Guangzhou, Republic of China

Home of the Cantonese
Chinese Name: 广州市
Area (Total): 7,434 square km
Population: 11.54 million (2018)
Coordinates: 23°07′55″N 113°15′58″E
January Average Temperature: 13.9 °C (57.0 °F)
July Average Temperature: 28.9 °C (84.0 °F)
Average Elevation: 21 meters
Phone Area Code: 020
Postal Code: 510000
Time Zone: CST (UTC+8)


Guangzhou, also known globally as Canton, has been a Chinese trading and commercial center for centuries. Guangzhou was the host for Asian Games in 2010, and although the city has gone through many developments, it still has its pleasant peace where narrow leafy alleys and streets hide the temples and mosques. In such places still, there are signs of the colonial times and Dim Sum eateries too, which create a beautiful atmosphere for the visitors of the city.

Guangzhou is a modern city and is filled with modern architectural landmarks such as the Zhujiang New Town, Canton Tower, and the magnificently designed Opera House, which is a work by the infamous architect, Zaha Hadid.

Top Attractions in Guangzhou

  • Cruise on Pearl River
  • Canton Tower
  • Guangzhou Opera House
  • Temple of the Five Immortals
  • Ancestral Hall of Chen Family
  • Shamian Island
  • Yuexiu Park
  • Chimelong Tourist Resort
  • Baiyun Mountain
  • Dr. Sun Yat-sen's Memorial Hall
  • Yuyin Garden
  • Dongshan Lake Park


General information about Guangzhou

Guangzhou is a southern Chinese city and also the capital and most populated city in the province of Guangdong. Guangzhou is known by the name Canton and also other pronunciations such as Kwangchow or Kwong Chow too.

Guangzhou is located on the Pearl River and situated 120 kilometers (75 miles) north-northwest of Hong Kong and 145 kilometers (90 miles) north of Macau. Guangzhou’s history date back to over 200 BC and the city has been an essential maritime terminus for centuries and still is a major transportation hub and port and also is among the three largest cities of China.

Guangzhou and its surrounding cities, Shenzhen, Zhongshan, Foshan, and Dongguan, form one the densest population centers on earth and the most populated center in China. Guangzhou is one of the nine China’s National Central Cities, and it has sub-provincial status administratively.

By the end of 2018, Guangzhou’s population and its administrative area estimated nearly 15 million, which showed a near 4% increase since the previous year. Guangzhou has an increasing number of foreign residents and immigrants from the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe. All these foreigners moving to Guangzhou has brought it the nickname “Capital of the Third World.” Guangzhou has also been listed as an Alpha global city.

In 2008, 40% of Guangzhou’s total residents from Chinese nationals were from other provinces of China who had migrated to the city. Real estate market in Guangzhou is one of the most expensive real estate markets in China alongside other metropolises of Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen.

Many of sub-Saharan African nationals in the late 90s and early 2000s, left their initial settlements in the Middle East and other areas of Southeast Asia and moved in large numbers to Guangzhou in China due to the 1997/98 Asian financial crisis.

For a long time, Guangzhou was the only port city where foreign traders had access, and during the First Opium War, the British took the city. After the war, because Guangzhou had lost its monopoly of trade, much of its trade had been lost to Shanghai and Hong Kong, China’s other port cities. Although Guangzhou lost much of its trade, it resumed its role as a significant trade hub.

Today, Guangzhou is known for the annual Canton Fair, which is the largest and also oldest Chinese trade fair. Guangzhou is a famous commercial city and was ranked as the best commercial city in mainland China for three consecutive years from 2013 to 2015 by Forbes.



Guangzhou old town was close to Baiyun Mountain on the eastern banks of Pearl River which is about 129 kilometer (80 miles) from the South China Sea’s junction. Located on the Pearl River Delta and its alluvial plain where the Humen Strait helped protect its connection to the south Chinese sea. The Pearl River is China’s 4th largest river, and today, the Baiyun Mountain near Guangzhou is referred to as the city’s “lung” by locals.

With the ocean consisting the front of Guangzhou and the mountains shaping its backbone, the city’s elevation mostly increases from southwest to northeast. Guangzhou’s highest elevation point is 1,210 meters (3,970 ft) above sea level where Tiantang Peak (Heavenly Peak) stands.

Guangzhou has very rich lands in case of minerals, and there are 47 types of minerals mined from the areas. Guangzhou has 820 ore fields where 18 of them are large and medium-sized oil deposits. The key minerals of Guangzhou are cement limestone, granite, albite, salt mine, potassium, mirabilite, ceramic clay, syenite, fluorite, nepheline, marble, mineral water, and geothermal mineral water.

Due to its location in southern China’s water-filled lands, Guangzhou owns vast water areas including rivers and water systems, which account for 10% of the total land area. These streams and rivers make the landscape more beautiful and also significantly keep the city’s ecological environment stable.


