Hidden History: Guangzhou’s Beijing Lu

Hidden History: Guangzhou’s Beijing Lu

Guangzhou’s Beijing Lu and its surrounding neighbourhood have gradually become known for one thing – shopping. Along with Teemall and Shangxiajiu, it is a top consumer destination, particularly for clothes. Lacking in its popular facade however, is its ancient history as well as its modern evolution into a top dining area and a hangout spot. While it’s known only as Beijing Lu, or officially as Beijing Lu Commercial Center, these names refer to a small district surrounding the 440-meter main drag: Zhongshan Si Lu and Zhongshan Wu Lu in the north down to Wenming Lu and Danan Lu in the south; and Dezheng Zhong Lu in the east to Qiyi Lu in the west.

Like much in China, Beijing Lu’s origins go back over 2,000 years, to the modest beginnings of Guangzhou as Panyu Town during the Western Han Dynasty. As royalty moved here, and mansions, palaces and temples got built, this street and its neighbours quickly became a commercial district. In fact, despite its modernity today and its Times Square feeling at night, a simple walk down Beijing Lu reveals the showcase of ancient roads several feet underground and protected by glass, the remains of the area from the Ming and Qing dynasties. Still under your feet on Beijing Lu are allegedly roads and gates from nine other dynasties. The name of the city may have changed, and it may have expanded geometrically, but just ten minutes walk from the main strip you can now find the ancient Panyu Site, gradually being exposed by archaeologists.

As for the Beijing Lu of the present, it still lives up to its image as a shopping mega-center. The main road itself has over 150 shops of all sizes and qualities with countless more on the side avenues. For the curious, a labyrinthine network of tiny alleyways lined with stalls lie just off the major thoroughfares. Beyond fashionable clothes, and cheap ones, you can also find traditional Chinese stationary, paints, handicrafts and what could best be described as knick-knacks. The area’s reputation for dining is also high, and it’s in the middle of a planned expansion. The major restaurant row from Huifu Dong Lu and Yushan Lu already contains a multitude of eateries such as the widely-adored Tiger Prawn, Lemongrass and Alibaba. Shortly, the city government will make part of this stretch another pedestrian area and expand it to include over one hundred restaurants.

A trip to this dynamic neighbourhood could actually start just next to Gongyuanqian metro station, at Renmin Park off of Zhongshan Wu Lu. This small park from 1918 may not be Guangzhou’s most illustrious, but it offers the sight and shade of numerous banyans and lies next to the stately Guangzhou Government Building. While most of your time may be spent exploring the avenues and alleys of Beijing Lu, you also have the Pearl River just ten minutes to the south. After an afternoon or evening of Beijing Lu’s bustling pedestrian traffic, it’s an easy and quiet walk down to the river, passing smaller stores and a local coffee shop on the way.

It seems Beijing Lu not only warrants a visit, but also a thorough investigation. Since there is no simple geographic route to tour the whole Beijing Lu neighbourhood, I will point out major spots for you topically – historical sites, restaurants and shops. Several of the dining and shopping options below could equally be called historical.

Historical Sites:

1) Panyu Ancient Town site – Still mostly underground, the original town was established sometime around 214 B.C. between the Qin and Western Han dynasties. Early Panyu included only the Zhongshan Si Lu and Cangbian Lu areas.

Panyu Ancient Town siteView In Map

Add: No. 316 Zhongshan Si Lu, Yuexiu District, Guanghzou


2) Nanyue Ancient Palace Garden ( 南越国宫署Nanyue Guo Gongshu) – Basically a part of the Panyu Ancient Town site, this construction was built in 203 B.C. and covers over 150,000 square meters. The current dig has exposed about 1% of it. Despite its name, it was not in fact built by the later Nanyue kings.


Nanyue Ancient Palace Garden ( 南越国宫署Nanyue Guo Gongshu)View In Map

Add: No. 316 Zhongshan Si Lu, Yuexiu District, Guanghzou


3) Big Buddha Temple (大佛寺Da Fo Si) – The Big Buddha Temple was built between 917 and 971 A.D. during the Southern Han Dynasty. Visitors will notice its distinct style from Guangzhou’s other temples. The temple can be difficult to find, as it is tightly enshrouded with narrow streets, but a walk down Huifu Dong Lu and a turn down tiny Xinhuezhong Lu will take you past one of its gates.

