Guangdong Province — the home of Guangzhou (Canton), Shenzhen and several Special Economic Zones — is a manufacturing powerhouse that at one time produced roughly one third of China’s exports. It used to be China’s richest province in terms of per capita GDP but now ranks eighth. It is still the richest overall (with a total GDP of US$1.56 trillion in 2019) and is China’s most populous province, a status it achieved in 2005, with 114 million people, more than all but a dozen or so countries in the world. But even that doesn’t tell the whole picture. Today it is estimated 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.

Formerly known as Kwangtung or Canton Province in English, Guangdong Province is where the Deng Xiaoping economic reforms began opening up the Chinese economy around 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. By 2000, Guangdong was beginning to be eclipsed by Shanghai. But that didn’t mean Guangdong had become an economic or manufacturing slouch. In 2005, Guangdong Province was home to 60,000 factories producing US$300 million worth of goods a day. In the 2010s, the province prospered thanks to Wang Yang, the ambitious provincial party secretary who partly staked his reputation on promoting the well-being of Guangdong's residents by trying to gauge their level of happiness. He is now often seen as Xi Jinping’s right hand man.

Guangdong Province covers 179,800 square kilometers (69,400 square miles) and has a population density of 630 people per square kilometer. According to the 2020 Chinese census the population was 126 million. About 57 percent of the population lives in rural areas. Guangzhou is the capital and largest city, with about 13.2 million people. Some parts of the province are so densely populated that 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.

The population of Guangdong was 126,012,510 in 2020; 104,303,132 in 2010; 85,225,007 in 2000; 62,829,236 in 1990; 59,299,220 in 1982; 42,800,849 in 1964; 34,770,059 in 1954; 27,210,000 in 1947; 32,453,000 in 1936-17; 32,428,000 in 1928; 28,011,000 in 1912. [Source: Wikipedia, China Census]

Han Chinese make up the overwhelming majority of the province's population. The largest subgroup of Han Chinese in Guangdong are the Cantonese people, followed by the Teochew people in Chaoshan and the Hakka people in Huizhou, Meizhou, Heyuan, Shaoguan and Zhanjiang. There is a small Yao population in the north. Other smaller minority groups include She, Miao, Li, and Zhuang. A 2005, survey counted 79.1 million permanent residents and 31 million migrants who lived in the province for at least six months of the year.

Tourism-wise, Guangdong boasts historical cities like Guangzhou, Zhaoqing, Chaozhou, Foshan and cultural relics, such as 100,000-year-old Maba Man, the mysterious treasures of the Nanyue Kingdom of the early Western Han Dynasty and archaeological traces related to the Maritime Silk Road. Known as Lingnan (the area on the south of the Five Ridges), Guangdong is home to four famous mountains: Danxia Mountain in the north, Xiqiao Mountain in Nanhai, Luofu Mountain in Boluo and Dinghu Mountain in Zhaoqing. Seven-star Rocks is surrounded by ranges and waters. Among the modern scenic spots and attractions are Splendid China, Window of the World, the New Yuanming Palace, Chimelong Paradise, Guangzhou Ocean World, Happy Valley in Shenzhen,Guangzhou Space Wonders, Evergreen Resort, waterside villages and the Lotus World.

Tourist Office : Guangdong Provincial Tourism Bureau, 185 West Huanshi Rd, 510010 Guanzhou, Guangdong,, China, Tel. (0)-20-8667-7426, fax: (0)-20-8666-5039. Maps of Guangdong:

Geography and Climate of Guangdong

Guangdong Province is situated in the southern part of Chinese mainland and adjoins Hong Kong and Macao, covering an area of 179,800 square kilometers (69,400 square miles). Guangdong faces the South China Sea to the south and has a total of 4,300 kilometers of coastline. Leizhou Peninsula is on the southwestern end of the province. There are a few inactive volcanoes on Leizhou Peninsula. The Pearl River Delta is the convergent point of three upstream rivers: the East River, North River, and West River. The river delta is filled with hundreds of small islands. The province is geographically separated from the north by a few mountain ranges collectively called the Southern Mountain Range.. The highest peak in the province is 1,902 meter-high Shikengkong.

