History of Guangzhou

Guangzhou, the capital city of Guangdong Province, its earliest recorded name is Panyu, derived from two nearby mountains known as Pan and Yu in ancient times. Its recorded history begins with China's conquest of the area during the Qin Dynasty. Panyu expanded when it became capital of the Nanyue Kingdom in 206 BC; the territory of the Nanyue Kingdom included what is now Vietnam.

The Han Dynasty annexed the Nanyue Kingdom in 111 BC, and Panyu became a provincial capital and remains today. In 226 AD, Panyu became the seat of Guang Prefecture. Although Guangzhou replaced Panyu as the name of the walled city, Panyu was still the name of the surrounding area until the end of Qing Dynasty.

From the Han and Tang dynasties, Guangzhou was the starting port of the Marine Silk Road. The Old Book of Tang described Guangzhou as important port in the south of China. Arab and Persian merchants raided and looted warehouses in Guangzhou in AD 758. 

During the Northern Song Dynasty, the celebrated poet Su Shi visited Guangzhou's Baozhuangyan Temple and wrote the inscription "Liu Rong" (Six Banyan Trees) because of the six banyan trees he saw there. It has been called the Temple of the 6 Banyan Trees since then.

By the 16th century, Europeans had discovered Guangzhou and would regularly make sojourns there. The first of these Europeans were the Portuguese, who discovered the city in 1511. Given its strategic location by the sea and its ideal position for foreign trade, Guangzhou was transformed into a Portuguese harbor. The Portuguese expelled from their settlements in Guangzhou, but instead granted use of Macau as a trade base with the city in 1557. They would keep a near monopoly on foreign trade in the region until the arrival of the Dutch in the early 17th century. It would not be until 1683 when the Chinese would themselves engage in foreign trade, a development sparked by China’s claim of control over Taiwan that year. Naturally, Guangzhou quickly became one of its key ports for commerce. By 1690, several nationalities were engaged in trade with the Chinese at the Guangzhou port.

By the middle of the 18th century, Guangzhou had emerged as one of the world's great trading ports under the Thirteen Factories, which was a distinction it maintained until the outbreak of the First Opium War in 1839 and the opening of other ports in China in 1842. The privilege during this period made Guangzhou one of the top 3 cities in the world. During the war, the British captured Canton on March 18, 1841. The Second Battle of Canton was fought in May 1841. 

In 1918, the city's urban council was established and "Guangzhou" became the official name of the city. Panyu became a county's name to the southern side of Guangzhou. Guangzhou was promoted to a municipality twice in 1930 and 1953, but this promotion was canceled within a year both times.

The dawn of World War II once again saw Guangzhou become occupied territory, this time by the Japanese, who bombed the city violently in 1938 and stayed until 1945. The city became a virtual bacteriological research laboratory as the Imperial Japanese Army conducted experiments on human prisoners.

Communist forces entered the city on October 14, 1949. They launched renewal projects to improve the lives of some residents, new housing on the shores of the Pearl River provided homes for the poor boat people. Reforms by Deng Xiaoping, who came to power in the late 1970s, led to rapid economic growth due to the city's close proximity to Hong Kong and access to the Pearl River.

As labor costs increased in Hong Kong, manufacturers opened new plants in the cities of Guangdong including Guangzhou. Moreover, beneficial tax reform further spurred the city’s economic development.

In 2000, Huadu and Panyu were merged into Guangzhou as districts, Conghua and Zengcheng became county-level cities of Guangzhou.


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