolou, boast Greek columns, Baroque curves and Romanesque domes, The structures are built as fortifications because their owners were relatively rich and needed protection from bandits warlords and local militias. The buildings look odd because they were mainly built by designers and workers who had never seen Western buildings and were inspired by the descriptions and pictures supplied by the owners. UNESCO World Heritage Site Map: (click at the bottom): UNESCO Also try the UNESCO World Heritage Site Web site (click the site you want) World Heritage Site

Web Sites: Travel China Guide (click attractions) Travel China Guide ; government site; ; Wikipedia Wikipedia Getting There: Kaiping is about two hours from Guangzhou by bus caught from the Fungcun bus station near the Fengcun Metro stop. Lonely Planet (click Getting There) Lonely Planet

Shaoguan (220 kilometers north of Guangzhou, near the border with Hunan Province) is an important city in northern Guangdong Province. Web Site : Travel China Guide Travel China Guide

Wujiang River (near Shaoguan, between Pingshi and Luochang) is a popular place to go white water rafting. In this 30 mile section of river there are nine difficult rapids and 18 shoals. The most difficult stretch is near Luochang gorge where the river rushes through two vertical walls of rock.

Nanhua Buddhist Temple (20 kilometers from Shaoguan) is one of the four most famous temples in Guangdong Province. Among the interesting items found within this 12,000-square-meter temple are a cooking pot large enough to cook for 1000 people, an iron tower with over 1000 Buddha statues, and a monk's robe embroidered with golden thread.

Nanhu was visited by Marco Polo on his historic trip to China. There is a spring here, and in Marco Polo's time a mud-brick town that today is largely covered by sand. About 50 kilometers from Shaoguan is Danxia Mountain, one of the four most famous mountains in Guangdong Province.

Hongfa Temple in Guangdong Province is an important Buddhist site that attracts many monks, pilgrims and travelers.

Shantou (near Fujian border, 370 kilometers northeast of Hong Kong) is the home of a new Cultural Revolution museum that takes a critical look at the period. Opened in 2005 by a local Communist Party official, it features a number photographs and drawings of events from the period. The sign out front reads: “The Great Cultural Revolution was a mistake., put in motion by leaders, used by counterrevolutionary groups for their interests, causing turmoil that brought a serious disaster to the party, the country and the people.” Web Site: Lonely Planet Lonely Planet

Image Sources: Province maps from the Nolls China Web site. Photographs of places from 1) CNTO (China National Tourist Organization; 2) Nolls China Web site; 3) Perrochon photo site; 4); 5) tourist and government offices linked with the place shown; 6); 7) University of Washington, Purdue University, Ohio State University; 8) UNESCO; 9) Wikipedia; 10) Julie Chao photo site

Text Sources: CNTO, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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© 2009 Jeffrey Hays

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