Guangdong borders Fujian province to the northeast, Jiangxi and Hunan provinces to the north, Guangxi autonomous region to the west, and Hong Kong and Macau Special Administrative Regions to the south. Hainan province is offshore across from the Leizhou Peninsula. Some of the Pratas Islands which the Chinese government say has traditionally been regarded as part of Guangdong Province are administered by Taiwan.

Cities around the Pearl River Delta include Dongguan, Foshan, Guangzhou, Huizhou, Jiangmen, Shenzhen, Shunde, Taishan, Zhongshan and Zhuhai. Other cities in the province include Chaozhou, Chenghai, Kaiping, Nanhai, Shantou, Shaoguan, Xinhui, Zhanjiang, Zhaoqing, Yangjiang and Yunfu.

Guangdong has a humid subtropical climate, though nearing a tropical climate in the far south. Winters are short, mild, and relatively dry, while summers are long, hot, and very wet. Average daily highs in Guangzhou in January and July are 18 °C (64 °F) and 33 °C (91 °F) respectively, although the humidity makes it feel much hotter in summer. Frost is rare on the coast but may happen a few days each winter well inland.

South China Sea

The South China Sea lies south of Guangdong Province and Hong Kong. By some reckonings it is the world's largest sea, covering 3,500,000 square kilometers (1,400,000 square miles). A marginal sea that is part of the Pacific Ocean, the South China Sea stretches from the Karimata and Malacca straits to the Strait of Taiwan and carries tremendous strategic importance. Today it carries roughly a third of the world's shipping, carrying over $3 trillion in trade each year, and accounts for a tenth of the world's fish catch, which are critical for the food security of millions of people in Southeast Asia.

In the last 2,500 years mariners for Malaysia, China and Indonesia navigated the South China Sea to trade sandalwood, silk, tea and spices. 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 US$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.

The South China Sea is south of China; east of Vietnam; west of the Philippines; east of the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra, up to the Strait of Singapore in the western, and north of the Bangka Belitung Islands and Borneo. In recent years, China’s claim that the entire sea is it exclusive possession has been a hot international issue and a point of outrage with China. Web Sites: Wikipedia Wikipedia South China Sea Virtual Library South China Sea Virtual Library

Pearl River Delta

The Pearl River Delta (northwest of Hong Kong) is the convergent point of three upstream rivers: the East River, North River, and West River. The river delta is filled with hundreds of small islands Cities and industrial towns around the delta include Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Huizhou, Dongguan, Foshan, Jiangmen, Shunde, Taishan,n Zhongshan and Zhuhia.

The Pearl River Delta has a population of around 120 million, made up of permanent residents and a "floating population" of migrant laborers. If Hong Kong and Macau are included the Pearl River Area were an independent country it would be East Asia's forth largest economy and its second largest exporter. The Pearl Delta area exports as much as Mexico or South Korea.

China's first Special Economic Zones (SEZ) opened here in Shenzhen and Zhuhai — as well as in Shantou in Guangdong and Xiamen (Amoy) in Fujian Province — in 1979. In the beginning factories here did most of the manufacturing once performed in Hong Kong. In the early 2000s, the Pearl River Industrial Area drew an astonishing $2 billion of foreign investment a month and accounted for one third of China's exports. Investors and companies are still attracted by cheap labor, good managers and easy access to the outside world. Labor-intensive, export-oriented industries include makers of toys, shoes, Christmas decorations, small gifts and textiles. More advanced factories assemble computer keyboards, televisions, watches motorcycles, and dishwashers. IBM, Samsung, Honda and Wal-Mart are among the companies tat have a major stake here,

Special Economic Zones in Guangdong Province, the Hong Kong area and the Pearl River Delta is sometimes referred to as the “world's factory." As of 2006, there were more than 200,000 factories here. At that time the factories in and around Shenzhen, Dongguan Guangzhou and the Pearl River Delta annually churned out $36 billion worth of goods, nearly a third of all the goods that are exported abroad. They produced 40 percent of the playthings sold in the U.S., including Barbies, Ninja Turtles and Mickey Mouse.

There area now embraces Nansha Port Area in the Port of Guangzhou and large container ports in Shenzhen at Guangzhou. There were plans for a tunnel linking Shenzhen and Zhuhui. But in the end it was decided to build 32-kilometer Shenzhen–Zhongshan Bridge connecting those two major cities and expected to be completed in 2024. As the Pearl River itself: in Guangzhou (Canton) it is such a thick dark soup it looks like one could walk across it.

