Guangzhou (Chinese: 广州, known historically as Canton and nicknamed the City of Flowers), is the capital and largest city of Guangdong province in South China. Guangzhou is one of the major birthplaces of China’s ancient “maritime Silk Road”. Located on the Pearl River, about 120 km (75 mi) north-northwest of Hong Kong and 145 km (90 mi) north of Macau, Guangzhou serves as an important national transportation hub and trading port. One of the five National Central Cities, it holds sub-provincial administrative status.
Guangzhou is the third largest Chinese city, after Beijing and Shanghai, and the largest city in South Central China. In 2014 the city’s administrative area was estimated to have a population of 13,080,500. Some estimates place the population of the entire Pearl River Delta Mega City built-up area as high as 44 million including Guangzhou’s nine urban districts, and Shenzhen (10.36 million), Dongguan (8.22 million), Zhongshan(3.12 million), most parts of Foshan (7.20 million), Jiangmen (1.82 million), Zhuhai (0.89 million) and Huyang County of Huizhou (0.76 million) adjoining Dongguan and Shenzhen, with an area of about 17,573 square kilometres (6,785 sq mi). Guangzhou is part of one of the most populous metropolitan agglomerations on Earth. The total population of this agglomeration is over 54 million, including the population of adjacent cityHong Kong. Guangzhou is identified as a Beta+ Global city. In recent years, there has been a rapidly increasing number of foreign residents and illegal immigrants from the Middle East and Southeast Asia, as well as from Africa. This has led to it being dubbed the “Capital of the Third World”. As an important commercial city of China, Guangzhou is best known for the Canton Fair, which is a comprehensive trade fair, with the longest history, the highest level, the largest scale, the most complete exhibit variety, the broadest distribution of overseas buyers and the greatest business turnover in China. From 2013 to 2015, Forbes has ranked Guangzhou first among the top 100 best commercial cities on the Chinese mainland for three consecutive years. Guangzhou hosted the Asian Games in 2010.
Guangzhou’s earliest recorded name is Panyu (Chinese: 蕃禺; pinyin: Pānyú; Jyutping: Pun1 Jyu4), derived from two nearby mountains known as Pan and Yu in ancient times. Its recorded history begins with China’s conquest of the area during the Qin dynasty. Panyu expanded when it became capital of the Nanyue Kingdom in 206 BC; the territory of Nanyue included what is now northern Vietnam. The Han dynasty annexed the Nanyue Kingdom in 111 BC during the empire’s expansion southward, and Panyu became a provincial capital and remains so today. In AD 226, Panyu became the seat of Guang Prefecture (廣州/广州, Guǎngzhōu or 廣府/广府, Guǎngfǔ). Although Guangzhou replaced Panyu as the name of the walled city, Panyu was still the name of the surrounding area until the end of Qing dynasty. Today, Panyu is a district of Guangzhou south of Haizhu District separated from the rest of the city by the Pearl River. The Old Book of Tang described Guangzhou as important port in the south of China. In that period, direct routes connected the Middle East and China. A Chinese prisoner, who was captured in the Battle of Talas and stayed in what is now Iraq for twelve years, returned to China by ship on a direct route from Iraq to Guangzhou. Guangzhou was mentioned by various Muslim geographers in the ninth and tenth centuries, such as Al-Masudi and Ibn Khordadbeh. Guangzhou was known as Khanfu خانفو by the Arabs. According to a local Guangzhou government report, the city was sacked by Muslims on October 30, 758. The Arab historian Abu Zayd as-Sirafi mentioned Guangzhou several times in his book The Journey of as-Sirafi (Arabic: رحلة السيرافي), providing a description of daily life, food, business dealings, and the justice system of the city. As-Sirafi also reports that in 878 followers of the Chinese rebel leader Huang Chao besieged Guangzhou and massacred a large number of foreign merchants residing there. The foreign merchants were Arab Muslims, Persians, Jews and Christians. During the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period, Guangzhou was the capital of the Southern Han state which existed from 917 to 971, and was one of the most stable