Guangzhou Culture

Guangzhou Culture introduces Guangzhou Culture Tour information about People, Language, Costumes, Cuisine, Festivals, Song and Dance, Traditional Crafts, Architecture, Museums, Religion, Historical Sites, Traditional Villages, Intangible Cultural Heritages and Inheritors of Intangible Cultural Heritages.

History of Guangzhou

It is believed that the first city built at the site of Guangzhou was Panyu (蕃禺) founded in 214 B.C.E. The city has been continuously occupied since that time. Panyu was expanded when it became the capital of the Nanyue Kingdom (南越) in 206 B.C.E.. The recent discovery of the remains of a Qin dynasty shipyard under the site of the Nanyue Kingdom Palace, and archeological findings in the palace suggest that the city might have traded frequently with foreigners by the sea routes. Foreign trade continued through every following dynasty, and the city remains a major international trading port to this day.

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Religion Culture in Guangzhou

Guangzhou has a long religious history. Guangzhou has Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism and Christianity, with Taoism as the only Chinese local religion. Buddhism spread in Guangzhou in 255, Taoism in 306, Islam in the early Tang Dynasty, Catholicism in the late Ming Dynasty, and Christianity in the early Qing Dynasty. Guangzhou has profound religious cultures. By the end of 2014, 81 venues for religious activities had been registered and opened in Guangzhou in accordance with the law, 7 venues were being built or to be built, and a total of 1.18 million religious believers. Nearly 10 key temples, abbeys, and churches are on the former central axis of Guangzhou, creating unique human landscapes that display religious and historical culture as well as adding the charm of Guangzhou as a famous historical and cultural city.


Islam in Guangzhou has mostly arrived through trade since the Tang Dynasty in the late 7th century. For thousands of years, Guangzhou has been an important trading center and commercial gateway to southern China. Arab traders came to this famous port city and stayed, and a led to the development and spread of Islam throughout China.

Located in the southern China, Guangzhou has played an important role as one of the main port cities for the Sea Silk Road with a long history of more than 2,000 years. With the development of the sea trade, Guangzhou is recorded to have business connections with countries form the Arab region in the far ancient Sui and Tang Dynasties. Guangzhou is recorded to be the place has the earliest introduction of Islam into China in the history.

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Buddhism is practiced in many countries and cultures throughout the world. Mahayana Buddhism has played a significant role in China and it has a long and rich history. As Buddhism grew in the country, it adapted to and influenced the Chinese culture and a number of schools developed. The influence of Buddhism in China reached its peak during the Tang Dynasty (618 to 907 AD).

Guangzhou City has a colorful and rich history marked by a number of beautiful temples that date back hundreds of years. While these temples may not be world-wide famous, they each have their own unique history and special significance to Guangzhou, and all are worth a visit to see!

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Guangzhou is the definition of a modern capitalistic metropolis, yet its religious prevalence cannot be ignored. Some of China’s most beautiful churches and sanctuaries are right here in Guangzhou, so come discover what they are!
New Here? Guangzhou has many churches with a warm welcome. This part will introduce you different churches in this city.

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Guangzhou Architecture Culture

Lingnan architecture (岭南建筑), or Cantonese architecture, refers to the characteristic architectural styles of the Lingnan region-the Southern Chinese provinces of Guangdong and Guangxi. Usually, it is referring to the architecture associated with the Cantonese people-with other peoples in the area (such as the Hakka and the Teochew) having their own styles. This style began with the architecture of the ancient non-Han Nanyue people and absorbed certain architectural elements from the Tang Empire and Song Empire as the region sinicized in the later half of the first millennium AD. As sinicization of Lingnan completed in Southern Song dynasty (10th to 13th century), the classical Lingnan style seen today slowly formed. The classical Lingnan style formed as early as 14th century and represents Cantonese people's adaptation of their hybrid culture (i.e., with elements of Nanyue, Tang, and Song) to the region's geography. Nowadays, it is widely considered a major Cantonese accomplishment and tourist attraction for Guangdong and eastern Guangxi.

Landmark Buildings in Guangzhou

Guangzhou is regarded as the “Southern Gate to China”, one of the three megacities in China and other two are Beijingand Shanghai. The three metropolitan cities are competing for the tallest building and currently Shanghai is the winner with Shanghai Tower the tallest at 632 meters and Guangzhou Tower the second 600 meters. Of course, speaking of Guangzhou’s landmark, It is unnecessary to list all the top tallest buildings in Guangzhou. A city’s landmarks don’t have to be physically tallest, but they should have important impact on people’s minds in terms of their history, culture, intriguing stories behind them and spectacular buildings as well, which reflect the city’s image and characters. Plan your Guangzhou tour? Below are the top landmarks you shouldn’t miss.

