Destination guide Guangzhou

Welcome to study abroad in Guangzhou China!

Guangzhou, located near Hong Kong and Macau, is also known to many in the West as ‘Canton’. The city sprawls around one of China’s most magnificent rivers, the Pearl River. Even though Guangzhou isn’t as famous as its peers Shanghai and Beijing, it is the third largest city in China and one of the country’s most important economic engines. It’s difficult to grasp the size of Guangzhou, which is inhabited by 13 million people, but you’ll get a picture when you catch a glimpse of the lights of 40 million people living around the Pearl River Delta from the descending airplane’s window.

Guangzhou river

Contents

Live in one of China’s fastest growing cities

The city is one of the most populous, energetic and rapidly growing places in China and, even though heavily influenced by the consumerism of the neighbouring Hong Kong, it has a rich cultural tradition which is showcased overall in the city, just under the flashy surface of the modern metropolis.

Though heavily industrialized, Guangzhou also features large parks and quaint gardens that have increased in the city landscape in the recent years as Guangzhou has been given a makeover. In addition, the many elegant churches, villas and mansions of Guangzhou’s past have been unearthed, and wandering around the back lanes of the city often brings you to hidden gems, temples, shops and little gardens, that have been untouched for generations.

It is also in Guangzhou where the most famous of Chinese cooking, the Cantonese style kitchen, is at its best. There are more restaurants per capita in Guangzhou than anywhere else in China. According to an old saying, the Cantonese will eat anything that flies, except airplanes, and anything with four legs, as long as it’s not a table.

Guangzhou is one of the most industrialized areas in China and known especially for the massive Import and Export Fairs that are arranged every April and October and fill the city with businessmen from all over the world. Most of the world’s leather products and 90 % of the world’s watches are also made in the Guangzhou region. It’s also one of the most inexpensive place to buy almost anything, including high-end merchandise.

Guangzhou University is located in the University Mega Center, an island on the Pearl River that hosts ten different institutions of higher education. This modern area has all necessary features, such as a shopping mall with restaurants, sports facilities, a library, and excellent transportation connections to Guangzhou.

Guangzhou stadium

Facts and History

Country: People’s Republic of China
Population: 12,8 million
Area: 3,843 sq. km
Language: Cantonese and Mandarin
Currency: Renminbi (RMB)
Electricity: 220 Volts
Religion: Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism and Christianity
Time Zone: UCT + 8

Guangzhou’s recorded history dates back more than two thousand years and it’s played an important role throughout its history, under different occupiers and dynasties. Guangzhou has been especially significant as a port town and many ship routes from, for example, the Middle East ended their voyage to Asia in Guangzhou’s harbour.

During the 700-800s A.D. Guangzhou was widely featured in Arab geographers and historians’ works. For example the Arab historian Abu Zayd as-Sirafi provided detailed descriptions of the daily life, food, business transactions, and the justice system of the already highly sophisticated city in his book The Journey of as-Sirafi.

The first Europeans, the Portuguese, arrived in Guangzhou by sea in 1514 and tried to unsuccessfully establish a trade monopoly in the city. By the 1700s Guangzhou was trading with, in addition to the Portuguese, with the Spanish, Arabs, Indians, French, Dutch and the English. It was considered to be in the top three cities of the world by the 1750s based on the volume of trade and people going through its ports every year.

The large number of foreign merchants from different countries and religions, including Arab Muslims, Persians, Jews and Christians, have added their rich cultural heritage to the city’s blueprint and you can catch glimpses of the different influences in everything from architecture to food. The British dominated the city during the Opium Wats of the mid 1800s and they’ve left one of the most visible marks on Guangzhou, to the island of Shamian.

Japanese forces occupied Guangzhou during the Second World War, a period of trauma for many local people. When the Communists took over the city in 1949 many of the city’s more prominent capitalists fled to the nearby Hong Kong and Macau. The city was in an economic lull for a fer decades till the reforms of Deng Xiaoping in the 1970s after which Guangzhou’s hunger for growth has proved to be endless.

Climate

Located just south of the Tropic of Cancer, Guangzhou has a humid subtropical climate and is influenced by the East Asian monsoon. Summers are humid and hot and winters mild and relatively dry. Extreme temperatures have ranged from 0 °C (32 °F) to 39.1 °C (102 °F) but average temperatus hovers around 22 °C (70 °F). The last recorded snowfall in the city was in January 1893.

Guangzhou street view

Best of Guangzhou

The Pearl River flows through the city from West to East. An evening cruise is a great way of seeing the city. The trip from Guangzhou Bridge to Shamian Island is beautifully lit in the evenings, when the bright neon lights are reflected on the surface of the river. The cruises are about two hours long and are easiest to book via a hotel or similar.

Enning Road is the perfect Sunday excursion destination, and has enough to see for several of your Sundays in Guangzhou. Enning Road is located in the area known as Xīguān which was the commercial centre of old Canton.