Guangzhou has direct jurisdiction over eleven districts and is a sub-provincial city of China. Among these districts, Liwan and Yuexiu are the core areas for the Cantonese culture and have been the center of the city since the imperial era of China. Another division of Guangzhou, Tianhe, used to be a farming village years ago now has been reshaped as a new business center and has some of the biggest shopping malls and highest skyscrapers of the city.

The best road of Guangzhou for tourists is Zhongshan Road, which is a 9 kilometers highway that cuts through the Guangzhou downtown horizontally. This highway is consisting of eight sections, and it covers a significant number of tourist attractions and the city’s famous restaurants from Zhongshan 6 Road to Zhongshan 8 Road. This part of the city has a well-planned subway network too from Changshou Lu, Chen Clan Academy, Ximenkou to Gongyuanqian by using Metro Line 1.


Climate Guangzhou, like other nearby cities, is a humid subtropical one which is heavily influenced by the East Asian Monsoon. Due to this climate, the city experiences many rainfalls throughout the year, which averagely measures 1.736mm.

The winters of Guangzhou city are mild and the average temperature in January, which is the usually the coldest month of the city, is 13.9°C (57°F). Because of the mountains standing high in the north, Siberian air masses will not reach Guangzhou, and cold weather is very rare for the residents. Although the Siberian air masses mostly will not pass, some small portion may reach the city which would push the temperatures lower and to 5°C (41°F) but below that almost never happens but because of the humid winds accompanied by the powerful cold winds, it can feel cold. Snowfalls are an exceptionally rare occurrence in Guangzhou, and the last one happened in the city was after 87 years in 24th January 2016.

Similar to the other southern Chinese cities, summers can get very hot and humid at the same time. Based on the fact that in July the city’s humidity is 82% and the average high temperature is 32°C (90°F), the weather can be really sweltering which creates a really unpleasant atmosphere. The heat during the day may go over 35°C (95°F) occasionally.

The best months to visit Guangzhou are in October and November when the weather is most pleasant. April and September are the months when most of the rainfalls happen.

History of Guangzhou

Mythology and Name

There is a myth about the city and its creation, which includes five rams carrying sheaves of rice and celestial being riding on them. According to this legend, the celestial beings bestowed blessings on the land and also offered the sheaves as symbols of abundance and prosperity. When the divine being left, the rams they rode turned into stone, and it was after that when Guangzhou started to flourish and develop.

Based on this myth, multiple popular nicknames have been created for Guangzhou including Wuyangcheng (City of Five Rams), Yangcheng (City of Rams), and Suicheng (Sheaves of Rice City). Guangzhou main roads are also plentiful with flowers which earned it the nickname Huacheng (City of Flowers). Based on what the historians say, Guangzhou was built in 214 BC, but then it was called “Panyu.” Guangzhou was the name of the prefecture where Panyu was situated. However, later, when the city grew larger, Guangzhou became the name for the city.

The name Canton was (and still is) used for the city and its people, culture, cuisine, and language. The name comes from a different pronunciation of the original name which the English borrowed from the Portuguese.

Prehistoric Eras

There has been a settlement in the area where Guangzhou stands now called Nanwucheng. This settlement dates back to around 1,100 BC, but there are some traditional Chinese histories where Nanwuchen’s foundation goes back to 314–256 BC, when Ji Yan, king of Zhou was reigning. This settlement has been said that was merely a stockade of bamboo and mud.

Imperial Era

During the Nanyue kingdom and after the fall of the Qin Dynasty, Panyu, situated on the east bank of Pearl River, was chosen to be the capital by Zhao Tuo. It was established, in 204 BC and based on the evidence; it was a commercial center and the items found there, show that there were commercial relations between Southeast Asian, Indian, and even African.

During the reign of the Han Dynasty, Panyu turned into a provincial capital. There were roads connection the Middle East to China then, but the relationships were not always well. The Muslims attacked the city on 758. Then in 878, a Chinese rebel named Huang Chao massacred Muslims, Christians, Jews, and Parsis in the city.

Guangzhou has a very colorful history being a famous port city. The British East India Company built a trading post in Guangzhou in 1711. Later in 1757, Guangzhou was selected as the only port for foreign nations where business transactions were allowed. This routine was in progress until in 1842 four other ports were given this opportunity by signing the Treaty of Nanking. This made Guangzhou lose its exclusive advantage and head toward industrialization.

Guangzhou, as an important port city, was a part of “Maritime Silk Road.” Maritime Silk Road was a trade route which connected Southern China with, South-East Asia, India, Middle East, and Africa.

Modern Era

In the last years of the Qing Dynasty, Guangzhou was the place where the failed revolts like the 1895 Uprisings and overthrowing of the Qing Dynasty in 1911 happened. There were 72 rebels who died in the failed overthrowing of the Qin Dynasty whose bodies were later found and in order to remember and honor them, the Huanghuagang (Yellow Flower Mound) Mausoleum was built.

