|Name||广东 (guǎng dōng) ['vast' 'east'] Old Name Kwangtung WG|
|Population||106.84 million (7.77 %) [1st] comparison table|
|Area||178,000 km2 [68,726 mile2] (1.85 %) [15th]|
|GDP||63,452 (27.10 %) [11th]|
Guangdong has been China's southern gateway to the world for many centuries with trade as the life blood of the province. Guangzhou (named Canton by the Portuguese and known by that name until 1949) is positioned close to the estuary of the 珠江 Zhū Jiāng (or Pearl River) providing easy access to the South China Sea. The Pearl or West River is the third largest in China and drains much of the provinces of Guangxi and Guangdong. It has a complex pattern of outflows, one channel runs through Guangzhou, the main one to the west of Macau. The southern coast is dotted with small islands (over 700) and receives copious water from the rivers that flow south from the province's northern mountains to the sea. The coastal belt has fertile alluvial soil and the rocky coastline gives excellent fishing. The port of Guangzhou opened to foreign trade in 1685, and for two centuries had the monopoly of all foreign sea trade. Precious and fragile Jingdezhen porcelain was carried over the mountains from Jiangxi into Guangdong for export to Europe.
The province of Guangdong became part of China as long ago as the Qin dynasty. When the Qin empire collapsed the area broke away as the kingdom of Nanyue until re-unification in 111BCE. At this time Guangzhou was called Panyu ➚. It has been subject to immigration and emigration over the centuries and there is a good mixture of peoples within the province. It became involved in overseas trade from an early date, it was sacked by the Arabs and Persians in 758CE. International trade continued to grow, and in the Tang dynasty (879CE) Huang Chao led the Guangzhou massacre ➚ in which many foreign merchants died. As the southernmost province it was the last to be conquered by the Mongols; this took place at the Battle of Yamen in 1279 (near Jiangmen). The most widely spoken dialect after Mandarin and Wu is Cantonese or 'Yue', and due to emigration Cantonese is widely heard outside China too. For example English uses the Cantonese pronunciation of 锅 'wok' ➚ rather than the Mandarin 'guō'. Local people consider themselves Tang Chinese rather than Han Chinese as they do in northern China because of the flourishing of culture in the south in Tang dynasty times fulled by the migration of many people from the north. There has always been a sense of independence from, and rivalry with, Beijing far to the north.
Guangdong as the only port allowed to trade with foreigners became the flashpoint for the Opium Wars. All foreign trade from 1757 to 1841 was through the Cohongs ➚ on Shamian island, the only place foreigners were allowed to set foot on Chinese soil. Later the province was the crucible of the Taiping Rebellion (1850-64) when Hong Xiuquan led a revolt against the Manchu rulers based on a strange reading of Christian theology and a smattering of other philosophies. The melting pot of cultures at Guangzhou created the necessary conditions for such a revolt. Later on in 1895 and again in 1917, it was the turn of Sun Yatsen to foment revolution in Guangzhou when he set up his headquarters there. In 1926 the First United front of Communists and Nationalists set off from Guangdong on the Northern Expedition in an attempt to unify China under the Republic.
Guangzhou, the provincial capital, is called the ‘City of the Rams’ after a legend about its foundation. It is said that five gods came to Guangzhou in the form of five rams each with a sheath of rice in their mouth while the city was in severe famine. This precious food was distributed to the local people. The legend is commemorated by a famous sculpture of five rams in Yuexiu Park ➚. Guangzhou has been involved in trade for over two thousand years and dates back at least to the Qin dynasty. Guangzhou is composed of three distinct districts, the old inner city protected by an ancient wall. Centuries of conflict and rapid development have made traces of the ancient heritage hard to find. The Nanyue Palace Gardens show archaeological remains of the fleeting Nanyue kingdom founded on the break up of Qin dynasty China. It is well known for flowers, and has a large, annual flower fair just before Chinese New Year. Yuexiu Park is a popular park with pavilions, lakes and covered promenades, it has a memorial hall to Sun Yatsen. Zhenhai Tower, built in the Ming dynasty to advertise China's power to visiting ships, has become the provincial museum. Huangpu Military Academy ➚ Whampoa WG was located to the East of the City on the Pearl River and is now also a museum. Yellow Flower Hill (Huanghuagang 黄花岗起义) is a memorial garden to 72 revolutionaries who died in Sun Yatsen's 1911 uprising ➚. The Memorial Garden to the Martyrs ➚ commemorates Chiang Kaishek's attack in April 1927 against his Communist allies when 5,700 people were massacred. There are a number of temples in the city: Temple of the Six Banyan Trees ➚; Five Genies Temple ➚ and Guangxiao Si Temple ➚ as well as mosques and churches.
Rivalry with Hong Kong after the opening up of China has led to rapid industrialization of Guangdong in the last 30 years. For many years it has had the highest GDP of any province in China (if Hong Kong and Macau are included). New cities such as Shenzhen have been created within special development zones along the coastline. Up until 1988 Hainan was administered as part of Guangdong. Notable Universities include Jinan ; Sun Yatsen and Guangdong. Foshan to the south-west of Guangzhou has a fine Buddhist shrine and famous for handicrafts as well as soy sauce. Zhanjiang to the north of Hainan has some French colonial heritage and is China's naval base for the South China Sea as well as boasting tropical coral reefs. Shantou on the other hand was another treaty port taken over by the British after the Opium Wars.
Popular tourist spots also include: Xinghu Lake ➚; Mount Danxia, Renhua ➚; Mount Dinghu, Zhaoqing ➚; Qinghui Garden, Shunde ➚; Doctor Sun Yatsen's Memorial Hall, Guangzhou ➚; Pearl River Cruise ➚; Yangjiang Kite Festival ➚. Seven star rocks (Qixingyan) near Zhaoqing west of Guangzhou are made of towering limestone crags. The Conghua Hot Springs are located 50 miles [81 kms] north-east of Guangzhou has been developed into a major health spa. The water reaches 160 ° F [71 ° C] in one of the eleven hot springs.
Guangdong has a sub-tropical climate. Frequent rain and fog create a humid climate almost all year round. Tropical crops include lychees; bananas and, further to the north tea. It has the highest population of any province in China - over 100 million. Guangdong is home to a number of ethnic minorities. It is heavily industrialized and prosperous with rich farmland. Many industries are based on food processing and there is considerable silk processing too.
City populations for 2012, Province statistics National Bureau of Statistics 2014
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