Bāhé Academy is one of the absolute highlights on Enning. The academy acts as a guild hall for the traditional Cantonese opera practitioners and it opened its doors first already in 1889. The academy provided lodging, schooling, medical and funeral services to the Cantonese opera starts and you can still meet masters of this art when visiting the academy. There are Bāhé Academies, i.e. sanctums for the Chinese opera tradition, in 20 countries around the world but the one on Enning road is the first one.

Take a right when you leave the academy and walk for about a block before taking another right into a lane called Yongqing Erxiang. The second-last house in the lane is Luányú Táng a 200-year-old club house for actors who performed the martial arts and acrobatic roles in Cantonese opera. The club still gives free martial arts lessons for children on weekends. Find out about the walk-in ‘jam’ sessions that are arranged multiple times a week as well as the most famous alumni of the school, Lǐ Hǎiquán, who is Bruce Lee’s father.

Designed by the famous British architect, Zaha Hadid, the Guangzhou Opera House is a majestic example of the modern architectural gems in China today. It is the largest performance venue southern China and it’s almost entirely composed of glass panels that are pieced together to form gentle curves.

Quing Ping Market is the best-known pet market in all of China where walking through the maze-like streets is a real adventure. There are Chinese medication, lobsters, snakes, seahorses, monkeys, cats, dogs, turtles and birds for sale. Smaller animals, such as scorpions and grasshoppers, are sold by the cup.

Shamian Island is the former British area from the colonial era. The bridges were closed every night at 10 p.m. and learning Chinese was punishable by death for the inhabitants of the island. Some of Canton’s oldest buildings are located on the beautiful, peaceful island.

Yue Xiu Park is the largest park in Canton, Yue Xiu Park, covers a total area of 93 hectares and has several man-made lakes and a large swimming pool. The park is known for the Zhenhai tower and the Sculpture of the Five Rams, which is the city’s symbol. The Zenhai tower has a city museum which showcases Guangzhou’s history from the very beginning.

The Temple of the Chen Family, Chenjia Si, was built by the wealthy Chen Family during the Quing Dynasty. The temple is also known as the Chen Classical Learning Academy, because it used to serve as an altar and a school, where students were trained for military exams. The temple has beautiful frescos, mosaics and clay sculptures.

Shopping

Mall of the World is a new (opened in 2011), gigantic shopping centre which features over 400 boutiques, including the very high-end of the spectrum. There are stylish restaurants, bars, cutting-edge electronics shops and a 3D IMAX cinema.

Beijing Road has been one of the most significant commercial streets and shopping areas in Guangzhou since the 17th century. There are two famous department stores along the street, Guangzhou Department Store and Xin Da Xin Department Store, in addition to a stream of other stores.

Taikoo Hui is another spanking new multifaceted complex in the Tianhe Central Business District. Over 70% of the stores there are international brands’ boutiques, including Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Prada, Dior, Chanel and Gucci.

Transportation

Guangzhou has a metro system, a bus network and trams for traveling within the city. An extensive railway network runs from Guangzhou to other cities and provinces. Ferries run from Guangzhou to Hong Kong. Many expressways have been built to ease the jammed roads.

The nearest airport, Guangzhou Baiyun International, is the third largest airport in China.

Food and Drink

Cantonese cuisine is renowned both within China as well as all around the world. The cuisine is extremely versatile and always made from the freshest possible ingredients. Chefs take pride in making sure that the food never tastes greasy and that the flavors are well-balanced. Steaming and stir-frying are very popular methods of preparing food.

Rice and noodles are stamples of Cantonese cuisine, as are almost all kinds of meat, except for lamb or goat. You can try snake or intestines or stick to tofu, if it feels safer. The food is very affordable; you can enjoy a large meal for a few euros. Tap water is not drinkable so buy bottled water instead.

Super Star Seafood restaurant is across the street from the Shamian Park. The ingredients are visible in the aquariums. Take your pick from snakes, shrimps and clams.

Guangdong Victory Hotel’s first floor restaurant serves magnificent dim sum, which resembles steamed ravioli.

Lian Xiang Lou is located on Dishifu Lu Street, which is also a good place for finding affordable clothes stores. The restaurant is famous for its moon cakes, which are filled with lotus paste.

Nanyuan, which is said to be the best restaurant in Canton, is located on Qian Jin Street. The restaurant serves delicious dim sum, and fish and poultry dishes, such as chicken steamed in Maotai liquor.

Currency

The renminbi, or Chinese Yuan, is the currency of the People’s Republic of China. One yuan is divided into 10 jiao and one jiao is divided into 10 fen.

One euro is approximately 10 yuan. Money can be exchanged at four and five star hotels as well as banks.

Vaccinations

Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) and Tetanus-diphtheria should be kept up-to-date. Hepatitis A and B are recommended. Japanese encephalitis is recommended for those who are planning on spending a month or more in rural areas or who are going to spend a lot of time outdoors in rural areas after dusk.

Consult your doctor before leaving.

Safety

Guangzhou is a very safe location for students; however, it’s always good to keep in mind a few things: Beware of pick-pockets in crowded areas. Make sure your money belt is not visible. Carry your purse so that it can’t be snatched from your shoulder and do not leave valuables in your hotel room.

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