Home>>>City Guide>>>>Traffic>>>>Guangzhou

                                     Guangdong Province

Guangzhou        Shenzhen         Zhuhai     General Overview of Dongguan


Facing the south China sea in the southernmost of China's continent, Guangdong Province constitutes the region through which South China's trade is primarily channeled. It is the province with the longest coastline in China. It has an area of 177,600 square kilometers. It is bordered by the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region to the west, and by the provinces of Hunan
and Jiangxi to the north, and Fujian Province to the northeast, and by Hainan Province and the South China Sea to the south. Hong Kong and Macao are on the coast of Guangdong.


Guangdong was originally occupied by non-Han ethnic groups, and was first incorporated into the Chinese Empire in 222 BC, when Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of the Qin dynasty, conquered the area along the Xijiang River and Beijiang River valleys down to the Zhujiang River Delta. In 111 BC Emperor
Wu of the Han Dynasty extended rule as far as to Hainan Island.

During the five centuries of the Sui, Tang, and Northern Song dynasties from AD 581 to 1126, the military and agricultural settlement of Guangdong, coupled with increasing overseas trade through Guangzhou port, led to an increase in migration into Guangdong, and to the rise of Guangzhou as a metropolis with a population of hundreds of thousands. Two major southward thrust of the Han Chinese took place, one in 1126, when Jurchens captured the Song capital, the other in 1279, when Mongols subdued Song dynasty. These migrations marked the beginning of the rapid cultural development of Guangdong. The population grew so fast that by the late 17 century, Guangdong had already become an area from which emigration took place. Migrants from Guangdong moved first to Guangxi, Sichuan and Taiwan and then in mid-19th century began to pour into Southeast Asia and North America.

Physical Geography:


The surface configuration in Guangdong is diverse, being composed primarily of hills, cut by streams and rivers, and scattered and ribbon-like alluvial valleys. The greater part of eastern Guangdong consists of the southerly extension of the southerly extension of the Southern Uplands, which stretch down from Fujian and Zhejiang provinces.
Relief and drainage:

Smooth, low hills with slopes of up to 10°cover about 70 percent of the province. Most peaks range in elevation from 1,500 to 2,500 feet, with a few reaching 5,500 feet. Level land of any size is primarily found in the alluvial deltas, formed where rivers empty into the South China Sea.

Of great extent and importance, the Guangdong Delta, measuring about 3,500 square miles, marks the convergence of the three major rivers of Zhujiang (pearl) River system -- the Xi (West), Pei (North), and Tung (East) rivers. The Pearl River is the name given to the lower course of the Xi beyond the confluence.Entirely rain-fed, these rivers, which are subject to extreme seasonal fluctuations, collect so much water that the Zhujiang River system discharges annually six and a half times as much water as the Yellow River, although its basin area of about 173,000 square miles is only about half as large.

Altogether, Guangdong has 1,343 large and small rivers, with drainage basins covering a total area of about 400,000 square miles. The Han River is the most important river outside the Zhujiang river system.

Soils: In the main, young red soils cover sloping hillsides up to an elevation of over 3,000 feet. In the wettest and hottest parts of Guangdong, lateritic (heavily leached, iron-bearing) soils are common. Of more limited distribution, but of evident economic significance, are the alluviums deposited relatively recently in the river valleys and deltas. As a result of the cultivation of rice, the alluviums have developed special morphological characteristics, the most striking of which is the formation of iron hardpans (hard impervious layers composed chiefly of clay) in the zone of the fluctuating water table.

Climate and Vegetation:
Guangdong features tropical and sub-tropical climates. The average July temperature is little different from temperature on the lower reaches of the Yangtze River and on the Yellow River, but the average January temperature is considerably higher, ranging from 13°to 16°C. The whole province almost lies within the area where two crops of rice can be grown a year.

The rainfall regime shows a pronounced summer maximum, with the rainy season lasting from mid-April, when Guangdong starts to be dominated by moisture-laden tropical air masses from the Equator and the Indian Ocean, until mid-October. Over half of the total precipitation falls between June and August. The months between July and September form the main typhoon season,which ordinarily is accompanied by heavy rains and widespread destruction.From December to February, only 8 percent of the precipitation occurs.Guangdong's annual rainfall is approximately 60 to 80 inches, decreasing with distance from the coast to the northwest but increasing with altitude and exposure to the prevailing summer monsoon winds.

Natural Vegetation:
Abundant moisture and moderate to high temperatures support luxuriant plant growth. Broad-leaved evergreen, intermixed with coniferous and deciduous trees, originally covered much of the land, while a more tropical type of vegetation dominates the south coast. On the more severely eroded hills, coarse grasses and ferns have taken hold. Bamboo groves, varying greatly in height and extent, are widespread, particularly in humid river valleys. The most productive and least disturbed forests cover the mountainous areas. Certain trees, notably camphor, have been revered and protected for centuries, and are found around grave plots and cultivated fields.

Plant and Animal Life:
The combination of a propitious climate and variegated physiography favours    considerable diversity in plant and animal life. In the highlands, where coniferous and deciduous species thrives together, the broad-leaved evergreen froests are  characterized by tropical oaks, tan oaks (oaks that yield tanin), and chestnut oaks (or chinquapins). The more significant coniferous species of economic value include horsetail pine, Chinese fir, and Chinese hemlock.  Some of the species of cypress and pine are little known outside China.

Truly tropical monsoon rain forests are common in the south, and a number of industrial crops have been introduced and successfully raised. These include rubber, sisal, palm oil, hemp, coffee, and black pepper.

Guangdong's more traditional agricultural products, however, are rice, sweet potatoes, barly, sugarcane, peanuts, tea, mulberry, tobacco and no less than 300 types of fruits, among the more representative of which are oranges,  angerines, pomelos (a grapefruit), lychee, longan, pineapples, and bananas.

