Difference between revisions of "Guangdong"
Revision as of 10:58, 12 November 2008
In the era of tea clippers, both Guangdong and its capital Guangzhou were referred to in English as "Canton". We still call the food and the language of the area "Cantonese".
Guangdong faces the South China Sea and surrounds Hong Kong. Long a provincial backwater, the province's economic fortunes changed dramatically when Deng Xiaoping instigated his reforms in 1978. Home to three of the country's Special Economic Zones (marked SEZ below, see List of Chinese provinces and regions for an explanation) and to a burgeoning manufacturing industry, Guangdong is now the richest province in China. It is also the most populous Chinese province, with about 110 million people, more than all but 10 countries.
The major cities in Guangdong have been magnets for migrant workers from poor inland provinces since the 1980s. In many cities this has led to problems with petty crime and homelessness. It also means that Mandarin is increasingly widely spoken and many taxi drivers or service staff are more conversant in Mandarin than Cantonese.
Many (perhaps even most?) overseas Chinese trace their roots to Guangdong, although many are from other coastal provinces such as Fujian or the area around Shanghai. The Chinese food most Westerners are familiar with is basically Cantonese cooking, albeit sometimes adapted for the customers' tastes.
The language of the area is Cantonese which differs from Mandarin as much as French differs from Italian or Spanish. Cantonese people are extremely proud of their language (this applies in Hong Kong as well) and continue to use it widely despite efforts at Mandarinization. Cantonese itself is more closely related to the language of the great Tang Dynasty than the more modern (circa Yuan Dynasty) Mandarin. Cantonese people worldwide tend to refer to themselves as Tang Ren (People of the Tang) rather than Han, the standard appellation for ethnic Chinese. Note that there can be significant dialectal variations within Cantonese, and the Cantonese spoken in areas in the far Western reaches of Guangdong (eg. Taishan) are only marginally, or sometimes even not mutually intelligible with the Cantonese spoken in Hong Kong or Guangzhou.
At the coastal areas near the border with Fujian, most notably Chaozhou and Shantou, a variant of Minnan known commonly as Teochew (the native pronunciation of Chaozhou) is spoken. Teochew is not mutually intelligible with Cantonese, but is still mutually intelligible with the Xiamen dialect of Minnan to a small extent.
The area is also well connected to the rest of China by road and rail.
The major cities of Guangdong are heavily infested with pickpockets, and anyone who does not look Chinese is a prime target. For some info on defenses, see pickpockets.