Economy of Guangdong

Guangdong is China’s richest province. It gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019 was 10.767 trillion yuan (US$1.56 trillion), or $3.079 trillion in terms of PPP (purchasing power parity, a measurement of prices in different countries that uses the prices of specific goods to compare the absolute purchasing power of the countries' currencies). GDP per capita in 2019 was 85,738 yuan (US$12,956, $24,425 PPP), the eighth highest in China. The economy of Guangdong is about equal to that of Spain, Russia or South Korea. Guangdong has had the largest GDP of any province in China since 1989, with Jiangsu and Shandong in second and third place. Guangdong is responsible for 11 percent of the China' $14.4 trillion GDP.

According to state statistics, Guangdong's GDP in 2011 reached CNY 5,267 billion, or US$815.53 billion and it nominal GDP was well over half of India's using 2012 exchange rates. Art that time Guangdong had the fourth highest GDP per capita among all provinces of mainland China, after Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Liaoning. The province contributed approximately 12 percent of the PRC's national economic output.

Guangdong home to the production facilities and offices of a wide-ranging set of multinational and Chinese corporations. Guangdong also hosts the largest Import and Export Fair in China called the Canton Fair in Guangdong's capital city Guangzhou. Guangdong at one time 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 went out filled with exports.

Guangdong Province is where the Deng Xiaoping economic reforms began opening up the Chinese economy around 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. 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 US$300 million worth of goods a day. At that time the economy in Guangdong was growing at 15 percent a year, higher than the rest of China. At that time the region was going through a makeover 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 wanted to open new factories there were told to look elsewhere. In the 2010s, the province prospered thank to Wang Yang, the ambitious provincial party secretary who partly staked his reputation on promoting the well-being of Guangdong's residents and by trying to gauge their level of happiness. He is now often seen as Xi Jinping’s right hand man.

Guangdong Cuisine

20111101-Wikicommons Dim Sum Siu Maai.jpg
Dim Sum Siu Maai
"Yue cuisine" describes Guangdong dishes and embraces local dishes from Guangzhou, Chaozhou, and Dongjiang. Its basic characteristics include meticulous material selection and various characteristic raw materials and flavoring. Basic raw materials cover not only chicken, duck, fish and shrimps, but also wild animals, such as snake, racoon dog and monkey as well as dogs and occasionally cats. The main cooking methods are frying and stewing. The cuisine is well-known for its clean, light, crisp and fresh taste. Some typical menu items are Roasted Piglet, Salted Chicken, Fried Crisp Chicken and Oyster Sauce Beef. . [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science Museums of China, China virtual museums, Computer Network Information Center of Chinese Academy of Sciences, ~]

Cantonese cuisine is known for its subtle flavors and fresh ingredients and the lightness and variety of the lightly spiced but colorful dishes, which are often stir-fried to preserve the texture and flavor. Cantonese dim sum and seafood are popular throughout the world. A Cantonese meal can range from a quick snack from a food stall to an elaborate 12-course banquet, featuring delicacies such as shark fin soup, abalone, bird's nest soup, roast suckling pig, and deep-fried prawn paupiette.

Cantonese cooking features a lot of rice and fresh vegetables. Food is parboiled, steamed, or quickly stir fried. The Cantonese love seafood, and freshness is of the utmost importance. According to a popular Cantonese saying "if it doesn't move, we don't eat it." Most seafood restaurants have tanks filled with fish and other sea creatures, with patrons picking out what they want and telling the waiters how they want it prepared. Cantonese prefer their fish steamed, which they say brings out freshness. Fish is also grilled, poached, fried and broiled.

In many ways what the world knows as Chinese food is Cantonese cuisine. Popular Cantonese dishes include sweet and sour pork, shark fin soup, bird's nest soup, barbecued pork ribs, diced chicken with walnuts, slow-cooked soup, roast goose in pickled plums, Cantonese stuffed bean curd,prawns in chili sauce, roast pork ribs, steamed chicken in peanut oil, fried prawns with salt, and diced beef with garlic.

