Goodbye Old Canton

Photo by An Ge










It’s hard to miss the Canton Tower. At 600 metres, it stands high above Guangzhou and represents all that is new in ol’ Canton.

After an ear-popping ascent, one can savour macarons at the Lutece French revolving restaurant and, from the world’s second-highest observation deck, look out over Guangdong Museum and Guangdong Science Centre, both of which were built within the past decade. If you look hard enough (and if the city’s pervasive smog has desisted), you might even see the 53-metre tall, Ming-dynasty Chigang Pagoda, which is indicative of how towers looked before the mainland opened up to the world.

Chigang is one of three fung shui steeples scattered around the Pearl River that were intended to bring fortune to the people of the city. Canton Tower, by contrast, advocates the religion of modernity, as evidenced in the Science and Technology Marvel Tour Hall, on the 109th and 110th floors.

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Shenzhen’s craft beer brewing scene takes off

In July, Shenzhen independent craft brewery Bionic Brew celebrated its second anniversary. A horde of thirsty expats and local beer enthusiasts descended on Bionics’ tiny backstreet bar to listen to live music and down made-in-Shenzhen lagers, ales, stouts and pilsners, as well as a commemorative pink ale, created by master brewer Dmitrii Gribov.

Although American owner Joe Finkenbinder recalls little of the evening, what his hangover cannot obscure is that he, above all others, has succeeded in fermenting a Shenzhen beerscape. And when one winds the clock back, it becomes apparent that it took far more than yeast, hops and malt to turn this mercantile migrant town on to a quality brew.

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The expats living the quiet life in rural southwest China

Trading city life for remote villages in the South China Karst region might seem an unlikely choice for expats but, as Thomas Bird discovers, some wouldn’t have it any other way.

The South China Karst is a region of extraordinary topography – a land defined by limestone crags, seemingly otherworldly in their gravity-defying composition. The karst may be nothing more than a product of several millennia of limestone dissolution, but it’s easy to grow misty-eyed when confronted with this natural spectacle.

Historically, this area, which spans the provinces of Guangxi, Guizhou and Yunnan, was a hotbed of ethnic insurrection and separatist movements. The region proved so difficult to pacify that the Chinese have long dubbed it “the land of a hundred barbarians” and even today, ethic minorities, as well as local Han, eke out lives as removed from mainstream affairs as one can be in today’s China.

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Mao-stalgia: red tourism in Zunyi, China

Gazing over a map of China, Zunyi appears far from the fray. The city is situated in the middle of landlocked Guizhou province, in the remote, mountainous and ethnically diverse southwest. Yet despite its obscurity, almost everyone in China has heard of Zunyi.

This is because in early 1935, the battle-weary Red Army held a meeting in Zunyi that would change the course of history. It was during the fabled Zunyi Conference that Chairman Mao Zedong negotiated his way to the emerging Communist party’s top spot. Today, with China more market-orientated than Marxist, this small Guizhou town is keen to exploit its red credentials, catering to the troops of sightseers now on the march across China.

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Calling the shots: photography festival lights up Lianzhou

Lianzhou is not on many tourist itineraries but, thanks to the efforts of one woman, once a year it becomes a hive of activity, as photographers from all over the world descend on the Guangdong town, writes Thomas Bird.

In Yuexiu, Guangzhou’s historic centre, is a jumbled neighbourhood of villas, some predating the Communist revolution of 1949. Down a back lane, one of these fine old houses bears a bright polished sign that reads “Lianzhou Foto” in bold capital letters.

Inside, all is fierce activity: an enormous Epson printer is running off glossy poster-sized images; editors are resizing photographs on desktop computers; interns are racing about nervously while full-time employees complain of sleep deprivation.

When Duan Yuting, founder and director of the Lianzhou International Photo Festival, arrives, she looks sleep-starved but spirited. The few weeks leading up to an event showcasing more than 140 photographers from across the globe are understandably hectic, but Duan appears to be comfortably in control.

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