Foshan is located in the south-central part of Guangdong Province, in the hinterland of the Pearl River Delta, east of Guangzhou, adjacent to Hong Kong and Macao. This city has achieved rapid development with its great geographical conditions and a strong economy. What’s amazing about this city is the way it keeps its balance between modernity and historical profundity. So, how much of history about Foshan do you know?
Foshan, formerly known as Jihua Town, “started in Jin Dynasty and got its name from Tang Dynasty”, has a long history and profound cultural heritage. According to research, the human history of Foshan originated from the area of Lanshi street in the present Chancheng District. About 4500-5500 years ago, the ancestors of Baiyue came here along the Xijiang River and Beijiang River to breed and live and created the primitive civilization by fishing and pottery making. In the second year of Zhenguan of Tang Dynasty (628 A.D.), three statues of Buddha were excavated on the tower slope in the city, which was considered to be the place of Buddhism. Therefore, the town of Jihua was changed into “Foshan”, also known as “Zen city” in Chinese.
During the Tang and Song Dynasties, Foshan’s handicraft industry, commerce and culture were very prosperous. During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, it developed into an important Lingnan town with a large number of merchants, developed industries and commerce. It was also known as the “four famous towns” in China together with Hankou town in Hubei, Jingdezhen town in Jiangxi and Zhuxian Town in Henan. The four industries of ceramics, textile, casting and medicine were prosperous in southern China. At the end of the Qing Dynasty, Foshan gained popularity and became one of the birthplaces of modern national industry in China. The first new silk reeling factory and the first match factory were born in the country, and the “Bamboo Cigarette Holder Factory of Nanyang Brother Tobacco Company” was established.
China’s Four Famous Towns
The four ancient towns in China generally refer to Foshan in Guangdong, Jingdezhen in Jiangxi, Hankou Town in Hubei, and Zhuxian Town in Henan. These four towns have strong ethnic styles and local characteristics and are part of the splendid Chinese cultural heritage. They respectively represent the characteristics of the region and the features of a certain historical period, with distinctive characteristics. It is of great significance to the study of Chinese architecture, history, population, customs and culture. These ancient towns fully reflect the traditional Chinese architectural style and planning ideas. It is an iconic town showing Chinese historical and cultural characteristics. In the Ming and Qing Dynasties, Foshan, Hankou town in Hubei, Jingdezhen in Jiangxi and Zhuxian Town in Henan were considered the four famous towns in China. Foshan was also known as the “four major agglomerations” in the world together with Beijing, Hankou and Suzhou. What were “four major agglomerations”?
Four Business Centers of China
Four aglomerations was a popular title for the four most important business center cities in the Qing Dynasty in China. They were Beijing in North China, Foshan in South China, Suzhou in East China, and Hankou in Central and Western China (now part of Wuhan). Foshan is located in the hinterland of the Pearl River Delta. The waterway occupies the upper reaches of Guangzhou and the lower reaches of the Xijiang and Beijiang Rivers. It is adjacent to Hong Kong and Macao in terms of geographical location and has excellent water and land transportation. During the Eastern Han Dynasty, advanced farming techniques emerged, and Foshan became a land of abundant food. It has gradually developed into a commodity distribution center in Lingnan area and a manufacturing center of metallurgy, casting, ceramics, textile, Chinese patent medicine, etc. Together with Beijing, Hankou and Suzhou, they were collectively called the “four agglomerations in the world”.
The Land of Talented People
Foshan has been economically developed since ancient times, with prosperous business and cultural and educational prosperity. From the Tang Dynasty to the Qing Dynasty in the 30th year of Guangxu (1905), Foshan had many top scholars.
Foshan has gathered talents since ancient times. Since the Tang and Song Dynasties, Guangdong has had nine top scholars, with Foshan accounting for five. Since modern times, there have been well-known people in every field. For instance, the reform movement leader Kang Youwei, political activists Zhang Yinhuan, Dai Hongci, Tan Pingshan, He Xiangning, Luo Dengxian, Deng Pei, ethnic industrialists Chen Qiyuan, Jian Zhaonan, Jian Yujie, scientists Zhan Tianyou, Zou Boqi, writer Wu Jianren, Cantonese opera star Xue Juexian Ma Shizeng, martial arts masters Liang Zan, Huang Feihong, Li Xiaolong, famous doctor Li Guanghai, skilled craftsmen Huang Bing, Chen Weiyan, Liu Chuan, the first Chinese pastor Liang Fa and other outstanding figures.
Hometown of Many Things
Foshan is a historical and cultural city of the nation. With a long history, the unique Lingnan traditional culture had been bred.
Historically, Foshan is one of the four famous towns in China. And it is known as the hometown of pottery, ceramics, martial arts, and Cantonese opera. It is also a famous city of the dragon boat and lion dance culture.