Popular seafood dishes are made with prawns, garoupa (a white, meaty, slightly sweet fish), squid, and octopus. They include fried octopus, steamed prawns in garlic sauce, steamed garoupa with ginger and scallions, fried shrimp balls, baked lobster with cheese sauce, three-colored lobster and dragon and tiger fight. Abalone, crab and lobster are often extremely expensive. Favorite deserts include fresh melon and rice flour coconut balls.

Sights in Guangdong

Seven-Star Crags (near Star Lake National Park near Zhaoqing, 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.

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


Kaiping (160 kilometers west of Guangzhou) 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 to 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 Hours Open: 8:30am-5:30pm - Admission: 180 yuan per person;Getting There: Kaiping is about two hours from Guangzhou by bus. Take a bus from Guangdong Provincial Bus Station to Kaiping; Take a bus from Zhongshan Balu Bus Station to Kaiping; Self-driving: driving through Kaiyang Highway and State way 325, the travel time is over one hour. Lonely Planet (click Getting There) Lonely Planet

Kaiping Diaolou: UNESCO World Heritage Site

Kaiping Diaolou and Villages were declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2007. Diaolou are fortified multi-storey towers mainly located in Kaiping City of Guangdong Province. They feature a unique architectural style, which combines an elegant Western style with the earthy countryside in southern China. The number of Diaolou is more than 3,000. Now there are 1,800 units scattered over 15 counties. They were first built in late Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and were booming in early 1920s with the development of overseas Chinese. Diaolou served as the filming site of the famous movie "Let the Bullets Fly."

Yang Yuanshi

According to UNESCO: “ ”Kaiping Diaolou and Villages feature the Diaolou, multi-storeyed defensive village houses in Kaiping, which display a complex and flamboyant fusion of Chinese and Western structural and decorative forms. They reflect the significant role of émigré Kaiping people in the development of several countries in South Asia, Australasia and North America, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. There are four groups of Diaolou and twenty of the most symbolic ones are inscribed on the List. These buildings take three forms: communal towers built by several families and used as temporary refuge, residential towers built by individual rich families and used as fortified residences, and watch towers. Built of stone, pise, brick or concrete, these buildings represent a complex and confident fusion between Chinese and Western architectural styles. Retaining a harmonious relationship with the surrounding landscape, the Diaolou testify to the final flowering of local building traditions that started in the Ming period in response to local banditry.

The site is important because: 1) “The Diaolou and their surrounding villages demonstrate Outstanding Universal Value for their complex and confident fusion between Chinese and western architectural styles, for their final flowering of local tower building traditions, for their completeness and unaltered state resulting from their short life span as fortified dwellings and their comparative abandonment and for harmonious relationship with their agricultural landscape. 2) The Diaolou represent in dramatic physical terms an important interchange of human values-architectural styles brought back from North America by returning Chinese and fused with local rural traditions-within a particular cultural area of the world. 3) The building of defensive towers was a local tradition in the Kaiping area since Ming times in response to local banditry. The nominated Diaolou represent the final flourishing of this tradition, in which the conspicuous wealth of the returning Chinese contributed to the spread of banditry and their towers were an extreme response. 4) The main towers, with their settings and through their flamboyant display of wealth, are a type of building that reflects the significant role played by émigré Kaiping people in the development of several countries in South Asia, Australasia, and North America, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the continuing links between the Kaiping community and Chinese communities in these parts of the world.

Danxia Mountain and Its Sexy Rock Formations

Danxia Mountain(50 kilometers from Shaoguan) is one of the most famous mountains in China. Formed from a reddish sandstone that has eroded over time forming a range of mountains, it’s name is used to describe a type of geological landform found throughout southern China. Danxia is well-known for it curvaceous cliffs and unusual rock formations, some of them quite suggestive. Yang Yuan Stone, Yin Yuan Stone, Breasts Stone, and Sleeping Beauty have earned the mountain the moniker "natural sex culture museum." Particularly famous two formations: the phallus-like stone pillar called the Yangyuan ("male/father stone") and the labia-like Yinyuan hole.

