Posted by: beaufortninja | June 20, 2012

Guangzhou’s Cultural Significance

Last week I went to a city museum where I learned quite a bit about Guangzhou and thought I’d share what I gathered. If you’re into history like me then you might enjoy it! Also, the image above is a diagram showing the expansion of the city over the centuries.

The entire Guangzhou region used to be known as “Panyu”. In 214 BC Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China, united Lingnan and formed three regions: Nanhai, Xiang, and Guilin. Because of the two hills near the city, one named Pan Hill, the other named Yu Hill, the region became known as Panyu City.

Then in 220 AD, Panyu became part of the territory of the Kingdom of Wu during the famous Three Kingdoms Period. In 226 AD, the governor reorganized the region and Panyu was under the control of Guangzhou. From then on, Guangzhou became a major center for commerce, government, and culture.

Later, because of its unique geographic situation, Guangzhou was the first city to be influenced by Western culture. In the 20th century, the city became the base of China’s bourgeois-democratic revolution and the first revolutionary civil war.

Guangzhou also has a reputation for being a very inclusive city and has welcomed many different religions to settle in the area. Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, Confucianism, and Islam all have a strong presence and have been here for hundreds or thousands of years.

Architecture throughout much of historic Guangzhou is also renowned in China for being a unique fusion between foreign and Chinese styles. One of the most famous examples of the combined styles is Xiguan Mansion. Another notable building designed by local people is Aiqun Hotel, the first modern building of modern times. In addition, the first modern shopping arcade, Qilou, has become a symbol of modern architecture within the city.

The performing arts are also very important to the local Cantonese culture and they have developed their own form of Chinese opera which is very popular with older people and its popularity rivals that of Beijing opera. Jianggu is also locally renowned and is the art of recreating and presenting Cantonese novels and folktales.

Guangzhou isn’t lacking in the visual arts department either. Traditional folk handicraft art is as old as the city itself and there are a variety of styles and disciplines. Ivory, jade and rosewood are all perfect mediums for the city’s sculptors while porcelain painting and embroidery are considered to be cultural heritages.

That’s the general overview but I’ll be going into more of the local art styles and other things later on. I hope it was informative!

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Responses

  1. This is an awesome rundown of the history of Guangzhou. I find the history of religious diversity in some Chinese cities to be fascinating. Before I traveled to China, I had no idea there was much of any religious presence besides Buddhism.

    I definitely want to check out Guangzhou now!

    • I think it’s funny that if you ask a Chinese person if they are religious or not, they’ll always say no. Then ask them if they go pray at the temple. They’ll probably say yes. Anyway, thanks for reading!

  2. This was really interesting. I didn’t know so many religions co-existed in China. Is it still so today?

    • There’s a mosque, built in Chinese style too, a cathedral, big church, and several Christian altars that I’ve seen here. Anyone can go. So the religious persecution that foreign media rages about seems to be incredibly overblown.


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