In the era of tea clippers, both Guangdong and its capital Guangzhou were referred to in English as "Canton", or "Kwangtung". The food and language of the area are still known as "Cantonese".
Guangdong faces the South China Sea and surrounds Hong Kong and Macau. Long a provincial backwater, the province's economic fortunes changed dramatically when Deng Xiaoping initiated economic 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 one of the most populous Chinese provinces, with approximately 110 million people, more than all but ten 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 overseas Chinese, particularly those which emigrated before 1949, trace their roots to Guangdong, although many are from other coastal provinces such as Fujian or the area around Shanghai. The Chinese food most familiar to Westerners is basically Cantonese cooking, albeit sometimes adapted for the customers' tastes.
Guangdong has a subtropical climate. Annual rainfall averages 1500-2000 millimeters and temperature averages 19C - 26C. Summers are hot and wet and there may be typhoons. The best time to visit Guangdong is in the Spring or Autumn.
Shenzhen. Zhuhai and Shantou are Special Economic Zones (SEZs) where various government programs encourage investment.
The historic language of the region 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 to a small extent mutually intelligible with the Xiamen dialect of Minnan.
Certain parts of the province are also home to Hakka communities, and they speak the Hakka dialect, which is not mutually intelligible with Mandarin, Cantonese or Teochew.
The area is also well connected to the rest of China by road and rail.
There are four railway companies in the province. Major rail lines running through Guangdong include Beijing to Kowloon, Beijing to Guangzhou, Guangzhou to Meixian, and Shantou and Sanshui to Maoming.
A total of 1,689 km of highways at fourth-grade or above were constructed in 2003, of which new express highways accounted for 562 km and upgraded highways 333 km.
The province has more than 100 ports, including Huangpu, Zhanjiang, Shekou and Chiwan. Five quays were either built or extended in 2003, a year in which the volume of freight handled reached some 2.4 million tons.
These are the Tourists' Hot Spot when they visit Guangdong
By visiting these destinations, a visitor can gain an understanding of China's history and culture as well as experience the customs and cultural differences both between their own culture and China and between Guangdong and other regions of China.
Guangdong has a many restaurants, with Guangzhou in particular having a reputation as a diner's paradise. Other than sit-down restaurants, bustling night markets provide an eclectic mix of inexpensive finger foods, snacks, and delicacies. These markets are filled with shops and food carts integrating the eating and window-shopping experiences. Night markets are usually very crowded with both tourists and locals.
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.