Wandering China

An East/West pulse of China's fourth rise from down under.

Wandering China Day 3: Guangzhou


Today I made my way to Guangzhou, capital city of Guangdong province – China’s factory. On a more apt scale, the world’s factory. Two generations ago, my grandfather hailed from this very province known historically as Canton and it was in a sense, good to be back, albeit for just a day. With a land area ten times the size of Singapore at 7,000+ km2, it boasts a population at about 12 million, just slightly 2.5 times more than home. This places it as the third most populous metropolitan area in all of China.

″Where most skyscrapers bear ′male′ features; being introvert, strong, straight, rectangular, and based on repetition, we wanted to create a ′female′ tower being complex, transparent, curvy and gracious.″ ″Our aim was to design a free-form tower with a rich and human-like identity that would represent Guangzhou as a dynamic and exciting city. We therefore wanted it to be non-symmetrical so that the building would look as if ′in movement′ and ′alive′. Photo – Canton Tower site

Touristy stuff such as the newly built 600m-tall Canton Tower and the shopping districts of Shangxiajiu were done in a jiffy. A traditional dim sum lunch over at the 77-year old Guangzhou restaurant was necessary to pay homage to the home of dim sum. Yes folks, Hong Kong merely refined the idea of dim sum. It started from Guangzhou.

Most significant from the trip to Guangzhou was a visit to the The Museum of the Mausoleum of the Nanyue King (西汉南越王博物馆), which gave an intriguing glimpse to the past. Thinking that southern Chinese (likewise my ancestors) were also of Han stock proved to be possibly inaccurate – southern Chinese had stronger relations to the Yue and this tomb harks back to the ‘rebellious’ Nanyue (arguably the ancestors of the Vietnamese) who refused to cede control of their territories to the Han and Qin dynasties, building an independent kingdom in modern day Guangdong province, my home city of Chaozhou included.

Nanyue was an ancient kingdom that consisted of modern southern Chinese provinces of Guangdong, Guangxi, and Yunnan and northern Vietnam from 218 BC to 111 BC.

The visit to the tomb helped me understand the failings of the second Nanyue King, who failed to keep up the first king’s work and gradually allowed the kingdom to fall under the influence of China.

My personal story aside, what is significant here is that Southern China wasn’t always Chinese. I would definitely like to spend more time here if another opportunity to visit arises. A visit to the industrial areas would be great to ascertain the working conditions in the world’s factory.

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Filed under: Back to China, Beijing Consensus, Bob's Opinion

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