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Home > Attractions > Cultural

Shamian Island

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Shamian Island is a reminder of Guangzhou colonial history and covers an area of 24,000 sq meters at the side of the Pearl River. It is not a true island, the name Shamian means sandbank, and it is now connected to the rest of the city by a series of bridges. From the mid 18th to the mid 19th century, Shamian was the only place where foreign merchants were allowed to live in Guangzhou. The large villas and shady tree lined avenues that were constructed then have a faded charm and create a contrasting atmosphere to much of the city. While most of Guangzhou is battling along at breakneck pace Shamian is merely ambling. Along the river, the park area is a great place for people watching and tea drinking. Or walk along the wide sidewalks and dine in the open-air under the old trees.

It had been a tourist attraction as well as an important port for Guangzhou鈥檚 foreign trade from Song Dynasty to the Qing Dynasty. It became a strategic point for city defense during the opium war period, after which the Qing Administration was forced to agree to 鈥榣ease鈥 Shamian to the British and French imperialist powers, thus Shamian was reduced to the British and French concessions and changed to the present name. When digging the waterway during 1859 to 1862, Shamian was separated from the north bank of the Pearl River and a stone bridge was built only in the east to connect the north bank. Now Shamian embraces eight major roads and streets, of which three are from east to west: Shamian North Street, Shamian Street and Shamian South Street, and five from south to north: Shamian No. 1 to 5 Streets. And in the east, north and west there are respectively East Bridge, West Bridge and New West Bridge to connect Liuersan Road.

The island boasts many trees and pleasant environment, together with such buildings, organizations, sports and entertainment facilities as the Victory Hotel, Shamian Hotel, White Swan Hotel, Guangzhou International Seamen鈥檚 Club, the Polish Consulate-General in Guangzhou, the Representation of the Export and Import Corporations of the Democratic People鈥檚 Republic of Korea, Guangzhou Office of China-Poland Shipping Ltd., Shamian Tennis Court, Shamian Swimming Pool and so on.

What is worth mentioning on Shamian is its restricted planning area, namely the area protected by the state as key historical relics, including the architectural complex built during the concession period in Shamian鈥檚 modern times. The area became concession in 1859, and afterwards the British, French, American, German, Japanese, Italian, Netherlands and Portuguese set up consulates, banks and trade offices, one after another. The Kuomintang (KMT) government took over Shamian after winning the Anti-Japanese War in 1945. Quite a few of the old buildings are of Western classic layout.

When visiting Shamian in 1959, late Premiere Zhou Enlai gave directives to carefully handng looks of these buildings, taking them as historical witness to the semi-colonial place, and possibly opening up to visitors as a tourist spot.Attractions on Shamian and nearby also include: Renmin Bridge, Jiefang Bridge, Nanfang Mansion, 'Night Moon over the Goose Pool' (one of the Eight Sights of Guangzhou), the Swan Club, Pedestrian Street for Business and Trade at Xiguan, Qingpin Market, Huangsha Metro Station, the Pearl River Tunnel, etc.

Admission: free

Opening hours: 24 hours open

How to get there: You can take Bus No. 1, 5, 9, 25, 57, 64A, 69, 75, 81, 181, 206, 208, 222, 227, 233, 236, 250 to Shamian. Also you can take Subway Line 1 to Huangsha Station.
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It's a nice place. If you want to see the building, you'd better go there at daytime. If you want to feel the nightclub, you'd better go there at night.

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