Among the mammals found in Guangdong are many tropical bats, and several leaf-nosed, insect-eating species. Squirrels, mice, and rats of many species are abundant. Insectivores are generally more diverse than in other regions of China, and carnivores are exemplified by civet cats and small-clawed otters.

Types of birds vary according to their habitat. In the tropical forest, wildfowl, peacocks, and silver pheasants are common. Reptiles are more restricted in distribution. Guangdong has a number of pit vipers, including the huge and deadly Chinese vipers and bamboo vipers, as well as nonpoisonous  pythons which are up to 20 feet long.

Tigers, rhinoceroses, panthers, wolves, bears, and foxes used to roam the hills, but their numbers have been decimated by forest fires and persistent                 deforestation. In the tropical monsoon forest, however, a great number of  animals, many of which live in the trees, still remain.

Ethnic composition and distribution: Guangdong is largely dominated by  the Han people, with only a very small proportion of other ethnic minorities.  The Yaos are concentrated principally near Guangdong's northwestern border in areas. The Shes live in the northeast.

Linguistic patterns: The Han people speak a wide variety of dialects forming distinct area patterns, the most important dialect is Cantonese,spoken in central and western areas. Hakka is another important dialect which predominates in the north and northeast of the province; a third major dialect, South Min (Fujian) dialect, is spoken mostly along an eastern coastal area centered on Chaozhou and Shantou.

In as much as only about 15 percent of its land is under cultivation, agriculture is of necessity extremely intensive. The limited extent of sown land avaialble is, however, partly offset by repeated uses of it. Two crops of  rice a year can be grown on most cultivated land, the annual yields resulting from two harvests exceed the national average. Rice is is the leading crop, occupying 76 percent of the total cultivated area and accounting for over 80  percent of Guangdong's total food production.

Although food-grain crops occupy almost 90 percent of the total cultivated  area, the industrial and fruit crops grown on the remaining land are of national importance. Guangdong annually produces half of China's total output  of sugarcane, and more than 6,000,000 piculs of fruit, most of which is consumed in north or central China.

Fishing: Guangdong, with its long coastline, produces about one-quarter of  China's fish. More than 400 species of saltwater fish, including yellowcroaker, white herring, mackerel, golden thread, and pomfret are caught from  57 fishing ports.

Light industry has always been of significance in the province. Apart from         handicrafts, light industry -- especially food processing and the manufacture  of textiles -- accounts considerablly the provincial industry. Sugar refining is centred in Guangzhou, Dongguan, Shunde, Jiangmen and Shantou, while silk filature (the reeling of silk from cocoons) and weaving are well developed in  Guangzhou, Foshan and Shunde.

Heavy industry include metal processing, the manufacture of machinery,shipbuilding and ship repairing, the production of hydroelectricity andmining.

Despite a shortage of iron in mainland Guangdong, extensive deposits of high-quality hematite (the principal iron ore) with up to 63 percent iron ontent, are distributed. Guangdong also has nonferrous resources. Coal reserves are estimated at about 4,000 million tons. The province also has about 60 percent of China's manganese deposits, located on the Leizhou Peninsula and nearby. Tungsten, which is associated with bismuth, molybdenum, and tin deposits, is mined near the Jiangxi border, at Shixing and Wengyuan. Oil-shale deposits have been discovered in quantity on the Leizhou Peninsula. Oil refineries have been established in Maoming.

The different regions of Guangdong are linked together by waterways  associated with the Zhujiang river system, which comprises 80 percent of the  province's 9,000 miles of navigable inland waterways, of which 2,440 miles are  sed by motor vessels. In addition, a number of coastwise and international  shipping routes are variously linked to more than 100 large and small ports. The leading ports, including Huangpu (Guangzhou's seaport), Zhanjiang and  Shantou are of national significance. Water transport accounts considerably in Guangdong's total traffic.

Guangdong developed the best highway network in China, running primarily  along the river valleys. Beijing-Guangzhou Railroad and Beijing-Kowloon  Railroad are the country's main arteries running across the territories  from north to south. The east-west rail tracks had been laid between Guangzhou
and Zhanjiang in 1963.

Guangdong provides a crucial link in China's domestic and international civil aviation routes. Air services connect the province to London, Paris, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Tokyo, Hanoi, Dacca, Djakarta, Pyongyang, and Dar es     Salaam. The most important is the enlarged and

Cultural Life:
Guangdong has long been noted for the distinctive cultural traits of its people, as evidenced by the variety of dialects spoken. It is famous for two types of local opera: The Yue Opera and the Chao Opera, which are popular among the Cantonese-spoken and South Min dialect-spoken people.

Cantonese food is widely recognized as among the best in China. Living in a coastal area, the people are particularly fond of seafood. Especially in  winter, the "big-headed fish" (tench) is often served raw in a fish salad, --a departure from habitual Chinese culinary practice. Some other food habits, such as the eating of new-born rats, live monkey's brain, and fried snake, are regarded as high revolting by most Chinese in other provinces.

Many ceremonies in Guangdong are associated with characteristics celebrations. During the Chinese New Year the performance of lion dances, and in early summer, the dragon-boat races are held on rivers and lakes, are especially popular.

Guangdong is a province where lineage -- an important social institution in  China -- has been particularly emphasized. This is often reflected in the settlement pattern of lineage groups. The inhabitants of many villages belong
exclusively to one or two lineages.

Ancestor worship has the most pervasive influence in Guangdong. Some folkreligions a reof strong local character, such as the worship of the goddess of
 fishing and navigation, Tian-hou Sheng-mu, or known as Mazu.  

Related Link: