Formerly known as Canton in the West, the city of Guangzhou has a history dating back roughly 2,500 years.
Although the actual origins of the city are lost in the mists of time, the most popular legend tells of five celestial beings riding into the area that
is now Guangzhou on five rams and carrying sheaves of rice. The celestials bestowed blessings on the land and offered the sheaves to the
people of the city as a symbol of prosperity and abundance. After the celestials left, the rams turned into stone, and Guangzhou quickly developed
into an affluent and influential city. Due to this legend, Guangzhou has gained several popular nicknames: Yangcheng (City of Rams),Suicheng
(Sheaves of Rice City) and Wuyangcheng (City of Five Rams). In addition, due to the abundance of flowers along the city’s main thoroughfares,
Guangzhou is often referred to as Huacheng(City of Flowers).
According to historical records, the city was built in 214 BC and was known as Panyu. The name Guangzhou actually referred to the prefecture in which Panyu was located. However, as the city grew, the name Guangzhou was adopted for the city itself.
As a major sea port, Guangzhou’s history is full of color. In 786 the city was sacked by the Persians and in 1711 the British East India Company
established a trading post here. In 1842 the Treaty of Nanjing was signed, which designated the city as one of the five ports that were allowed
business transactions with foreign nations.
Guangzhou was also part of the so called “Maritime Silk Road” that linked southern China with India, South-East Asia, the Middle East,and
Africa.As a result of its links with the Middle East, a mosque was established in the city in 627, and a small Muslim community continues to live
in Guangzhou to this day. Additionally, the sixth patriarch of Zen Buddhism was born in Guangzhou and taught the famous Platform Sutra in the
city. As a result, Guangzhou has retained a strong connection with this school of Buddhism, and the monastery where the sixth patriarch
studied is considered a local treasure.