Located to the southwest of Guangzhou, Shamian Island faces the White Swan Pool on the Pearl River to the south; and surrounded by the water to the north, it faces the ancient city of Xiguan across the river. The island is covered with groups of ancient trees which have existed for hundreds of years. An aerial view shows that the buildings' roofs look like numerous islands embedded in a sea of blue. With luxuriantly green trees, birds singing and fragrant flowers all the year around, the island is appropriately termed an urban “retreat from the world”.
Shamian Island is witness to the fact that Guangzhou was one of the earliest places in Chinese history opened up to the outside world . Here the Qing Dynasty received goods and merchants from Western countries. This laid the foundation for the emergence of the red-hat merchants who fostered the high reputation of Xiguan and the status of Guangzhou as a city famous for both local and export trade.
When walking around Shamian, the history of Guangzhou and memories of that history are everywhere. Standing opposite the Shaji Massacre Monument by the river, Dongqiao (East Bridge) reminds our countrymen of those heartrending days; Beiqiao (North Bridge) has witnessed the ups and downs of Xiguan—the place where Guangzhou grew up; Nanqiao (South Bridge) has forever gazed at the two retreats of the Republic of China following its fate in the smoke clouds of war; and Xiqiao (West Bridge) has greeted the great opening up to the world in real means since the Qing Dynasty.
Shamian used to be the Consulate area for Eastern and Western powers and everywhere there are buildings of various medieval European styles: Gothic, Victorian…. It represents the most complete natural museum of Western buildings in China and is also a microcosm of heritage listed Western buildings. Each of these buildings has its stories to tell from the past. Whether on sunny or rainy days, they are silently whispering the passers-by…
Walking along the Ring Road around Shamian, on a sidewalk paved with red bricks under a canopy of huge trees, lined with rows of old carriage lamps and in the company of people from many nationalities, the tourist experiences a wonderful feeling of being in a small European town.
Here can also be found many cuisines: Cantonese and Jiangsu-Zhejiang cuisines,Thai cuisine, German cuisine and other styles of Western cooking. Many bars as well provide people with a multicultural experience.
When evening falls and the lights are lit, on both sides of the Pearl River are numerous neon signs vying for beauty with the water which glistens on the surface. On the North side of the river, there are dense crowds of tourists and shoppers on Shangxiajiu Business Street at Xiguan. On the South side, the river breeze gently blows and the water sings lowly. This all adds to the contentment people feel while staying in Shamian and they have no desire to return home..
And this is Shamian Island…