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Guangzhou Cuisine Culture

Cantonese food is, broadly speaking, the food of Cantonese speakers. Cantonese food has attracted a world following for its quality and variety. As to the former, a Chinese proverb says that one should "marry in Suzhou, live in Hangzhou, dine in Guangzhou, and die in Liuzhou," since these cities have, respectively, the prettiest girls, best views, best food, and best coffin woods. As to the variety, Chinese say that the Cantonese "eat everything with legs except a table, and everything with wings except an airplane."

Must-eat Dishes and Snacks in Guangzhou

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Cantonese Dialect

The local dialect of Guangzhou is very different from other local dialects in China. Although Cantonese shares much vocabulary with Mandarin Chinese, the two languages are not mutually intelligible because of pronunciation, grammatical and also lexical differences. If you have never been to Guangzhou, you may be puzzled when you hear local residents speaking Cantonese. A frequently used phrase in Guangzhou is “um gai”, which means “thank you” or “excuse me”. You can learn just a few of these expressions, which will be helpful when you are in Guangzhou. For example, when you need someone to help you do something, you can say “da rao sai”. You will surprise the locals!

Cantonese Opera

Chinese opera is considered to have begun in the Tang dynasty under Emperor Ming Huang(712-755) who founded Pearl Garden, the first operational troupe in China. The exact origins of Cantonese opera are open to debate but the general consensus is that the art form migrated from the north to the southern province of Canton(Guangdong) during the Song dynasty (1179-1276 AD). Cantonese opera is generally thought to have evolved out of Nan Xi, or Southern drama which was performed in public theaters in Hangzhou in the 12th century. The first incarnations of Cantonese opera were also known as Yuet Kuk. Another important influence on the Cantonese form is a 16th-century type of opera called Kunqu which originated in Suzhou and is often considered “the mother of Chinese operas”. Its original style included the rich cultural features of Suzhou but it incorporated features from other forms of Chinese opera as it expanded into other regions. Kunqu was known for its powerful stage presence through the use of elaborate make-up, soft and graceful singing, elegant actions and traditional music.

In the early days of Cantonese opera there was no strict convention concerning the costumes of the actors, which imitated the designs of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Towards the end of the Qing Dynasty in the early 20th century, the plots of Cantonese opera focused on social realities of the time and the costumes were more casual and closer to Western styles. Later, due to the constant exchange of actors between Cantonese and Peking opera and also with the aim of attracting a larger audience, the costumes became much more striking. Sequined and beaded costumes were used and sometimes tiny electric light bulbs were employed.

Guangzhou Music

Guangzhou music is one genre of the rich and colorful national music. In the later half of the 19th century, Guangzhou music was prevalent in the Guangzhou dialect area, including the Pearl River Delta. It started to become popular both in China and abroad in the early years of the 20th century.

The early ensembles around 1919 consisted of two-string, Tiqin(an instrument similar to the Banhu), three-string, Yueqin and horizontal flute. Such orchestras were called "five frames" or "hard groups". Solos were mostly played onPipa or Yangqin. As the 20th century progressed, the Gaohu became the main instrument, backed up by the Yangqin and Qinqin. These three were commonly known as the "frio" or "soft bow".Gaohu was said as the lead instrument or for special renditions. Gaohuis basically similar to Erhu, except that the sound box is smaller.

Tea Drinking Culture in Guangzhou

Almost everyone knows that people in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong Province, love drinking tea, especially having morning tea. When people in Guangzhou first meet, the first thing they say is, “Have you had tea yet?” Chinese people outside of Guangzhou will simply greet each other by saying, “Did you eat?” People in Guangzhou don’t literally mean only drinking tea; having morning tea implies going to a tea restaurant for food as well. In the south of China especially, this form of communication is paramount in society. Tea is often part of one’s daily conversation. The Cantonese sentence “duk haan yum cha’’ means “let’s go drink tea when we are free”. This phrase is often used at the end of your conversation instead of saying goodbye. Morning tea is so popular in Guangzhou, there are now restaurants offering afternoon tea and also night tea.

Arts and Crafts in Guangzhou

Bearing long history and splendid culture, Guangzhou is well-known for many delicate and excellent traditional crafts, of which eye-opening ivory carving, exquisite jade carving, ancient-style wood carving, beautiful Guangdong enamel and embroidery are your good choices.