Covering an area of 319 square kilometers, Danxia Mountain geopark features a number of scenic spot areas including Shaoshi, Bazhai, Aizhai, Jinjiang Long Corridor, Elder Peak and Xianglong Lake. Aizhai and Jinjiang Long Corridor Scenic Spot Areas showcase the natural beauty of mountain and water scenery. Rock climbing is a popular activity. Boat trips are offered along the river at the base of the mountains. There are a number of temples dotting the mountains along with numerous scenic walks. [Source: Lu Na,, October 12, 2010]

Travel Information: There are many great hotels in Shaoguan; Hotel de Royce, Xihe Liuhua Hotel and Orange House. All provide leisure, restaurants and entertainment; Admission: 120 yuan (High Season); 100 yuan (Low Season) Cable car tickets: 55 yuan (round trip); 40 yuan (one-way up); 30 yuan (one-way down) Location: Danxiashan National Park, Shaoguan City, Guangdong Province, Tel: +86-751-6291683 Getting There: By Bus: There are many special tourist buses to Danxiashan leaving from Shaoguan Railway Station. Buses come every 15 minutes and ticket prices are 15 yuan per person.

Danxia Landforms

In 2010, Mount Danxia Landforms were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. According to UNESCO: “ China Danxia is the name given in China to landscapes developed on continental red terrigenous sedimentary beds influenced by endogenous forces (including uplift) and exogenous forces (including weathering and erosion). The inscribed site comprises six areas found in the sub-tropical zone of southwest China. They are characterized by spectacular red cliffs and a range of erosional landforms..These rugged landscapes have helped to conserve sub-tropical broad-leaved evergreen forests, and host many species of flora and fauna, about 400 of which are considered rare or threatened.

“China Danxia is an impressive and unique landscape of great natural beauty. The reddish conglomerate and sandstone that form this landscape of exceptional natural beauty have been shaped into spectacular peaks, pillars, cliffs and imposing gorges. Together with the contrasting forests, winding rivers and majestic waterfalls, China Danxia presents a significant natural phenomenon. China Danxia contains a wide variety of well developed red-beds landforms such as peaks, towers, mesas, cuestas, cliffs, valleys, caves and arches. Being shaped by both endogenous forces (including uplift) and exogenous forces (including weathering and erosion), China Danxia provides a range of different aspects of the phenomenon of physical landscape developed from continental (terrestrial) reddish conglomerate and sandstone in a warm, humid monsoon climate, illustrating both the range of landforms in relation to the forces and processes that formed them. The component parts represent the best examples of "least eroded" to "most eroded" Danxia landforms, displaying a clear landform sequence from "young" through "mature" to "old age", and with each component site displaying characteristic geomorphologic features of a given stage.

“China Danxia is a serial property comprising six component parts (Chishui, Taining, Langshan, Danxiashan, Longhushan, and Jianglangshan) found in the sub-tropical zone of southeastern China within approximately 1700 kilometers crescent shaped arc from Guizhou Province in the west to Zhejiang Province in the east. The process of its development is characterised by a particular rock sequence, tectonic background, climatic conditions, erosional processes and landforms and these processes have been presented as an interim model.

“Due to the combined endogenic (tectonic uplift) and exogenic (climatic, erosion, weathering) forces, and other factors, the Danxia landforms have been developed in red sedimentary sequences continuously from the Neogene until the present. The six component parts represent the most important examples of "least eroded" to "most eroded" Danxia landforms, providing a range of different aspects of the phenomenon, and illustrate both the range of landforms in relation to the forces and processes that formed them, together with a range of associated landscapes.”


Shantou and Its Now Closed Cultural Revolution Museum

Shantou (near Fujian border, 370 kilometers northeast of Hong Kong) was the home of a Cultural Revolution museum that took a critical look at the period. Opened in 2005 by a local Communist Party official but closed in 2016, it featured a number photographs and drawings of events from the period. The sign out front read: “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. Shantou, a fishing port formerly known as Swatow. is now a manufacturing hub with 13 million people, Web Site: Lonely Planet Lonely Planet