Big Buddha Temple (大佛寺Da Fo Si)View In Map

Add: No.21 Xinhuizhong street, Yuexiu District, Guangzhou


4) Chenghuang Temple (城隍庙Cheng Huang Miao) – This temple dates back 640 years to the Ming Dynasty. It was the city’s main worship spot in ancient times, and today attracts many food vendors to its entrance.

Chenghuang Temple (城隍庙Cheng Huang Miao)View In Map

Add: No.48 Zhongshan Si Lu, Yuexiu District, Guangzhou
地址: 广州市越秀区48号中山四路

5) Lu Jiang Academy (庐江书院 Lu Jiang Shu Yuan) – The Lu Jiang Academy was built in 1808 and is one of seven traditional academies (shu yuan) maintained in Guangzhou. While shu yuan today are regarded as private study centers, in ancient times they also had the function of book-storage and sacrifice. The academy’s location off of tiny Liu Shui Jing is just off of Xihu Lu near the western border of Qiyi Lu.

Lu Jiang Academy (庐江书院 Lu Jiang Shu Yuan)View In Map

Add: No.29 Liu Shui Jing, Xihu Lu, Yuexiu District, Guangzhou

地址: 广州市越秀区29号流水晶西湖路

6) Document Museum (孙中山文献馆Sun Zhongshan Wenxian Guan) – Originally built in 1933 for storing documents and books, this museum is designed in the classical style of a Chinese garden.

Document Museum (孙中山文献馆Sun Zhongshan Wenxian Guan)View In Map

Add: No.81 Wende Lu, Yuexiu District, Guangzhou
地址: 广州市越秀区81号文德路 


Taiping Guan (太平馆) – Designed in traditional Chinese style and ironically serving only Western food, this restaurant dates back to 1820 and was Guangzhou’s first Western restaurant. Despite its decorous appearance, it is surprisingly affordable.

Taiping Guan (太平馆)View In Map

Add: No. 342 Beijing Lu, Yuexiu District, Guangzhou
地址: 广州市越秀区342号北京路


1) San Duo Xuan Stationary (三多轩文具) – This shop from the 1820s is one of Guangzhou’s best-known for stationary. Besides Chinese rice paper and other traditional stationary, they also sell Chinese pens, ink and brushes.

San Duo Xuan Stationary (三多轩文具)View In Map

Add: No.89 Wenming Lu, Yuexiu District, Guangzhou

2) Chen Li Ji Pharmacy (陈李济) – Chen Li Ji is the most historic pharmacy in China at 410 years old. Its original location was also on current Beijing Lu. Like many pharmacies before the arrival of Western medicine, it used to not only sell medicine, but also produce medicine and provide doctors. Though destroyed in the 1990s for city construction, it was rebuilt recently at its original location and is still operating as a pharmacy. You can find it inside of Yinzuo Square (actually a mall) just north of Yushan Lu.

Chen Li Ji Pharmacy (陈李济)View In Map

Add: 4th floor, Yinzuo Square, Beijing Lu, Yuexiu District, Guangzhou

3) Comic City 动漫城 (underground shopping center) – A big hangout for young people, you can find comics, games, food, drinks and snacks.

Add: Underground at Gongyuanqian Station

4) Xindaxin (新大新) – The company which owns and runs this large shopping center has been around since 1914. The building itself has been rebuilt.

Xindaxin (新大新) View In Map

Add: No. 4 Zhongshan Wu Lu, Yuexiu District, Guangzhou
地址: 广州市越秀区4号中山四路

5) Guangzhou Flower Market – This flower market appears only during Chinese New Year, when the length of Xihi Lu is lined with flower vendors.

Guangzhou Flower MarketView In Map

Add: Xihu Lu, Yuexiu District, Guangzhou
地址: 广州市越秀区西湖路

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Keywords: Beijing Lu shopping Guangzhou Beijing Lu Guangzhou Guangzhou area guide Beijing Lu history Guangzhou


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