Guangdong

literally means Expanse East, while its neighbour Guanxi means Expanse West.  Today, these two provinces are called Dual-Guangs.  Sometimes Guangdong is simply called Yue, which stems from the Hundred Yue, the collective name for various people who lived in this area and others in ancient times.

Guangdong, often spelled Kwangtung, is on the south coast of the People’s Republic of China.  It is sometimes called Canton Province, based on a French-derived transliteration of Guangdong. The name Canton is also commonly used for the provincial capital of Guangzhou.  Guangzhou and Shenzhen, both in Guangdong, are among China’s most important cities.

History

Guandong was populated by people collectively known as the Hundred Yue who may have been Tai-Kadai and related to the Zhuang people in modern Guangxi.  The province was physically and culturally far removed from the north China plain where Chinese civilisation flourished in ancient times.  The Chinese only began to administer the region in the Qin Dynasty, after unifying the Chinese empire. During the Han Dynasty Guangdong, Guangxi and northern Vietnam were governed together as Jiao Province, but under the Wu Kingdom, in the year 226, Guang Province was formed.

Slowly the Hundred Yue were outnumbered by Han Chinese, many who fled from the north during political unrest or nomadic incursions after the fall of the Han Dynasty.  Guangzhou’s population swelled by 75 percent when migrants fled from the north after the An Lushan rebellion in the years 740 to 760 and again in the first twenty years of the 800s.  The local population gradually assimilated Han Chinese culture or else they left the area.

In 627 under the Tang Dynasty, Guangdong and Guangxi were made part of the Lingnan Circuit.  The Guangdong part was renamed Guangnan East Circuit (guang nan dong) during the Song Dynasty, in 971, which gave the present-day province the source for its name.

The Southern Song Dynasty ended up in what is Guangdong when the Mongols pushed them out of the north in the 13th century.  The Battle of Yamen, fought in Guangdong in 1279, marked the end of the Southern Song Dynasty.  During the Mongol Yuan Dynasty, Guangdong was a part of Jiangxi.  It was given its current name, Guangdong Province, early in the Ming Dynasty.

Guangdong has enjoyed trade with the rest of the world since the 16th century when European merchants came north via the Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea.  The British, in particular, traded extensively through Guangzhou.   Macau on Guangdong’s southern coast, became the first European settlement in China in 1557. It was the opium trade through Guangzhou that caused the Opium Wars, opening up foreign incursion in China.  Hong Kong was ceded to the British and Kwang-Chou-Wan to the French.  In the 1800s, Guandong was the major port for labourers in southeast Asia, and those who went to work for the railroads in the Western United States and Canada.

Many of these labourers remained abroad, and many overseas Chinese communities have their origins in Guangdong, specifically Taishan.  These emigrants, together with more recent emigrants from Hong Kong, speak Cantonese and Taishanese, which are spoken by less than 10 percent of the Chinese in China. These languages then, are more widely spoken outside of China than inside the country.

During the 1850s, the Hakka people held the first revolt of the Taiping Rebellion in Guangdong. Because Guangdong was in direct contact with the West, it was the centre of anti-Manchu and anti-imperialist activity.  Sun Yat-Sen, called the founder of modern China, was from Guangdong.

Guangdong was the training area for military commanders in the Republic of China during the 1920s, when the Northern Expedition was launched to try to bring various warlords of China back under central control.

Recently, close trading links with Hong Kong and other factors have helped to boost economic growth.  Guangdong now has the highest gross domestic product in China.

Hainan Island was part of Guangdong until 1988, when it was designated as an independent province.

Geography

Guangdong has a total of 4,300 km of coast and faces South China Sea to the south.  Leizhou Peninsula, where a few inactive volcanoes are found, is on the south-western side of Guangdong, and the province is separated from the north by several mountain ranges known collectively as the Southern Mountain Range.  Three rivers meet at The Pearl River Delta, the East River, North River and West River, and the river delta is dotted with hundreds of small islands.

Guangdong borders Jiangxi and Hunan provinces to the north, Guangxi autonomous region to the west, Fujian Province to the northeast and Hong Kong and Macau Special Administrative Regions to the south.