Ivory Carving(牙雕)

The origin of ivory carving can be traced back to over 2,000 years in Jin Dynasty. Guangzhou’s ivory carving works mainly depict people, birds, beasts, flowers and the four treasures of the study—the writing brush, the ink, the inkstone and the paper. Also, different styles of carved ivory ornaments are common in the study of the literati. Generally Guangzhou ivory carving can be classified into two categories: round carving and hollowed carving. Round ivory carvings are mostly solid handworks featuring patterns of people, animals and natural scene whereas hollowed carving is primarily applied in making vases, miniature floral towers, crab cages and balls.

Jade Carving(玉雕)

Guangzhou jade carving debuted in the middle and late Tang Dynasty dating to more than 1,000 years ago. Guangzhou jade carving is well known for its special technique-color retaining. Especially, jade ornaments like jade balls have amazing charm. Each ball is placed inside larger ones and each of which has uniform thickness. Rotating freely, jade balls are beautified with the patterns of natural landscapes, flowers, people, fish, birds and beasts. Up to now, the most exquisite jade ball has 20 layers, just like an integral jade system.

Wood Carving(木雕)

Wood carving falls into two categories: architectural ornaments and furniture carving. In Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, the columns, beams, doors and windows epitomize the rich varieties and features of Guangzhou’s wood carving technique. The most populous forms of carved furniture are rosewood furniture and wooden cases. Rosewood furniture is a combination of China’s traditional carving technique and advanced wood structural technique with ancient appearance, elegant patterns, sturdiness and durability, thus it gets a reputation of oriental art treasure.

Guangdong Enamel(广东瓷器)

With a history of more than 300 years, Guangdong enamel is also known as Guangzhou Golden Colored Enamel available in over 500 varieties with over 2,000 floral patterns. Each enamel piece will go through seven procedures: line drawing, color filling, gold painting, green filling, coloring, mouth gilding and firing. They usually depict people, flowers, birds, beasts, fish and natural landscapes with three main usages, artistic enamel, household ornamental enamel and craftwork enamel.

Guangdong Embroidery(广绣)

The origin of Chinese embroidery can be traced back to over 2,000 years. The Sichuan, Suzhou, Hu’nan and Guangzhou schools of embroidery are the nation’s top four that contribute to the reputation of this specialty. All birds paying homage to the phoenix and the doubled-faced golden fish are typical of embroidery. Falling into four categories: floss, gold and silver thread, pearl and machine embroidery, Guangzhou embroidery is used on garments, commodities, pictures and costumes. Some influential manufacturers of Guangzhou embroidery include Guangzhou Embroidery Products Factory, Zhonghua Costume Craft Factory and Guangzhou Machine Embroidering Factory.

Guangzhou Folk Custom

Flower Fair

The Guangzhou Flower Fair already existed in the Southern Han Dynasty. By the middle of the 19th century, the flower market was scheduled to be antiques a few days before New Year's Eve. Many cities in the Pearl River Delta have this custom.

Polo Birth Temple Fair

Location: Nanhai God Temple
Date: February 11-13 of the lunar calendar
Polo Birth Festival Temple Fair in Nanhai Temple is a kind of ancient Han custom and folk religious and cultural activities. It kicks off on the eleventh day to the thirteenth day of the second month of Lunar Year, where the thirteenth day of the second month of Lunar Year is called the Birth or Polo Birth, namely Birth of South China Sea God. A number of folk art troupes from more than 50 countries and regions will perform with 20 Chinese troupes in the next year's international folk art gathering, Zhang said.

Rules and Taboos When Dining in Guangzhou

Guangzhou is well-known for its cuisines. But when dining in this "food paradise," you need to pay attention to some rules and taboos which are part of the local culture.

  • Do not order seven dishes for a table; To order nine dishes is the best choice.
  • When there is a dish of whole fish, the fish belly should be placed toward the main guest to show good will. 
  • Do not stick your chopsticks straight into the rice, as this may be associated with the gesture of sticking the incense to worship ancestors.
  • Do not to tap your bowl with your chopsticks. 

Historical Sites in Guangzhou

Museums in Guangzhou

Guangzhou, or Canton as it was previously known, boasts a long and proud history, with human settlement here dating back to prehistoric times. It should come as no surprise then that Guangzhou is home to an impressive number and variety of museums, from the celebrated Guangdong Museum in Zhujiang New Town to the International Beer Museum in Haizhu.

Whether you're interested in local history, dinosaurs or beer, a museum is a great way to burn a couple hours on a miserable day. To help you decide what institution you should check out, China Dragon Tours lists the following museums for your reference.

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Intangible Cultural Heritages and Inheritors in Guangzhou

With a large number of ethnic minorities, Guangzhou has many intangible cultural heritages with ethnic characteristics. Every intangible cultural heritage has its inheritors, who play a vital role in the promotion and inheritance of culture.