All of these failed attempts at revolutions eventually lead to the Xinhai Revolution. The Xinhai Revolution was successful and overthrew the Qing Dynasty from power and set ways to establish a republic in China.

Guangzhou still played its role as a major city after the new Chinese government and saw unfortunate events such as the Shakee Massacre where over 200 Chinese people died due to the gunfire of the British, French, and Portuguese forces.

During the end of the Chinese Civil War, Guangzhou became the capital of the Republic of China after Nanjing was taken in 1949. In the same year, the People’s Liberation Army gained access to Guangzhou, and when the massive migration to Macau and Hong Kong was happening, the Haizhu Bridge across the Pearl River was blown up by the Nationalists. Following that, the Cultural Revolution considerably changed the city, and a large number of the city’s temples, churches, monuments, etc. were destroyed.

The People’s Republic of China started creating projects such as new housing on the banks of the Pearl River to better adjust the city’s boat people to have a life on land. Since the 1980s, the city’s close distance to Hong Kong and Shenzhen and its connections to overseas Chinese, resulted in Guangzhou becoming one of the first beneficiaries of Chinese Economic Reform. In the 1990s, beneficial tax reforms came, which greatly helped the city with development and industrialization.

People of Guangzhou


Han Chinese people form most of the population in Guangzhou. Most of the local Cantonese people of the city speak Cantonese as their first language, and on the other hand, most of the immigrants of the city speak forms of Mandarin, and in 2010, each half of the city had one of these languages as their mother tongue.

Nowadays, most of the younger generations of the city tend to speak Mandarin rather than Cantonese, which have made the Cantonese speaking elders to use Cantonese when communication with their younger children and grandchildren. One of the reasons that the use of Cantonese is in decline is due to the fact that the local authorities discourage the use of Cantonese in schools and also the nearby Mandarin-speaking city of Shenzhen has had some influence on this matter.

Religious Beliefs

Guangzhou during the Qing Dynasty had approximately 124 religious pavilions, temples, and halls. Now, other than the Buddhist Association, the city has also a Taoist Association, a Jewish community, and much history regarding Christianity and Islam.


There are a few temples in Guangzhou where still Taoism and Chinese folk religion are practiced. One of the most important temples is the Temple of the Five Immortals where the five immortals who thought the people rice cultivation. There were also five rams whom the immortals rode, and when they left, the rams turned into stones.

The City God Temple is another place of worship for Taoism and Chinese folk religion in Guangzhou. Similar to most of southern China, Guangzhou sees some ancestral events such as the Ghost Festivals and Tomb Sweeping Day.


Like many other cities of China, Buddhism is an essential part of Guangzhou. The city has had Buddhist temples since the Nanyue kings in 233 AD. It is also said that the missionary Bodhidharma has visited Panyu (the old place of today’s Guangzhou).

In 520, Emperor Wu of Liang commanded building the Baozhuangyan Temple and the Xilai Monastery as a place to keep Cambodian Buddhist saints relics. After a visit by Su Shi during the Northern Song and composing of a famous poem, the Baozhuangyan Temple started to be referred to as the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. The monastery had the same destiny, and after its reconstruction during the Qing Dynasty was renamed to the Hualin Temple (Flowery Forest Temple).

The Republican campaign to Promote Education with Temple Property and also the Maoist Cultural Revolution both caused much damage to the temples of the city, but after the opening up in 1980, many of them have been renovated.


Nestorian Christians reached China through the Silk Road, but in 845, during Emperor Wuzong they were massively persecuted and by the year 1000, they were extinct. Qing-era put a ban on foreigners, limiting missionaries and the ban stayed until it was terminated after the First Opium War. However, before that, the Protestant Robert Morrison had the opportunity to do some work during his service with the British factory.

Guangzhou’s Sacred Heart Cathedral, aka “Stone House” is the house of Guangzhou’s Catholic Archdiocese. The Canton Christian College was built in 1888 alongside Hackett Medical College for Women which was built in 1902; both were founded by missionaries but now are part of Guangzhou’s Lingnan.

After the 1980s and the opening up of China, interest in Christianity has increased, but Guangzhou’s government puts pressure on underground churches that refrain from registration. Dominic Tang, the Catholic archbishop, was sent to prison for 22 years without a trial. However, both the Vatican and China’s Patriotic Church are recognizing his present successor.


Since the early history of Islam, Guangzhou has had a Muslim community. The native followers of China are known as the Hui in Guangzhou, and they have a mosque name Huaisheng Mosque, which was built during the reign of the Tang dynasty. The Muslims attacked the city on 758. Then in 878, a Chinese rebel named Huang Chao massacred Muslims, Christians, Jews, and Parsis in the city.

Today Guangzhou has many halal restaurants for its resident Muslims and visitors.

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