top of page
  • James Tam

The New Face of Old Guangzhou 廣州的舊城新貌

The Chan tablets behind the kirin are long gone at the Chan Academy  陳氏家祠麒麟身後的牌位早已不見了

Like most tourists, I prefer historical sites or “exotic” destinations when travelling, wishing to see something “different”. Since I regarded Guangzhou familiar from frequent visits during the early 1990s, I had not thought of exploring it as a tourist. Thanks to a friend who organised a weekend trip recently, I was surprised by how much the old city has changed. It not only looked different as expected, but also felt very different. Much of the old was thankfully still there, calmly giving way to the new. In such a dramatic and abrupt social transformation, anxiety is expected. But from the places we visited and the people we talked to, I sensed mostly optimism and vibrancy rather than misgivings.

There's a wonderful French restaurant hiding on the 4th floor. No Elevator.  四樓有家超正法式素食館

There's a wonderful French restaurant hiding on the 4th floor. No Elevator. 四樓有家超正法式素食館


Museum/Mausoleum of the Nan Yue King (2nd Century BCE) 兩千多年前的南越王墓和博物館

Perhaps the two-thousand-year-old city has seen enough changes over the centuries to become unduly anxious. Things happen, some good, some bad. People come and go. What else is new? During Tang dynasty (AD618-907), tens of thousands of Arabs lived in Guangzhou. They built the oldest mosque in China — Huaisheng Mosque or the Mosque of Holy Remembrance. Today, Guangzhou is again home to hundreds of thousands of foreign residents from Africa and the Middle East. Halal kitchens are very common. 悠久的歷史,也可能在廣州的因子留下了寬闊的眼界。滄海桑田,十年河東,十年河西,廣州曾經多次見證各式人種由五湖四海湧來經商居住,轉眼風向一變,又各散東西,不知所蹤,不值得大驚小怪。唐朝的廣州,已經住了數以萬計的中東阿拉伯人,興建了全國最古老的回教寺。今天廣州又再是外商聚居地之一,阿拉伯,非洲和拉丁裔的廣州居民數以十萬計,替廣州帶來了機遇,挑戰,和色彩。

Built in 1888, Chan's Academy once provided accomodation and assistance to all the Chans in the province coming to Guangzhou for public examination 1888 年始建的陳氏書院曾經為所有廣東陳姓來穗應考的年輕人提供住宿和方便,的確同姓三分親

Back then, some craftsmen in Guangzhou were evidently not Chinese


陳氏家祠大門 Front door of Chan's Academy

Guangzhou’s historical fame in culinary excellence and diversity, briefly interrupted by revolution and national recuperation, has been unquestionably reinstated with a cosmopolitan flavour. Upon arrival, we lunched at Veg Tables, a tugged away French vegetarian restaurant in Goelia Concept 225 on old Beijing Road. Paris needs a vegetarian restaurant of this calibre. Between many meals, we visited the Sacred Heart Cathedral — some of my trip-mates attended mass in the crowded church supposedly denied “freedom of worship”. 「食在廣州」這句話可能在國家復原的日子曾被中斷,但今天的廣州,又再登上了「中國飲食天堂」的寶座,還增添了不少國際口味。我們到達後的第一餐是《歌莉婭225概念》的法國素食。我以前經常出差法國,從未見過如此高水準的素食餐館。除了吃完又吃,我們在短短幾天裏參觀了全球剩下四座石室大教堂之一的《聖心大教堂》;不少團友參加了彌撒,與大批據說沒有宗教自由的內地教友集體拜上帝

European Design with Chinese characteristics: Look at the brick roof 有中國特色的歐洲設計:在歐洲保證找不到這類磚砌屋頂

In the Guangzhou Museum, Fu Hao’s burial jades happened to be on exhibition. The much loved, feared, respected, Fu Hao was the chief wife, general, and shaman/priestess of King Wu Ding of Shang Dynasty (c.1600-1046 BCE). She died circa 1200 BCE.

廣州博物館夜色 Guangzhou Museum at night

Guangzhou Museum's metallic curtain design 廣州博物館的金屬幕簾設計

Why aren't rings nice and simple like this anymore? 古代的戒指比現代的要樸實漂亮得多!

在《廣州博物館》,剛巧碰上商朝武丁的老婆,將軍兼祭師婦好的陪葬玉器巡回展覽,十分難得。《廣州大劇院》的《東方之聲》表演很精彩,就是聲浪過大,老人家可以把助聽器暫時關掉。 We also saw a show at the Guangzhou Opera House, strolled Chan Clan Academy, and went to the great library (the library? Oh yes, it’s definitely worth dropping by for the architecture and atmosphere).

The futuristic Guangzhou Opera House 外型科幻的廣州大劇院

East is Red after O Sole Mio, plus a few numbers from The Sound of Music



The nine-storey Guangzhou Public Library is huge, but packed with borrowers on Sunday


Before taking the train back to Hong Kong, we spent the morning at elegant Sha Mian, occupied by colonial powers really not that long ago. Want to see what Sha Mian looked like in 1949? Here's a link to photos taken by an American journalist: Sha Mian 沙面 1949

不久前才被殖民地霸權佔據的沙面,今天美麗優雅,輕淡地刻畫著永遠不應該忘記的歷史教訓。想看看沙面在1949年的面貌嗎?這兒有個鏈接:Sha Mian 沙面 1949

Street musician playing only to share, not to ask for money. He kept his hat on his head.


Guangzhou Guangzhou, what a pleasant surprise. Having witnessed a huge arc of its cyclic vicissitudes within just a few decades is remarkable and moving for me. However, I’d strongly advise tourists to fast at least three weeks in advance to make room for the food they’re about to eat. 廣州幾天行是個意外收穫。能夠在短短幾十年中親眼見證如此巨變,實在難得。不過計劃去廣州的遊客最好首先瘦身,好讓自己在羊城不顧一切地開懷大吃!

Meditating Chicken 冥想中的清遠雞

James Tam 譚炳昌


29 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page