Guangzhou, The Southern Pearl & China’s Third Largest City

By Mark Andrews

Serendib – SriLankan Airlines. October 2018

Guangzhou rounds out the big three Chinese cities but is much less known or visited than Beijing and Shanghai. Until recently it was better recognised overseas as Canton, a name almost synonymouswith trade and it is trade that is both key to the city’s historic sites and newfound prosperity.

Guangzhou developed on its importance as a port. From 1757 to 1842 under the Canton System it was the only Chinese port open to international trade. Shamian Island is the best start for delving into this past. Literally meaning ‘sandy surface’, the small artificial island in the Pearl River became a British and French Concession after the Opium Wars in 1859.

Unlike much of old Guangzhou the island remains largely as it was in colonial times. Wander along the tree lined streets – some pedestrianised – and immerse yourself in architectural splendour away from the city bustle. Unfortunately, most buildings are not open to the public but notable structures to look out for include the former British Canton Club and the restored Our Lady of Lourdes Chapel built by the French in 1892.

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Mark Andrews has written about everything from Japanese houses to heli hikes on New Zealand glaciers, test drives of Chinese cars to bar and restaurant reviews. He currently specialises in travel articles and reviews of Chinese cars plus articles about the Chinese auto industry.

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