Guangzhou is located on the Pearl River and is about seventy-five miles north of Hong Kong. This is a sub provincial city that is divided into ten administrative districts and boast a population of over six million people. It is also a city that is one of the main manufacturing centers in all of China. It has also recently developed a boom in tourism, causing a rise in the number of tourist oriented restaurants, shops and hotels.
Founded in 214 B.C and originally known by the name Panyu, Guangzhou was the provincial capital of the Han Dynasty, a distinction it retains to this day. Over time the citizens began calling Panyu Guangzhou and by 226 A.D. the name became official. It remained an unremarkable city until China seized control of Taiwan in 1683. As a result, it was found that Guangzhou was in a very strategic location to operate as a trade hub between Western countries and China. It continued to grow at an exponential rate until the eighteenth century when it was considered as one of the world’s greatest trade ports.
While Guangzhou is an important economic and cultural hub of China, it doesn’t have the nearly the amount of historical and cultural attractions as Chinese cities such as Xian and Beijing. However, what it does offer cannot be compared to any other city in Asia. This city does have some of the most significant cultural monuments to be found in mainland China.
One of the grandest palaces in all of China is the Bright Filial Piety Temple. This temple is located at the northern end of Guangxiao Road and has a history that dates over seventeen hundred years. It was built during the Han Dynasty and served as both a private residence and lecture hall before fulfilling its destiny as a Zen Buddhist Temple. This temple consists of seven prominent features. These include parts of the complex known as Mahakaruna Dharani Sutra Pillar, Mahavira Hall, Sixth Ancestor Hall, Heavenly King Hall, Samgharama Hall , and the East and West Towers Of Iron.
Each of the features of the temple were built at different times during its history and has significant cultural value. Take Mahavira Hall for instance. This was built in the fifth century during the Eastern Jin Dynasty. Today it stands over one hundred and sixteen feet high and is eighty feet long. Inside are three statues of Buddha. Its architectural style has since been copied by temples all over China that were later built. The Liuzudian, otherwise known as the Sixth Ancestor Hall, was built during the Northern Song Dynasty. Inside can be found the statue of Master Hui Neng, for whom the structure was dedicated to. Behind this hall grows a Bodhi tree, which symbolizes wisdom. The East and West Iron Towers are the some of the oldest metal towers in all of mainland China. The West Iron Tower was erected in 963 and the East Tower was erected in 967. There are around one thousand shrines, each one compleat with a Buddha statue, are carved into the outside of the tower. It is believed that at the time it was built, the exterior of the tower was covered in gold leaf. Other structures on the temple grounds of this site include the Heavenly Hall, the Dharani Pillar and the Spring of Washing Bowl.
One of the oldest parks in Guangzhou is Yuexiu Park. This park covers an area of two hundred and twelve acres and is made up of a combination of the peaks of Yuexiu Mountain and three man made lakes. Inside the park is one of Guzngzhou most famous sculptures, the Five Ram Sculpture. It tells the ancient legend of how five immortals came into the city mounted on five rams. The immortals then left sheaves of rice for the residents of Guangzhou, who at the time were battling against famine and poverty. According to the legend, the rams then turned into stone and the city was transformed into a thriving city. Other prominent sites located within this park is Zhenhai Tower ( a green and red glazed tower that stands over ninety feet high), the Square Cannon Site and the site of the Ming Dynasty City Wall. An interesting note is that the three lakes of Yuexiu; the Dongxiu, Nanxiu, and Beixiu cover an area of over five hundred thousand square feet.
The Pearl River is another site in Guangzhou that is worth a visit. This river has a length of more than twelve hundred miles. That makes it Chinas third largest river. Many visitors opt to take a night tour of this river because of the beautiful skyline that can be witnessed here. There are also ten bridges in the city which span the river and are lit up with neon lights at night. The dark waters capture and reflect the lights from the city and make for quite an impressive sight. Along the banks of the river many historical sights can be visited. These include China’s first military academy, Huangpu Military Academy and Xinghai Concert Hall.
Another treasure of Guangzhou is White Cloud Mountain. This mountain gets its name from the veil of clouds that always seems to be covering its peak. White Cloud Mountain covers an area of ten square miles and has over thirty peaks. This mountain is the ideal place for a picnic or simply to enjoy the majestic beauty of nature. This mountain has different sections that are all equally popular with visitors. These include Bright Pearl Building Park, Luhu Park, Fei’eling Park, San tailing Summit Park, Yuntai Garden and Bird Spring Valley Park.
Other popular attractions in Guangzhou include the Huaisheng Mosque, Ancestral Temple of the Chen Family, Chimelong Holiday Resort, Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, Temple of the Six Banyan Trees and Western Han Nanyue King’s Tomb Museum. The city is also full of street vendors, cafes, restaurants and stands dedicated to the sale of trinkets to tourist. Not to mention a thriving shopping district.