The climate in Guangdong is humid and subtropical, even tropical in the deep south.  It has short, dry, mild winters with an average temperature of 18 Celsius in January in Guangzhou and long, hot and wet summers with an average temperature of 33 Celsius in the capital in July, although the stifling humidity makes it seem much hotter.

Economy

Guangdong’s nominal GDP for 2005 was 2.17 trillion yuan (267.6 billion USD), which showed a year-on-year increase of 12.5 percent.  That figure was expected to rise to 2.58 trillion yuan (329.67 USD) by the end of 2006.  The province is home to four out of six Special Economic Zones: Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Shantou and Zhuhai.  The province’s affluence is impressive but remains largely concentrated near the Pearl River Delta.

Although Guangdong was an active port for Western trade, it was somewhat of an economic backwater until Deng Xiaping’s reforms were put into effect in 1978.  Industrial development was encouraged in the interior of the province, which was only weakly linked to the capital before that time.  The reforms made Guangdong much less dependent upon its access to the ocean and its capital city port.  Today, the economy is centred on manufacturing and export.

Demographics

Guangdong has been traditionally the 4th most populous province in China, with 80 million inhabitants, but its population may unofficially swell to over 110 million when immigrant labourers from other provinces, dubbed the floating population, come into the province for six months a year.  The province is known officially recognised to be China’s most densely populated.

Most of the people in Guangdong are Han Chinese, although there is a small Yao population in the north and other small minorities include Miao, Li and Zhuang.

Because of the dense population and the close proximity in which humans and animals live, respiratory diseases such as influenza have often broken out in Guangdong.  In late 2002, Guangdong was suspected as the initial source of SARS.

Culture

Guangdong’s regional language is Cantonese, which is not generally understood by the Mandarin speakers of the north, but Stand Mandarin is the national language for some 60,000,000 people of Guangdong who also speak various local languages.  Some sources say that the language differences made it easy for Guangdong to ignore orders from Beijing and that it is a much more unruly, bustling place because of that.  But the distinctive language and its economic growth do not give rise to separatism, as some in the West assume.  There has never really been any significant support for separatism.

Although Hong Kong and Macau are historically part of Guangdong before they became colonies of the UK and Portugal respectively, they became special administrative regions when their sovereignty was transferred to the People’s Republic of China.

Foreigners used to be restricted to Shamian Island in the Pearl River, where they built a miniature European town.  A single bridge connected the Island to Canton city and only authorised Chinese were allowed to contact and deal with the foreigners.  This was the time when the major thing being traded to foreigners was opium.
Cantonese cooking is one of the richest and most prestigious cuisines in China and it specialises in exotic tastes.  Cantonese opera is the form of Chinese opera popular in Cantonese speaking areas.

The area around the eastern Guangdong cities of Chaozhou and Shantou forms its own cultural area.  The people sepak the Teochew and their cuisine is Chiuchow cuisine.  The northeastern hilly area of Meixian is populated by the Hakka people, who speak Hakka and enjoy Hakka cuisine.

Tourist Attractions

Guangzhou has beautiful natural landscapes and abundant tourism resources. Tourist attractions like Baiyun Mountain, Conghua hot springs, Furongzhang, Lotus Hill, the Water World at Jiulongtan and the Liuxi River National Forest Park bring many vacationers to Guangzhou.  Guangzhou proper is dotted by numerous parks, such as Yuexiu Park, Liuhua Lake Park, Tianhe Park, Dongshan Lake Park, the Orchid Garden, Guangzhou Zoo and the recently-built Yuntai Garden, the Sculpture Park. Each park or garden has its own specialties, tranquil surroundings and beautiful paths and walkways.
Recently large-scale attractions have been springing up, with Dongfang Amusement Park, Grand World Scenic Park, Flying Dragon World, Feitu Fantasy Studio, Xiangjiang Safari World, Ocean World, Space Flight Spectacle and other large sites doing brisk business. To date, Guangzhou boasts 123 state-protected historical sites and 40 outstanding tourist attractions.

Colleges and universities

Foshan University
Jinan University
Shantou University
South China University of Technology
Sun Yat-sen University
Shenzhen University
South China Normal University
Dongguan University of Technology


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