Guangzhou

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Guangzhou (Chinese: 广州; pinyin: Guǎngzhōu) — known historically as Canton or, less commonly, Kwangchow — is the capital and largest city of Guangdong province, People’s Republic of China. Located on the Pearl River, about 120 km (75 mi) north-northwest of Hong Kong and north-northeast of Macau, Guangzhou is a key 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 and southern China’s largest city. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 12.78 million. Some estimates place the population of the entire Pearl River Delta Mega City built up area as high as 40 million including Shenzhen (10.36 million), Dongguan (8.22 million) and most parts of Foshan (7.19 million), Jiangmen (4.45 million), Zhongshan (3.12 million) and a small part of Huizhou adjoining Dongguan and Shenzhen, with an area of about 20,000 square kilometres (7,700 sq mi). In 2008 Guangzhou was identified as a Beta World City by the global city index produced by the GaWC, the Globalization and World Cities Research Network.
In both 1930 and 1953, Guangzhou was promoted to the status of a municipality, but each time promotion was rescinded within a year.
Japanese troops occupied Guangzhou from October 21, 1938, to September 16, 1945, after violent bombings. In the city, the Imperial Japanese Army conducted bacteriological research unit 8604, a section of unit 731, where Japanese doctors experimented on human prisoners.
After the fall of the capital Nanjing in April 1949, the Nationalist government under the acting president Li Zongren relocated to Guangzhou.
Communist forces entered the city on October 14, 1949. This led the nationalists to blow up the Haizhu Bridge as the major link across the Pearl River and to the acting president’s leaving for New York, whereas Chiang Kai-shek set up the capital for the Nationalist government in Chongqing again. The communist government soon renamed the city’s English name to “Guangzhou”. A massive exodus followed as many fled to nearby Hong Kong and Macau, and the provincial capital’s international status dwindled. The urban renewal projects of the new communist government improved the lives of some residents. New housing on the shores of the Pearl River provided homes for the poor boat people. Reforms by Deng Xiaoping, who came to power in the late 1970s, led to rapid economic growth due to the city’s close proximity to Hong Kong and access to the Pearl River.
As labour costs increased in Hong Kong, manufacturers opened new plants in the cities of Guangdong including Guangzhou. As the largest city in one of China’s wealthiest provinces, Guangzhou attracts farmers from the countryside looking for factory work. Cantonese links to overseas Chinese and beneficial tax reforms of the 1990s have aided the city’s rapid growth.
In 2000, Huadu and Panyu were merged into Guangzhou as districts, and Conghua and Zengcheng became county-level cities of Guangzhou.
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 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.
Many historic sights including the Western Han Nanyue King’s Tomb Museum, and the Bright Filial Piety Temple tell us the ancient history of the city. Baiyunshan Scenic Area and Yuexiu Park showcase the natural scenery of the city. Shanmian Island retains some of its former grandeur in the mansions with its exotic mansions. The Guangzhou Museum of Art is one of the best in China and is definitely worth a visit. Apart from that the real highlights are the city’s markets and vast bazaars.

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