The people of ancient Guangdong Province
Many diverse cultures and ethnic groups have lived in Guangdong Province since before the Qin (221 – 207 BCE). Ethnic groups include the Yue, Hakka, Bai Yui, and Yao [the Yao people are divided into two groups: Baiku Yao (people who wear white pants) and Hong Yao (people who wear red clothes).].
Guangdong Province’s role in ancient China
Home to ancient peoples of China since the Xia dynasty (2200 – 1700 BCE), Gunangdong Province became part of the Qin dynasty when Emperor Qin Shihuangdi placed 500,000 troops of the imperial army in the province.
Buddhism flourished in this area and many temples from ancient times continue in use today.
A key feature of Guangdong Province is its seacoast and its ports that became the departure and entry point for the Maritime Silk Road.
During the Qing dynasty (1644 – 1911 CE), Guangdong was also known as Kwangtung or Canton.
Foreign merchant ships were only allowed to dock at the ports in Guangdong to offload and sell their goods. Foreign merchants could only purchase Ancient Chinese goods such as, silk, tea, spices, and pottery, through a port in Guangdong or Canton.
Although the city, Guangzhou, was where the port was located, the foreign merchants used the province name, Guangdong or Canton, for the name of the location to sell and buy their goods.
Ancient Location of Guangdong Province
Rising from western mountains and running to the South China Sea, Guangdong Province has the longest coastline of any Chinese province. The Pearl River, the third longest river in China, empties into the South China Sea between Hong Kong and Macau.
Ancient Cities in Guangdong Province
Gunagdong Province has many ancient cities. Six are described below: Dongguan, Foshan, Guangzhou, Shanwei, Shaoguan, and Zhanjiang
Dongguan is most famous for being the center of the Opium Wars (1840 – 1842 CE and 1856 – 1860 CE), which occurred during the Qing dynasty. The Chinese government destroyed more than 2,000,000 pounds of illegal opium, and the bombardment by British merchant and warships of killed more than 20,000 Chinese.
Guangzhou, Guangdong’s capital was synonymous with Canton, as it was the Pearl River port where foreign ships docked during ancient times.
Ceramics have been prized in Foshan since the Tang dynasty (618 – 907 CE). Wood-burning kilns dating to the Ming dynasty (1368 – 1644 CE) continue to produce ceramics. These kilns, known as “dragon kilns”, follow the slope of a hill, winding their way across the ground.
Shanwei was once populated by the Bai Yui ethnic peoples during the Xia (2200 – 1700 BCE) and Shang (1700 – 1100 BCE) dynasties. As a port city, Shanwei has long been known for the worship of Mazu, the goddess of fishermen.
Since the Warring States Period (476 – 221 BCE), Shaoguan was an important area for many dynasties including the Sui (581 – 618 CE) and the Ming dynasties.
The famous Buddhist temple, Nan Hua, is located in the mountains near Shaoguan. Covering more than 100 acres the temple was first built by Buddhists during the Tang (618 – 907 CE) dynasty. Buildings erected then still stand with additional buildings dating from the Southern Song (1127 – 1279 CE), Yuan (1279 – 1368 CE), Ming, and Qing dynasties. A bell tower built during the Southern Song dynasty houses a brass bell that is 9 feet by 6 feet.
Zhanjiang was an important city during many Ancient Chinese dynasties including the Qin dynasty and the Western and Eastern Han dynasties.
Another main feature of Zhanjiang is as a port for the Marine Silk Road, where ships took products manufactured in Ancient China to all parts of the world.
Ancient Culture in Guangdong Province
Guangdong Province is famous for wood, stone, and jade carving; lacquer ware; iron smelting; bronze drums; embroidery; and pottery and ceramics.
Famous people from ancient Guangdon Province
- Lee Hoi-Chuen (1901 – 1965 CE): opera singer, and actor, Bruce Lee’s father
- Su Dongpo (960 – 1127 CE): writer, calligrapher and painter
- Lin Zexu (1785 – 1850 CE) politician, poet, destroyed opium during Opium Wars