A key trading point of China for over 2,500 years, Guangzhou, with its unique mix of traditional Chinese and European influence, is a must visit for a tourist in southern China.
A walk down the leafy streets in Guangzhou, leads to temples, traditional dim-sum eateries, pockets of colonial-era heritage and much more. This is the beating heart of the megalopolis that hums along the banks of northern part of the Pearl River Delta. Third biggest city of China, Guangzhou remains an important trading port even today and has a culturally diverse society. Whether it is the exquisite European classical architecture or high- rise modern commercial buildings, the traditional Lǐngnán architecture or the Cantonese delicacies, the city is worth a trip. “Guangzhou city is a bit like Hong Kong. It shares some similarities in lifestyle, the ways of people’s lifestyles, food, culture, etc. Though, people in Guangzhou are interested more in business than politics, they’re still sensitive to national policies, as this business leading city makes profit from them. While a touch of politics makes it more creative than Hong Kong, it strangely keeps the traditions and culture to its core, making it a city full of magic,” says Fuwenjun of China International Travel Mart.
While the cutting-edge architecture is scattered all over the city, the capital of the Guangdong province, Guangzhou, also known as Canton by European colonialists in the 19th century, has the country’s tallest and slenderest structure- the Canton Tower often called as Slim Waist tower for its appearance. It has become the landmark of modern Guangzhou – recognisable for its twisted shape that lights up in rainbow colours at night.
Canton Tower, the highest tower in China, at 600 metres, is one of the most striking pieces that come handy with lots of unique experiences.
While ascending the tower, you can not only enjoy the viewing platform, at 488 metres up, which offers a breath-taking panorama across Guangzhou and the ultra-modern Zhujiang New Town neighbourhood, but also experience the Spider Walk, a transparent spiral aerial ladder. At 450 metres high, the tower has the highest ferris wheel in the world.
The tallest horizontal sky wheel Bubble Tram has 16 crystal sightseeing ball cabins and takes 20 minutes to give a 360-degree view of the entire city. At 485 metres, the Sky Drop is a 30-metres free fall, which ensures visitors have some adventure and a touch of an extraordinary view of the horizon. Another fascinating piece of architecture is the Guangzhou Opera House, which according to the architect was inspired by two rocks washed away from the Pearl River. The Opera House was opened in 2010, at the foot of Zhujiang Boulevard across from the new Guangdong Provincial Museum. Adopting state of the art technology in its design and construction it is slated to be a lasting monument to the new millennium, confirming Guangzhou as one of Asia’s cultural centres.
CRUISE IN PARADISE
While standing on the top deck during a night cruise, watch the sparkling lights light up on both banks of the Pearl River, and the reflection of bright rays of a full moon dancing on the rippling waters, creating a magical charm in the atmosphere to make you unwilling to blink even once. The Pearl River Cruise leaves an everlasting impression in your mind. The night tour that starts from White Goose Pool ends either at the Guangzhou Bridge in the east or the Baihedong (White Crane Cave) in the south that gives a taste of history, culture and beauty of the flower city. The one-hour cruise captures stunning sights of Zhuhai Square, European architecture of Shamian Island buildings, skyscrapers and famous bridges including Guangzhou Bridge, Renmin Bridge and more. The 2,000 km long Pearl River is one of the biggest in China and in South East Asia, with well-developed large commercial centres along it.
In Guangdong, almost every village has its own lion dance troupe, which is one of the traditional customs during the Spring Festival. With rousing drumbeats in the background known as Awaken Lion, the Cantonese lion dance has the appearance of real lion. The Awaken Lion is auspicious and said to bring liveliness, prosperity and good fortune. The dancers are professionals of martial arts and their costumes depict a mix of culture and history. The frame of the head is made up of more than 200 bamboo canes to give a look of the lion. The fur is made of cotton gauze, linen paper and laser paper with coloured drawings containing cultural connotations of three kingdoms- the yellow sword pattern represents the benevolence of Liu Bei, the red blade represents the loyalty of Guan Yu, and the black spear represents the bravery of Zhang Fei. Bringing the unity between man and lion, the dancers portray the wildness and loveliness of the beast through their moves. The dance that has close association with Chinese Kung Fu sees the dancers on the poles about two metres high, shifting, dodging spinning and more.
HERITAGE IN STYLE
Strolling in the Yuexiu Park is another unmissable activity in Guangzhou. The 860,000 sqm park is a perfect combination of cultural relics and ecological tourism. Surrounded by tress, lakes, mountains, the park offers a unique combination of history and nature. The stone sculpture of Five Rams in the park is the emblem of the city and is one of the most famous structures in Guangzhou. Legend has it that more than 2,000 years ago, the city was a barren land with people suffering from famine. One day five immortals in five-colour garments came riding on five rams, playing their legendary music and held sheaves of rice in their mouths. The immortals left the sheaves of rice for the local people, gave blessings to the city and made it a rich and populous place. While the rams left, they turned into stones. The park also has Zhenhai Tower, the Ming Dynasty City Wall, and Square Cannon to catch a sight of. For history buffs, the ancestral temple of the Chen Dynasty is a must. During the Qing dynasty reign in 1888, the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall was built, which was then an ancestral shrine. Later, it was used as the Chen Clan’s Industry College and middle schools afterward. Now it is home to the Guangdong Folk Arts Museum. With nine halls and six interspaced courtyards, all in Lingnan style architecture, the temple is the largest, best preserved, and best decorated ancient architecture existing in Guangdong province. The temple is now the site of the Museum of Guangdong Folk Arts and Crafts, which offers scenes that depict stories from Chinese literature and folklore.
If you are one of those that spend hours copying the slick moves of the great Kung Fu masters, travel about 60 kilometres away from the Guangzhou city to Foshan, where you can find the ancestral house of the legendary Chinese Kung Fu master, Bruce Lee. The small, grey-brick courtyard house contains old photos of Lee on the walls, an altar, a musty bedroom and a wooden dummy used for martial arts training, with its typical Foshan folk style residence is now considered a museum. Kung Fu, a martial art, both a form of exercise with a spiritual dimension of concentration and self-discipline and a primarily unarmed mode of personal combat often equated with Karate or Tae Kwon Do has its special place in Foshan city for its southern style of the art. The Foshan Hongsheng Martial Arts Centre is a deeply influential place with a large following. It was established in 1851 by Zhangyan, a martial arts master during the Qing Dynasty and is now a touristic spot. Being the hometown of such house-hold Kung Fu names as Wong Fei-hung, a folk hero and the most famous Hung Gar practitioner in modern times and Bruce Lee, founder of the Jeet Kune Do system, here, visitors have a unique opportunity to fully explore the magnificent world of Chinese Kung Fu.