Didi Kirsten Tatlow wrote in New York Times: The idea to build China’s first museum dedicated to the Cultural Revolution was always risky. Amid yellow pagodas pointing heavenward... a small group of volunteers built memorial arches across the park’s steep roads and paths lined with riotous subtropical vegetation. The site, in the Chenghai district of Shantou, was an appropriate place for memory — Buddhist pagodas are associated with the dead, and many local victims of the Cultural Revolution lie here, many buried in mass graves. They raised a statue of Liu Shaoqi, a former state president persecuted by Mao who died in prison in 1969, and of Marshal Ye Jianying, a military leader from Guangdong Province, where Shantou is situated. Scholars and relatives of victims across China donated stones engraved with stories and admonitions. “The 10 years of hardship alarm the ghosts and gods,” ran one inscription on a wall. The museum’s centerpiece, a stately building of green, red and yellow tiles, described the brutality of the campaign in documents and photographs. Shantou lies more than 1,800 kilometers (1,100 miles south) of Beijing. Until 2016, that distance seemed to offer protection. “The sky is high and the emperor far away” runs a popular saying. Thousands of Chinese came to learn, to remember and to publicly mourn the victims, the only significant spot in the country where they could do so. [Source: Didi Kirsten Tatlow, New York Times, October 2, 2016]

When it was open, AFP reported: “No signs along the long and dusty mountain road point the way to the Cultural Revolution museum complex...The mountaintop museum on the outskirts of Shantou chronicles an uncomfortable chapter of history that China's ruling Communist Party would rather forget. Neighbour was pitted against neighbour, child against parent, and the Red Guard student movement was tasked with purging ideological "foes", often bloodily, as Mao forcefully reasserted his power over the party and the country following the disaster of his Great Leap Forward and the subsequent famine. The Communist Party officially declared Mao "70 percent right and 30 percent wrong", and has said the Cultural Revolution dealt China "the most severe setback and the heaviest losses" since the foundation of the People's Republic in 1949. But it has never allowed a full reckoning of the turmoil that took place between 1966 and 1976. [Source: AFP, August 15, 2014]

“The main exhibition hall contains a day-by-day account of the decade of violence and ideological frenzy, alongside hundreds of images of Mao and other party leaders, public shamings, beatings and killings. Two vast red columns proclaim: "On heaven and earth, this calamitous history exists here alone. In all the world, what's most important is the ability to judge right from wrong."

“The privately funded museum was founded--with neither support nor outright opposition from Communist authorities--by Peng Qi'an, the former deputy mayor of Shantou, on China's southern coast. Peng's brother, a teacher, was beaten to death and Peng, now 83, listed for execution. It was never carried out, for reasons unknown.

“The sprawling complex includes long black walls bearing the names of several thousand victims, and since 2006 hundreds of their relatives have gathered every August 8, the anniversary of the Communist Party Central Committee's decision to launch the Cultural Revolution. China's official Xinhua news agency previewed last year's ceremony and quoted Peng saying: "I promised the dead souls we would mourn them on this particular date every year, even if I have to climb up the mountain to their graves in a wheelchair." But this month's event was called off at the last minute, apparently under pressure from the authorities. Shantou officials could not be reached for comment, but Peng stayed away from the museum....More than 70 local residents killed during the Cultural Revolution are buried near the museum, thousands of others were persecuted, and many more are still haunted by the events of the time.

Founder of the Shantou Cultural Revolution Museum

Didi Kirsten Tatlow wrote in New York Times:“Peng Qi’an, a former local Communist Party official and the museum’s founder, spent two decades scraping together donations from private individuals and local government departments to create the Cultural Revolution Museum, which opened in the rolling hills of the Chenghai Pagoda Scenic Area in 2005. [Source: Didi Kirsten Tatlow, New York Times, October 2, 2016]

“More than 400 people were killed and 5,000 were injured in factional fighting in the Chenghai district alone, according to a history published by the local party committee. One of the victims was 46-year-old Lin Hua, Mr. Peng’s older brother and a dean at Chenghai High School, who was buried here in 1967, Mr. Peng said. Mr. Peng was on an execution list for being “a henchman of the Yu-Lin counterrevolutionary clique,” two local leaders who fell out of favor. For reasons Mr. Peng still does not understand, he was taken off the list, he said.

““We thought, as the country became more open and moved forward, the museum would improve,” said Mr. Peng, a sinewy man with a square jaw and bottlebrush gray hair, in an August interview in downtown Shantou’s Longhu district. “Spring would come. But we didn’t know that spring didn’t come, winter did.”

