Being open (for bold, new, innovative and liberal ideas)
This is reflected in its history, when it was first known to Westerners as “Canton,” and also today. Guangzhou, as the gateway to South China, has been long exposed to exchanges with other parts of China as well as of the world with a very opening and welcoming approach.
Guangzhou’s location — relatively far from the power centre in almost all dynasties in the history and today — means it has been under less political influences and controls from where the emperors/governments are. It is the birth place of the Dr. Sun Yat-sen led revolution against the Qing dynasty in the 1911, ending the feudal dynastic system that had ruled China for over 2,000 years.
As the starting point of the “Silk Road to the sea,” (going from the Muslim west to the east) Guangzhou hosts the oldest mosque in China dated all the way back to the 14th century. It was the testing field for China’s “reform and open” policy since 1979, and is the forerunner in encouraging privately owned business, market-oriented business and other new business operation models, due to its proximity to Hong Kong and Macau.
The locals in Guangzhou are much tolerant and liberal than other Chinese, especially those from the north and inland provinces, in terms of political views. At times of “political crisis” from time to time, Guangzhou tends to remain least affected.
Commodities Fair/Canton Fair
Twice a year, in the spring and autum, Guangzhou hosts the China Import And Export Commodities Fair, more commonly known as the Canton Fair or Trade Fair. It has been running since 1957 and for many years practically the only way foreign businesses could make contacts in China . Despite the flourishing of different kinds of trade fairs elsewhere in the country, the Canton Fair remains the most important one in the country. The spring fair, usually in April, and the autumn fair, usually in October, attracts suppliers and buyers from all over the world.
Guangzhou has the nickname ‘Flower City’, thanks to its year-round warm weather which other parts of the country is denied of. The locals’ enthusiasm for flowers as decorations at home reaches its prime when the annual Flower Fairs is held just before the Chinese New Year.
Usually lasting for around a week and finishing late on the eve of the Chinese New Year, the Flower Fairs are staged in all 8 districts of the city and reaches the climax right on the eve of the Chinese New Year. You should expect to see various types of flowers in rows, as well as the crazy crowd around them. People believe that flowers are symbols of prosperity, so at the turn of the year it’s extremely important to have the flowers with you to change the feng shui and hope for good luck for the coming year.
It is said that Guangzhou has held flower fairs for more than 500 years now and the locals truly believe the old saying, “No flower fairs, no New Year.” If you happen to be travelling to/in Guangzhou during the Chinese New Year times, go and experience it.
A famous saying goes : ‘Eat in Guangzhou,’ which points out quite rightly that Cantonese food tops all the regional cuisines in China.
With a time-honored history, Guangzhou has a wide variety of local foods, among which the most famous type is dim sums If you’re invited for a Cantonese “morning tea” or “yum cha,” don’t be disappointed that your hosts are just offering tea, because they’re actually offering you the best of Cantonese food – dim sum — the many delicious, light dishes along with the Chinese tea. Dim sum means “a little bit of heart” and thus usually come in smal portions, and have many different types. The main ones are dumplings with various fillings, noodles and rice noodles — fried and in soup, steamed meat, vegetables, porridge, buns, rice noodle rolls, pastries, and sweet soups. If you have dietary prohibitions against eating pork or shellfish, be aware that many of the fillings are ground pork and shrimp fillings, so ask what is inside.
The Cantonese cuisine is typical for its use of fresh ingredients, vegetables and meat/see foods, probably due to the hot and humid climate here, as well as the easy access to all the fresh foods. It also stresses the importance of “cooking it light”, so it can bring out the best of the original taste of the ingredients and thus deep fried foods are less accepted by the locals.
The food culture is so important to the locals, and many believe strongly in “food treatments” in order to “balancing the inner chi (energy)”. A typical example is the many different kinds of “slowed cooked soups” with a large variety of ingredients, as well as tong sui (sweet soup). The foods here are so good and no wonder the locals spend lots of time eating – from the “morning tea” featuring various dim sum, to lunch or ”afternoon tea” (also lots of dim sum), proper dinner and late dinner / BBQ or “evening tea”.
Being the centre of the Pearl River Delta, also dubbed as “the world’s factory”, Guangzhou is a place where you can find everything at a very competitive price, for foreigners and local Chinese alike. There are quite a number of wholesale markets in the city, ranging from electronic products to clothes, shoes, accessories, bags and suitcases and many others. If you are not up for wholesale, it’s also a retail centre! Shopping centres and streets provide loads of options at very attractive prices. Make sure you have a good budget control and are aware of your luggage limits for all your shopping here! Plenty of fake goods which lends Guangzhou its famous nickname “the world’s largest knock-off factory”! With the rising Chinese Yuan, and the guarantee of quality and real product – Hong Kong is really the place to “shop till you drop (at after Christmas sales)!