22 Jan 2019
Few cities can claim such an impressive history as Guangzhou. Originally known as Panyu, it was a centre of the Han Dynasty. In more modern times, it was the principal port of European traders from the 16th century and more recently is now home to Jumeirah Living Guangzhou.
Travelling bards have sung Guangzhou’s splendour for centuries, such as Su Shi who gave the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees its name in the 11th century. From its colourful pagodas sharing the sky with modern high-rises to its historical districts bearing tales of the city’s vibrant past, Guangzhou will inspire you with its enchanting sites.
Temple of the Six Banyan Trees
The Temple of the Six Banyan Trees dates to AD 537, and is a captivating combination of shrines, halls, statues and gardens, all built at different periods in southern China’s history. Wandering through temple paths, richly carved roofs break out from the trees, irradiating the canopy with streaks of bright red and gold. Soaring above all others is the white, green and vermillion Hua Ta Pagoda, the centrepiece of the temple.
Originally built in 1097, few buildings could evoke a clearer feeling of traditional China. The cylindrical structure rises 184 feet, and has been compared to the stamen of an exotic flower. Inside, several precious Buddha statues are housed, including the thousand-Buddha copper pillar, cast in the Yuan Dynasty of Kublai Khan. The top floor of the pagoda offers astounding views of both the temple and the historical heart of Guangzhou
Shishi Sacred Heart Cathedral
Situated in the heart of Old Town, Sacred Heart is a stunning, gothic revival cathedral. Completed in 1888, it was largely hand-built by Chinese craftsmen who had never seen a European cathedral. It is known affectionately at the “Stone House” or “Shishi” as it is made entirely of granite. Inside, the stained-glass windows light up the vaulted ceiling in a kaleidoscopic technicolour display—almost resembling the bright interiors of several nearby Buddhist temples. The cathedral itself is huge, measuring over 190-feet tall. Its spires add to the multicultural array of towers piercing the Guangzhou sky, alongside the Hua Ta Pagoda and Huaisheng Mosque minaret. Sacred Heart offers services in Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, and English.
An important part of the history of Guangzhou, Guangxiao Temple is also one of the oldest and most influential temples in China. Originally a Han-period private home, it was dedicated to Zen Buddhists during the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and has housed several famous monks. It remains a central pilgrimage spot for Zen Buddhists, who recognize the temple’s protagonist role in the spread of Zen Buddhism. The temple complex is home to several halls ranging from the Eastern Jin (317-420) to the Ming (1368-1644) dynasties. Each are bedecked with spectacular carvings and augmented with Zen Buddhist relics. Of special note are the East and West Iron Towers, the oldest in China (10th century).
Shamian Island has long been an important trading centre in the history of Guangzhou. However, much of its present appearance dates to the 18th and 19th centuries, when the island was home to European traders. The result is an intriguing fusion of colonial and local architecture, not unlike India’s Shimla or Vietnam’s Hoi An. Its tranquil, traditionally paved streets combine banyan and baroque and recall the vibrant cultural interactions the island has overseen. Many traditional markets dot the historic streets, embracing the island’s rich trading history. It is especially famous for its embroidery. Highlights of the island include Shamian Park, which offers the best panoramas of Guangzhou, or the French Catholic Church Notre Dame de Lourdes.
Discover the history of Guangzhou while staying at the stylish Jumeirah Living Guangzhou.