Pearl of the Pearl River

Updated: Feb 26, 2019 By Erik Nilsson China Daily Print
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An ancestral hall featuring colorful rooftop statues at the Chen clan's compound. [PHOTO BY ERIK NILSSON/CHINA DAILY]

Zhongshan No 4 Road

Enamel. Embroidery. Copperware.

Zhongshan No 4 Road, near the Nanyue Palace, hosts stores and workshops devoted to Cantonese handicrafts along qilou, walkways with traditional rooftops particular to the rainy region.

Olive-pit carving is one of the unique folk arts to survive the centuries. Ancient "red boats" for roving Cantonese Opera troupes are the most common motif. The ships are only about 2 centimeters long but typically feature five people, eight windows and doors that swivel open.

Other subjects include such auspicious symbols as lychees, dragons or children carrying corn.

Cantonese porcelain-distinguished from other varieties by gold thread, paint and jade inlays-was once a major export to Europe and the United States. It takes a master five days to create one piece.

Ivory carvers, who can whittle 52 intricate layers, have replaced the material with ox bone and wood.

Travelers can watch craftspeople work, buy their wares or simply learn about these traditional folk arts-and, consequently, Cantonese culture.

Beijing Road

Beijing Road is built over the ruins of 11 layers of pavement from the Tang Dynasty (618-907) through the Republic of China period (1912-49).

The roughly 30,000 daily visitors, who stroll along the pedestrian street that intersects with Zhongshan No 4 Road, can see bricks from these ancient thoroughfares through glass panels in the ground.

Red lanterns bejewel green trees.

The street leads to an ancient city gate and a replica of an ancient clepsydra featuring dragonhead spouts.

Other relics are nestled along the thoroughfare.

It has maintained its ancient function as a shopping area, and hosts what the Guinness Book of World Records recognizes as the world's oldest pharmacy.

Today, it's also home to the likes of McDonald's, Goelia and Rolex.

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