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Discover Guangzhou Self Guided Book is written by Janvi Tours, formerly Guangzhou Private Tour Guide Janvi or Guangzhou Tour Guide Janvi

Written by Janvi Chow
Published August 2018

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Home Travel Guide Main Attractions Guangzhou Shamian Island

Guangzhou Shamian Island

Guangzhou Shamian Island - the Former French Police Station

Shamian Island is one of the famous historic attraction in Guangzhou, previously known as Shi Cui Zhou. The Shamian island was a concession gained jointly by the British and French in the 1860s after the Second Opium War, thus becoming a sort of "mini-colony" until 1949. The Shamian island is a quiet refuge of parks, trees, neoclassical buildings, Children's boutique shops, and children.

History of Shamian Island

Following the British victory in the Opium War of 1839-1842, Western powers obtained special trading privileges in China. Eventually, through the use of some 100 treaty ports, these powers controlled much of China's mining, transportation, and banking, and grafted a new urban system onto the indigenous one. In the treaty of ports, Europeans secured extraterritorial rights that allowed their people and property to exist outside the jurisdiction of China. Separate foreign settlements developed as enclaves characterized by wide and tree-shaded streets, spacious villas, schools, churches, office buildings, factories, and recreational facilities.

Shamian Island developed in the 1860s when foreign merchants, returning to the treaty port of Canton (Guangzhou) to find their properties destroyed, decided to construct a new settlement. The British and French received a joint concession to a sand flat (Shamian) along the north bank of the Peral River in downtown Canton. Over a two-year period, an island of 365 by 820 meters was built by filling in a stone embankment around the edge of the sand flat. Gradually, a self-contained settlement developed twenty-three meters from the river bank. Two Bridges that were guarded in the daytime and closed at night provided access to the island. Signs at the bridges proclaimed, "Chinese and dogs prohibited". This territorial enclave presented a vivid contrast to the congestion of Canton but also gave a negative imperialist image.

Walk up and down Shamian Street enjoy the shade provided by trees that lined the boulevard as well as the gardens and playgrounds while noticing that there were bronze statues of children at nearly every corner.

Historical Buildings on Shamian Island

Guangzhou White Swan Hotel on Shamian IslandSince the early 1990s, Shamian Island has become well known for many Western couples who reside there, seeking to adopt Chinese babies and young children, most of whom are orphaned and female. The White Swan Hotel is a block away from the U.S. Consulate and was filled with Chinese babies and young children in the 1990s. The hotel was also referred to as the "White Stork Inn" or the "Baby Hotel". Thousands of couples from the U.S., Germany, Spain and other nations come to Shamian Island each year to finalize the last bureaucratic procedures in the adoption of a Chinese child. The application process to adopt a Chinese child takes about 18 months and costs about US$18,000.


Former Embassy of the United States on Shamian IslandThis building is located in No.2 Shamian 3rd Street, it used to be Citibank NA Shameen Branch. For several months in 1949, after the Chinese Nationalist government moved its headquarters from Nanjing to Guangzhou, Shamian Island served as the site of the State Department’s “Office of Embassy.” As the civil war raged between Chinese Nationalist and Communist forces, the Nationalist government decided once again to move the seat of government to Chungking (Chongqing) and the Office of Embassy followed. Consulate Canton itself was closed in August 1949, and diplomatic relations between the communist government of mainland China and the United States ceased shortly thereafter.

To learn more about the historic buildings of Shamian Island, consider our Guangzhou walking tour -
Sai Kwan Walking Tour with Unique Food Tasting.

Attractions near Shamian Island

Guangzhou Culture Park | Thirteen-Trades Monopoly | Chrysanthemum ExhibitionQingping Traditional Chinese Medicine MarketShang Xia Jiu Pedestrian Street



Access all day;
¥Free of charge;
Shamian Island, Liwan District (荔湾区沙面岛);