of the southern states. The region enjoyed considerable cultural and economic success in this period. From the tenth to twelfth century, Persian women were to be found in Guangzhou. Multiple women originating from the Persian Gulf lived in Guangzhou’s foreign quarter. Some scholars did not differentiate between Persian and Arab, calling them both “Dashi” (Chinese: 大食; pinyin: Dàshí), and some say that the Chinese called all women coming from the Persian Gulf “Persian Women”. The Moroccan traveler Ibn Battuta visited Guangzhou in the 14th century in his journey around the world. He described the manufacturing process of large ships in the city. During the Northern Song dynasty, the celebrated poet Su Shi (Shisu) visited Guangzhou’s Baozhuangyan Temple and wrote the inscription “Liu Rong” (Six Banyan Trees) because of the six banyan trees he saw there. It has since been called the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive in Guangzhou by sea, when explorer Jorge Álvares landed in May 1513, establishing a monopoly on the external trade out of its harbour by 1517. They were later expelled from their settlements in Guangzhou (Cantão in Portuguese), but instead were granted use of Macau as a trade base with the city in 1557. They would keep a near monopoly on foreign trade in the region until the arrival of the Dutch in the early 17th century.
Located in the south-central portion of Guangdong, Guangzhou spans from 112° 57′ to 114° 03′ E longitude and 22° 26′ to 23° 56′ N latitude. The Pearl River (Zhujiang), the third largest river of China, runs through Guangzhou and is navigable to the South China Sea. The city is part of the Pearl River Delta and the city centre is situated next to the Baiyun Mountain, which is locally referred to as “the lung of the city” (市肺). The total area under the city’s administration is 7,434.4 square kilometres (2,870.4 sq mi). The elevation of the prefecture generally increases from southwest to northeast, with mountains forming the backbone of the city, and the ocean comprising the front. Tiantang Peak (天堂顶, meaning Peak of Paradise in Chinese), which stands 1,210 metres (3,970 ft) above sea level, is the highest mountain in Guangzhou.
Located just south of the Tropic of Cancer, Guangzhou has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa) influenced by the East Asian monsoon. Summers are wet with high temperatures, high humidity, and a high heat index. Winters are mild and comparatively dry. Guangzhou has a lengthy monsoon season, spanning from April through September. Monthly averages range from 13.6 °C (56.5 °F) in January to 28.6 °C (83.5 °F) in July, while the annual mean is 22.6 °C (72.7 °F), the relative humidity is approximately 68 percent, whereas annual rainfall in the metropolitan area is over 1,700 mm (67 in). With monthly percent possible sunshine ranging from 17 percent in March and April to 52 percent in November, the city receives 1,628 hours of bright sunshine annually, considerably less than nearby Shenzhen and Hong Kong. Extreme temperatures have ranged from 0 °C (32 °F) to 39.1 °C (102.4 °F). The last recorded snowfall in the city was on January 24, 2016.
Transportation Public transport Rapid transit
When the first line of the Guangzhou Metro opened in 1997, Guangzhou was the fourth city in Mainland China to have an underground railway system, behind Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai. Currently the metro network is made up of nine lines, covering a total length of 266 km (165 mi). A long term plan is to make the city’s metro system expand to over 500 km (310 mi) by 2020 with 15 lines in operation. As of January 2016 the lines of Guangzhou Metro include:
- Line 1: Guangzhou East Railway Station–Xilang Station
- Line 2: Jiahewanggang Station–Guangzhou South Railway Station
- Line 3
– South route: Tianhe Coach Terminal Station–Panyu Square Station via Tiyu Xilu Station – North route: Airport South Station–Tiyu Xilu Station
- Line 4: Huangcun Station–Jinzhou Station
- Line 5: Jiaokou Station–Wenchong Station
- Line 6: Xunfenggang Station–Changban Station
- Line 8: Fenghuang Xincun Station–Wanshengwei Station
- Guangfo Line: Yangang Station–Kuiqi Lu Station
- APM: Linhexi Station–Canton Tower Station
The first section of the Haizhu Tram line opened on 31 December 2014.
