Keeping history in the here and now – Xiguan 西关 in Guangzhou

Sometimes, I feel like our short history is being shortened, such as when historic cemeteries or treasured buildings have to make way for road expansion, housing and other developments, so I look wishfully at where the luxury of history and space allows historic areas to remain for centuries. Here is a look at Xiguan (西关), in the Liwan district (荔湾区) of Guangzhou.

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Xiguan (“west gate”) was known to be a bustling district from around the end of the Ming Dynasty. In the middle Qing period, it was one of the areas in Guangzhou where trade with foreigners was carried out. Today, we can still see the preserved houses of wealthy businessmen from that era.

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Along the main road, this popular restaurant that operates in the preserved buildings beckons.

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People still live in some houses along the stream.

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Downstairs are stalls selling local snacks and assorted handicrafts and keepsakes.

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The buildings on the other side of the stream look abandoned, though.

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The lake area is peaceful and pretty.

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Don’t leave anything behind but your footsteps; don’t take anything away but your memories.

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Commercialisation has introduced the lake cruise, beginning and ending near the restaurant cluster.

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Look at how much space there is for groups to share.

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If you are not one for group activities, you can find a private spot for your own exercise.

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Here is the singing group from my previous post!

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It is not that the Chinese do not have to grapple with preservation issues.  They face challenges too, such as how to conserve heritage areas and how to manage the pace of development, but it does look like they have a whole lot more room to manoeuvre there.

There are other interesting historical spots in Xiguan and you can find out about them here. (Many thanks to Sara Jaaksola!)

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