Ceramic Capital of the South
Foshan is the “pottery & ceramic capital of the South”. Its pottery & ceramic making art has a long history of more than 700 years. Since ancient times, it has had the reputation of “Shiwan tiles, the best in the world”. The Ancient Nanfeng Kiln, built in the Zhengde period of the Ming Dynasty, is the oldest existing firewood burning long kiln in the world. It has been passed down for more than 400 years and is known as “living ceramic fossil”. In 2005, Foshan won the title of “China’s Famous Ceramic Capital”.
Kung Fu Kingdom
Foshan is the hometown of Kung Fu and the main birthplace of Chinese southern martial arts. Huang Feihong, a famous martial arts master, Liang Zan and Ye Wen, Yongchun masters, and Li Xiaolong (Bruce Lee), a film and television martial arts star, are from Foshan. In 2004, Foshan was awarded the title of “The City of Martial Arts” by the Chinese General Administration of Sport.
Birthplace of Cantonese Opera
Foshan is the birthplace of “Southern Red Bean” Cantonese opera. It gave birth to the nickname of Cantonese opera artists – “Children of the Red Boat” and the earliest opera organization of Cantonese opera – Qionghua Guild Hall. The privately-sponsored Cantonese opera singing “Private Bureau” is a major feature of Foshan’s culture, and it has continued to flourish. The annual Qionghua Cantonese Opera Art Festival, held in Foshan, attracts thousands of people.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Foshan is the hometown of Lingnan patent medicine. With a history of more than 400 years, the traditional Chinese medicine has a complete range of products, which can be divided into the following categories, i.e. ointment, pill, powder, tea, medicinal oil, medicinal liquor, etc. It is a necessary Chinese patent medicine for craftsmanship, home, and travel, and a batch of famous old brands such as “Huangxianghua” Ruyi oil, “Fengliaoxing” medicinal wine, “Yuanjilin” Ganhe tea have emerged.
Foshan is the first City of Sports of Dragon & Lion Dance and Dragon Race in China. Foshan is the hometown of lion dance performance, the birthplace of the “southern lion dance”. And it is a typical Lingnan water town with a well-developed water network. Since ancient times, the folk custom of “dragon boat races” has flourished and continues to this day. Shunde District is the “Hometown of Dragon Boats in China”. It has participated in world and national competitions on many occasions on behalf of the country and Guangdong Province, with outstanding results.
Foshan’s foundry industry began more than 2000 years ago. During the Song Dynasty, the tripods, pots, bells, and towers cast by Foshan were famous all over the country. By the Ming Dynasty, the foundry technology of Foshan had reached a very high level and became a smelting center in southern China. During the Opium War, the cannons made in Foshan played an important role in fighting against foreign invasion.
Foshan Folk Art
Foshan is the cradle of folk art in the Pearl River Delta. It breeds and retains folk art and folk customs that embody the essence of Lingnan culture, such as autumn parades, paper-cut, lion dance, dragon dance, dragon boat singing, dragon boat races, brick sculpture, and other traditional handicraft skills are exquisite and unique. At the end of 2005, Foshan participated in six projects, including lion dance, Cantonese opera, Dragon Boat singing, Foshan woodcut New Year paintings, Guangdong paper cutting, and Shiwan pottery sculpture technique, which were listed in the first batch of national intangible cultural heritage list.
In recent years, focusing on the goal of building a famous cultural city, Foshan has promoted the integration of traditional historical culture and modern urban culture, created an open, compatible and innovative cultural image of Foshan, and made every effort to build a brand of “famous cultural city”. It has successfully hosted the 7th Asian Art Festival, the 6th China Golden Rooster and Hundred Flowers Film Festival, Guangdong International Music summer camp and other cultural activities with great influence at home and abroad. The construction of various cultural facilities is at the advanced level of the whole province and the country, and a multi-level supporting cultural service network has basically been formed. We can really see the promotion of culture and art blooming. Cantonese Opera Theater and Guangdong Opera Museum are located in Foshan, and the International Art Exchange Center of Artists Association is located in Shunde. Foshan Folk Art Research Institute and Foshan Kongquelang Gallery Audio-visual Appliance Co., Ltd. were identified as the first batch of national-level cultural industry demonstration bases. Shiwan in Chancheng District was rated as one of China’s charming towns. Daqitou village in Sanshui District and Bijiang community in Shunde District was rated as national historical and cultural villages.
It’s been almost 3 decades since Foshan was approved as a national historical and cultural city in January 1994. In the past years, through the exploration and protection of traditional cultural resources, the connotation of Foshan’s historical and cultural city has been continuously enriched. The given title greatly encouraged the culture protection industry. And we believe Foshan will do even better in the near future.