Buses, taxis and motorcycles
The Guangzhou Bus Rapid Transit (or GBRT) system which was introduced in 2010, is the world’s second largest Bus Rapid Transit system with 1,000,000 passenger trips daily and 26,900 pphpd during the peak hour (second only to the TransMilenio BRT system in Bogota). The system averages 1 bus every 10 seconds or 350 per hour in a single direction and contains the world’s longest BRT stations—around 260 m (850 ft) including bridges. In 2009, it was reported that all 9,424 buses and 17,695 taxis in Guangzhou would be operating on LPG-fuel by 2010 to promote clean energy for transport and improve the environment ahead of the 2010 Asian Games which were held in the city. At present, Guangzhou is the city that uses the most LPG-fueled vehicles in the world, and at the end of 2006, 6,500 buses and 16,000 taxis were using LPG, taking up 85 percent of all buses and taxis. Effective January 1, 2007, the municipal government has banned motorcycles in urban areas. Motorcycles found violating the ban will be confiscated. The Guangzhou traffic bureau claimed to have reported reduced traffic problems and accidents in the downtown area since the ban.
Guangzhou’s main airport is the Baiyun International Airport in Huadu District; it opened on August 5, 2004. This airport is the second busiest airport in terms of traffic movements in China. It replaced the old Baiyun International Airport, which was very close to the city centre and failed to meet the city’s fast-growing air traffic demand. The old Baiyun International Airport was in operation for 72 years. Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport now has three runways, with two more planned. The Terminal 2 is under construction and will open in 2018.
Guangzhou is the terminus of the Beijing–Guangzhou, Guangzhou–Shenzhen, Guangzhou–Maoming and Guangzhou–Meizhou–Shantou conventional speed railways. In late 2009, the Wuhan–Guangzhou High-Speed Railway started service, with multiple unit trains covering 980 km (608.94 mi) at a top speed of 320 km/h (199 mph). In January 2011, the Guangzhou–Zhuhai Intercity Railway started service at an average speed of 200 km/h (124 mph). In December 2014, the Guiyang–Guangzhou High-Speed Railway and Nanning-Guangzhou Railway began service with trains running at top speeds of 250 km/h (155 mph) and 200 km/h (124 mph), respectively. Intercity transport to Hong Kong Guangzhou is well connected to Hong Kong by train, coach and ferry. The Guangdong Through Train departs from the Guangzhou East railway station and arrives at the Hung Hom KCR station in Kowloon, Hong Kong. The route is approximately 182 km (113 mi) in length and the ride takes less than two hours. Frequent coach services are also provided with coaches departing every day from different locations (mostly major hotels) around the city.
There are daily high-speed catamaran services between Nansha Ferry Terminal and Lianhua Shan Ferry Terminal in Guangzhou and the Hong Kong China Ferry Terminal, as well as between Nansha Ferry Terminal and Macau Ferry Pier in Hong Kong.
According to the official People’s Daily newspaper, Cantonese is the first language for half of the 14 million residents of the provincial capital Guangzhou, while the other half speak mainly Standard Mandarin. Other languages such as Hakka are spoken in significant numbers as well. The migrant population from other provinces of China in Guangzhou was 40 percent of the city’s total population in 2008. Most of them are rural migrants and they speak Mandarin and other local dialects from their hometowns. They have taken on many jobs that the locals are unwilling to do. Guangzhou is also known to have a sizeable African population, including people from Nigeria, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Significant components of the culture of Guangzhou include:
- Cantonese cuisine
- Cantonese opera
- Cantonese people
- Guangdong music (genre)
- Guangzhou Opera House
- Guangzhou Symphony Orchestra