Visitors to the Cultural Revolution Museum

"We came to this Cultural Revolution museum to cherish the memory of the victims, our compatriots," Liu Jingyi, 41, a business owner who brought his son and daughter, told AFP. "I talk to my children about the events of the past, and I tell them that in the future, they must conduct themselves with integrity and be upright, honest people," he said. "I feel quite ignorant about history. I came here to try to understand things better," said a lone 20-year-old student surnamed Chen, perusing inscriptions of hundreds of crimes from the era: "Capitalism". "False Marxism". "False leftist, true rightist". [Source: AFP, August 15, 2014]

A 72-year-old retiree, who declined to give his name for fear of retribution, said that in pre-Communist China his grandfather had been involved in legal proceedings that saw several people in Shantou executed. During the Cultural Revolution, "the responsibility for this was placed on the head of my father" and he was killed, he said, determined to speak out but his quiet tone revealing his anxiety.The family were declared "landowners"--the worst of the Communist Party's "five black categories" of enemies. "China today is still very factionalised," he went on, tears welling in his eyes. "Some things are still not very clear. I worry that I might be harmed once again."

“Under President Xi Jinping--whose chosen themes of anti-corruption and frugality echo some of Mao's edicts – China has tightened its limits on freedom of expression, jailing human rights lawyers, journalists and activists.“In recent months official media have publicised the confessions of several former Red Guards, including Song Binbin, a powerful general's daughter who participated in one of the first and most notorious killings of a teacher.“But such candour has strict limits. “The ruling party has allowed general criticism of the Cultural Revolution "because that's the official stance", said Barry Sautman, a professor of social science at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Any discussion that touched the roles of specific leaders "would be a big problem", he said. "Politicians do what they do best, which is exercise power. If it's to protect themselves, they'll be sure to do so."”

Closing of the Shantou Cultural Revolution Museum

Didi Kirsten Tatlow wrote in New York Times:“Signs appeared in late April 2016, a few weeks before the 50th anniversary of the start of the Cultural Revolution: “Because of the need to adjust the function of the park, repairs will be carried out.” Workers arrived bearing concrete, propaganda banners and metal scaffolding. They smoothed concrete over the names of victims, wrapped “Socialist Core Values” banners around the main exhibition hall, placed red-and-yellow propaganda posters over stone memorials to the terror, and raised scaffolding around statues of critics of Mao. [Source: Didi Kirsten Tatlow, New York Times, October 2, 2016]

“The literal cover-up took Mr. Peng by surprise. “We built this museum in good faith,” he said. “We wanted to mourn the dead, to remember the history, to learn lessons from it, and never let the tragedy of the Cultural Revolution happen again.” “Dressed in a white singlet, blue-and-white pajama pants and brown plastic sandals, Mr. Peng said he believed that the order to cover up the museum was not local, but had come from “higher up.” He declined to discuss the matter further. Government offices in Shantou were called for comment, but either the calls were not picked up, or those answering hung up when the subject was mentioned. Associates of Mr. Peng declined to answer questions, saying it was not convenient.

“The cover-up was breathtakingly thorough. Along a winding hill road, a giant concrete wall that bore the somber words “Soul Garden Pagoda” now sports an upbeat party slogan: “China Dream.” The propaganda banners around the main hall advocating values like patriotism and justice entomb the exhibits inside. “Everything is locked up in the main museum building, and now it’s shut,” Mr. Peng said. The golden statue of Marshal Ye, who is credited with helping end the Cultural Revolution upon Mao’s death in 1976, stands encased in metal sheets, discoloring in the dark. Scaffolding blocks access to the statue of President Liu on a large, open-air platform, where people mourned.

“Faced with the collapse of decades of work, Mr. Peng appeared bewildered, eager to point out that the museum had been memorial, not political, in intent. “The museum was “completely simple and in line with the party’s definition” of those times, he said. “We had no other intentions.” At the bottom of a hill by a reservoir where people rent pedal boats, a heart-shaped stone the size of an armchair rests against scrubby trees. A yellow-and-red plastic sign stretched across it reads, “Socialist Core Values,” obscuring a different message underneath, said a middle-aged man working at a food stall nearby. “It said, ‘Those who live in our hearts live forever,’” he said, before walking away without giving his name.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: CNTO (China National Tourist Organization),, UNESCO, reports submitted to UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, China Daily, Xinhua, Global Times, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in July 2021

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