Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The New Face of Old Guangzhou 廣州的舊城新貌

The Chan tablets behind the kirin are long gone at the Chan Academy 

Like most tourists, I prefer historical sites or “exotic” destinations when travelling, wishing to see something “different”. Since I regarded Guangzhou familiar from frequent visits during the early 1990s, I had not thought of exploring it as a tourist. Thanks to a friend who organised a weekend trip recently, I was surprised by how much the old city has changed. It not only looked different as expected, but also felt very different. Much of the old was thankfully still there, calmly giving way to the new. In such a dramatic and abrupt social transformation, anxiety is expected. But from the places we visited and the people we talked to, I sensed mostly optimism and vibrancy rather than misgivings.

There's a wonderful French restaurant hiding on the 4th floor. No Elevator. 


Museum/Mausoleum of the Nan Yue King (2nd Century BCE)

Perhaps the two-thousand-year-old city has seen enough changes over the centuries to become unduly anxious. Things happen, some good, some bad. People come and go. What else is new? During Tang dynasty (AD618-907), tens of thousands of Arabs lived in Guangzhou. They built the oldest mosque in China — Huaisheng Mosque or the Mosque of Holy Remembrance. Today, Guangzhou is again home to hundreds of thousands of foreign residents from Africa and the Middle East. Halal kitchens are very common.


Built in 1888, Chan's Academy once provided accomodation and assistance to all the Chans in the province coming to Guangzhou for public examination
1888 年始建的陳氏書院曾經為所有廣東陳姓來穗應考的年輕人提供住宿和方便,

Back then, some craftsmen in Guangzhou were evidently not Chinese

陳氏家祠大門 Front door of Chan's Academy

Guangzhou’s historical fame in culinary excellence and diversity, briefly interrupted by revolution and national recuperation, has been unquestionably reinstated with a cosmopolitan flavour. Upon arrival, we lunched at Veg Tables, a tugged away French vegetarian restaurant in Goelia Concept 225 on old Beijing Road. Paris needs a vegetarian restaurant of this calibre. Between many meals, we visited the Sacred Heart Cathedral — some of my trip-mates attended mass in the crowded church supposedly denied “freedom of worship”.



European Design with Chinese characteristics: Look at the brick roof

In the Guangzhou Museum, Fu Hao’s burial jades happened to be on exhibition. The much loved, feared, respected, Fu Hao was the chief wife, general, and shaman/priestess of King Wu Ding of Shang Dynasty (c.1600-1046 BCE). She died circa 1200 BCE.

廣州博物館夜色 Guangzhou Museum at night

Guangzhou Museum's metallic curtain design 廣州博物館的金屬幕簾設計

Why aren't rings nice and simple like this anymore? 古代的戒指比現代的要樸實漂亮得多!


We also saw a show at the Guangzhou Opera House, strolled Chan Clan Academy, and went to the great library (the library? Oh yes, it’s definitely worth dropping by for the architecture and atmosphere). 

The futuristic Guangzhou Opera House 外型科幻的廣州大劇院

East is Red after O Sole Mio, plus a few numbers from The Sound of Music


The nine-storey Guangzhou Public Library is huge, but packed with borrowers on Sunday

Before taking the train back to Hong Kong, we spent the morning at elegant Sha Mian, occupied by colonial powers really not that long ago. Want to see what Sha Mian looked like in 1949? Here's a link to photos taken by an American journalist: Sha Mian 沙面 1949

不久前才被殖民地霸權佔據的沙面,今天美麗優雅,輕淡地刻畫著永遠不應該忘記的歷史教訓。想看看沙面在1949年的面貌嗎?這兒有個鏈接:Sha Mian 沙面 1949

Street musician playing only to share, not to ask for money. He kept his hat on his head.

Guangzhou Guangzhou, what a pleasant surprise. Having witnessed a huge arc of its cyclic vicissitudes within just a few decades is remarkable and moving for me. However, I’d strongly advise tourists to fast at least three weeks in advance to make room for the food they’re about to eat.


Meditating Chicken

James Tam

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