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Pearl of the Pearl River

Updated: Feb 26, 2019 By Erik Nilsson China Daily Print
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An artisan paints plates at his store at Zhongshan No 4 Road, which hosts stores and workshops devoted to Cantonese handicrafts. [PHOTO BY ERIK NILSSON/CHINA DAILY]

Chen Clan Ancestral Hall

The superlatively flamboyant Chen clan's compound would make a peacock blush.

The visually resplendent Chen Clan Ancestral Hall showcases Cantonese craftsmanship at its best-and most hyperactive.

The 15,000-square-meter complex completed in the 1870s is the province's largest constructed in the regional Lingnan style.

Its 11 shrines and exhibition halls house local deities, totems of filial piety and such artifacts as folding fans, local pith-paper watercolors and shell carvings.

Rooftop statues, tiles and engraved wooden screens feature such local totems of good fortune as banana trees or groups of eight chickens, 18 lobsters and 48 crabs. (The numbers also have auspicious meanings.)

Locals joke that the hall was the world's first "crowdfunding" project. It was built with contributions from over 1,700 people with the surname Chen-the most common in Guangdong-although not all were blood relatives.

Those who presented receipts for their donations were able to stay overnight for free in olden days.

Today, it's a major ticketed destination for people with all surnames-including some whose happen to be Chen.

Nanyue king's mausoleum

The Nanyue king's mausoleum could be the setting of an Indiana Jones film.

Visitors descend 20 meters into the tomb of the Nanyue's second ruler, Zhao Mo, bored into an artificial hill. They can explore the burial passages, where the monarch was interred with 15 human sacrifices, 200 fowl and abundant seafood.

A concubine's skeleton can be viewed through glass. And the ruler's teeth and cranium are displayed outside.

Guests can also see the burial suit created with over 2,000 small jade tiles sewn together with silk in addition to over 1,000 other relics discovered when this underground afterworld was unearthed.

Visitors to Guangzhou will find much of the city's cultural appeals are, like its ruins, under the surface-and it's worth digging deeply to uncover its layers.

Contact the writer at erik_nilsson@chinadaily.com.cn

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