Among the stories history students have heard about China is how anyone wanting to work for the Emperor’s government had to take killer exams. This is one of the places where that happened. In the late 19th century all the families with the surname Chen in the Liwan district, around Guangzhou, gave money to build a place for all clan members to stay in the city when studying for their exams. The resulting building, also called the Chen Clan Academy and Folk Arts Museum, is stunning. Every surface is carved wood, brick, stone, or wrought iron. This kind of thing is my Disneyland.
Every clan had one of these “lineage halls.” This is one of the few left.
I’m a history buff, so I’d heard of Canton. I knew nothing about it, I’d just heard that it was an important port city to the colonial British in Cathay. Cathay is China, and Canton is Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province. And I can’t believe I knew nothing about it before coming here, because it’s a Tier 1 city…meaning in terms of population and economy, China ranks Guangzhou at the same level as Beijing and Shanghai!
I stayed in a hotel on Shamian Island, which is where the British — and other colonists — set up shop; company headquarters, banks, tennis clubs. All of their 19th and early 20th century buildlings are now protected, and house galleries, hotels, restaurants, and consulates.