The capital of Guangdong Province, Guangzhou (also known as Canton) is both a modern boomtown and an ancient port city. This metropolis of more than 13 million people has all the expected trappings of a competitive, modern Chinese city: skyscrapers, heavy traffic, efficient metro, and serious crowds. Guangzhou is an old city with a long history. Exploring its riverfront, parks, temples, and markets, one is constantly reminded of the impact its irrepressible culture, language, and cuisine have made on the world.
In the early 20th century, Guangzhou was a hotbed of revolutionary zeal, first as the birthplace of the movement to overthrow the last dynasty (culminating in the 1911 Revolution), and then as a battleground between Nationalists and Communists in the years leading to the 1949 Communist Revolution. Following Deng Xiaoping’s 1978 Open Door policy, the port city was able to resume its role as a commercial gateway to China.
The Asian Games in 2010 spurred the city to extend the subway system, clean up ramshackle neighborhoods, and institute air-pollution controls. Though pollution is still a problem, Guangzhou's parks, temples, winding old-quarter backstreets, and river islets are pleasant places to explore.