Guangzhou Culture


Guangzhou Opera House

Within China, the culture of the Cantonese people is a subset of the larger “Southern” or “Lingnan” cultural areas. Notable aspects of Guangzhou’s cultural heritage include:

The Guangzhou Opera House & Symphony Orchestra also perform classical Western music and Chinese compositions in their style. Cantonese music is a style of traditional Chinese instrumental music, while Cantopop is the local form of rock-and-roll and pop music.



Guangzhou’s City God Temple

Qing-era Guangzhou had around 124 religious pavilions, halls, and temples. Today, in addition to the Buddhist Association, Guangzhou also has a Taoist Association, a Jewish community, and a history with Christianity and Islam.


Taoism and Chinese folk religion are still represented at a few of the city’s temples. Among the most important is the Temple of the Five Immortals, honoring the five immortals credited with introducing rice cultivation at the foundation of the city. The five rams they rode were supposed to have turned into stones upon their


Guangzhou’s Temple of the Five Immortals

departure and gave the city several of its nicknames. Another place of worship is the City God Temple. Guangzhou, like most of southern China, is also notably observant concerning ancestral veneration during occasions like the Tomb Sweeping and Ghost Festivals.


Buddhism is the most prominent religion in Guangzhou.[153] The Zhizhi Temple was founded in ad 233 from the estate of a Wu official; it is said to comprise the residence of Zhao Jiande, the last of the Nanyue kings, and has been known as the Guangxiao Temple (“Temple of Bright Filial Piety”) since the Ming. The missionary Bodhidharma is traditionally said to have visited Panyu during the Liu Song or Liang dynasties (5th or 6th century). Aroundad 520, Emperor Wu of the Liang ordered the construction of the Baozhuangyan Temple and the Xilai Monastery to store the relics of Cambodian Buddhist saints which had been brought to the city and


Sacred Heart Cathedral

to house the monks beginning to assemble there. The Baozhuangyan is now known as the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees, after a famous poem composed by Su Shi after a visit during the Northern Song. The Xilai Monastery was renamed the Hualin Temple (“Flowery Forest Temple”) after its reconstruction during the Qing.

The temples were damaged by both the Republican campaign to “Promote Education with Temple Property” () and the Maoist Cultural Revolution but have been renovated since the opening up that began in the 1980s. The Ocean Banner Temple on Henan Island, once famous in the west as the only tourist spot in Guangzhou accessible to foreigners, has been reopened as the Hoi Tong Monastery.



Huaisheng Mosque and its “Plain Pagoda” minaret in 1860

Nestorian Christians first arrived in China via the overland Silk Road, but suffered during Emperor Wuzong‘s 845 persecution and were essentially extinct by the year 1000. The Qing-era ban on foreigners limited missionaries until it was abolished following the First Opium War, although the Protestant Robert Morrison was able to perform some work through his service with the British factory. The Catholic archdiocese is housed at Guangzhou’s Sacred Heart Cathedral, known locally as the “Stone House”. A Gothic Revival edifice which was built by hand from 1861 to 1888 under French direction, its original Latin and French stained-glass windows were destroyed during the wars and amid the Cultural Revolution; they have since been replaced by English ones. The Canton Christian College (1888) and Hackett Medical College for Women (1902) were both founded by missionaries and now form part of Guangzhou’s Lingnan. Since the opening up of China in the 1980s, there has been renewed interest in Christianity, but Guangzhou maintains pressure on underground churches which avoid registration with government officials. The Catholic archbishop Dominic Tang was imprisoned without trial for 22 years, but his present successor is recognised by both the Vatican and China’s Patriotic Church.



The Temple of Bright Filial Piety (Guangxiao)

Guangzhou has had a Muslim community since the earliest days of Islam; the native or nativised adherents of the faith are known as the HuiHuaisheng Mosque is one of the oldest extant mosques in the world, variously said to have been founded by the city’s existing Arab community around the time of Muhammad‘s revelation or by Muhammad’s visiting uncle in 627. Muslims sacked the city in 758 and were massacred by the Chinese rebel Huang Chao in 878, along with the Jews, Christians, and Parsis. The Muslims who martyred themselves opposing theManchu conquest of the city are still honored by a national monument at the tomb of “the Loyal Trio of Muslims”. The modern city includes numerous halal restaurants.


The Flower Pagoda at the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees (Liurong)


The Hall of the 500 Arhats at the Flowery Forest Temple (Hualin) in the 1870s


The Thousand Buddha Tower at the present-day Hoi Tong Monastery

Posted in Guangzhou.

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