Guangzhou’s deep history means the city has a decent handful of attractive historical sights. The city is also one of the nation’s fastest growing, and that means that along with some fascinating old-timey attractions, Guangzhou (formerly known as Canton in the West) is riddled with a good spread of eating and nightlife, as well as shopping – lots and lots of shopping. It’s a good thing, too, because if you plan to see any of the excellent sights around the province you will almost certainly be spending some time in this major transportation hub.
The Qin military fortress of Panyu (a district within Guangzhou) was the earliest recorded settlement of the region, and it got its name from two nearby mountains known as “Pan” and “Yu.” Later, in 206 BCE, Panyu became the capital of the Nanyue Kingdom that covered most of present day Guangdong and Guangxi, a kingdom that was eventually annexed by the Han Dynasty. In 226, the Han officially named Guangzhou as the capital of the region.
Guangzhou became China’s most important port during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 CE), a title it has retained ever since. Foreign powers soon took note of the harbor’s prime position, and before anyone knew what hit them Portuguese merchants were doing business in the area. The British soon followed suit, and soon the city had the monstrous status of China’s heaviest international trading sphere.
The great importance of Guangzhou as a major trade hub was only to be amplified after 1949, when China’s self-imposed isolation left the port city as the only remaining trade link to the outside world until the reforms of Deng Xiaoping during the late 1970s. Today, the city is a rising star in the PRC, bolstered by its 2010 hosting of the Asian Games. Guangzhou has recently become a force to be reckoned with, trailing behind only Beijing and Shanghai in regards to attracting tourists, talent, and workforce. “The Flower City,” as it’s often affectionately referred to, is blooming at such a speed that it can be difficult to keep up with growing demands.