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Notes on the Geography of China: Guangzhou: Yao-hua and Xin-he-pu

Carl Crow's Handbook for China (1933) was reassuring: "For the benefit of timid persons who may forego the pleasure of a visit to China because of alarming stories it may be well to point out that these dangers are very small." Crow made an exception, however, for Guangzhou: "Tourists should not undertake visits to Canton without a guide or interpreter." Perhaps Crow himself, a longtime resident of Shanghai, had been here in 1925, when the British placed machine guns on Shamian Island in anticipation of riots. Times have changed, and we wander here, starting from a point just across from Shamian, then heading toward the busy Shifu Plaza, then east to the Europeanized residences built by wealthy Cantonese before 1949. (Crow, pp. 33 and 366)

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There are no gates these days on Shamian's bridges.

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Directly across the street from the island, there's a thin line of shops that once catered to Shamian residents; behind it, there's the old Chinese city, itself morphing from low- to high-rise.

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The old shopping street.

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Mushrooms.

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Dragon fruit.

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Puppies.

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Orange trees.

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Pottery.

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The Shifu Plaza, perhaps a 10-minute walk north.

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Step off it and you're in a world of alleys, in this case Yaohua Zhongdongjie. It's been cleaned up a bit in recognition of its status as a heritage area.

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The general pattern is of two-story row houses.

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Balconies to catch a breeze.

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Some alleys are busier, with shops downstairs.

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In the humidity, clothes dry slowly.

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The very occasional updated house.

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Here an alley dead-ends against a former mansion, guarded by small but pugnacious lions.

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In this case the alley ends against the new Guangzhou.

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The "Stone Room," or Sacred Heart Cathedral, about a mile to the east. Mrs. Gray, the minister's wife we met back on Shamian, dropped by during construction and wrote: "We walked on afterwards to see the beautiful French cathedral, which was begun in 1863 and is not yet [1877] completed. It is built of granite, and is a noble specimen of Perpendicular Gothic. One is surprised to find this fine cathedral within the walls of the heathen city" (p. 235). How to win friends and influence people.

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The stone room--not a bad name--reopened in 2007.

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Best take a taxi: it's about two miles east to Xin-he-pu or simpoly Xinhepu. The canal loops off the Pearl River just north of Er Sa Island.

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Ths is Chun Yuan, "Spring Garden," the best protected house in the neighborhood. The sign states that during 1923 it was the headquarters of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. Odd that it hasn't been converted into a private club.

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Less celebrated but equally handsome.

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Another example.

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And still another.


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