My ancestral home. My mother's family has lived here for centuries, my father's family came from a town named Dongguan, about 50 miles south of Guangzhou. Recent infrastructure developments have virtually merged the two towns, so my heritage can be found in that small area in the Guangdong province. Centuries of family history. Apparently, we had a few important people in the past two centuries, including several influential merchants and bureaucrats, and a couple pioneering capitalists. Not bad, but we all got kicked out by the communists to Hong Kong. Ugh.

Anyways, Guangzhou is the capital of the Guangdong province, lying on the head of the Pearl River delta, hence its very rich and fertile soil. The city is very old, founded around 700 BC as a port and agricultural center. Its strategic location in Southern China made Guangzhou a major port, it was one of the first Chinese ports to be visited by foreigners in the 16th century. A major commercial center, it remained important throughout the communist years not only as a port but also as a place to exile political leaders too inflential to be executed or sent to Tibet. Deng Xiaoping was one of them.

The mountainous areas north of the province effectively isolated the Canton area from Northern influence, created a unique Cantonese culture. The Cantonese language is the most difficult Chinese dialect to learn, its cuisine is radically different from Northern styles. There are several minorities inhabiting the area, including the Taishan (Fujian natives) and Hui (Chinese muslim) minorities, but they have been mostly assimilated into Cantonese culture.

Crime in the city has skyrocketed recently. The inhabitants are famous for their bad tempers, no doubt flamed by the sweltering heat of summer. Brawls are common, riots sometime consume entire neighborhoods. Cops sometimes join in. However, it isn't a bad place to visit for a tourist, with excellent food, many sights and an easy route to Hong Kong. Also the home of the American embassy in China, for some reason it isn't in Beijing. This city is infamous for the number of American couples coming here to adopt Chinese kids, this city is the only legal port of exit for adopted orphans.

The foreign influence is still heavy, the elaborate mansions of the British opium barons are still here, taken over by the communist cadres. Sun Yat-sen was based in Canton, making days of worthwhile sight-seeing. All in all, not a bad place to visit, to live is a different matter.

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