Guangzhou has a history that spans over 2,200 years. As early as the Zhou Period in the 9th century BC, the city (then known as "Chu Ting") served as a commercial exchange center for the Baiyue people and people of Chu State in the middle reaches of Yangtze River. The Emperor Qin Shihuang (259-210 BC) unified the Lingnan region (the area of modern-day Guangdong, Guangxi, Hainan Island and the South China Sea Islands), and established the city of Panyu, now a suburb of Guangzhou. In 226 AD, the Emperor Sun Quan created the name Guangzhou Prefecture as part of a political division of the region, and the name was later given to the city.
By the 10th century AD, Hindu and Arab merchants had established a presence in the city. With this influx of traders, the city's reputation extended as far as Europe, and by 1511, the Portuguese, principally interested in silk and porcelain, had secured a trade monopoly, but the British broke this in the late 17th century. In the 18th century, the French and the Dutch were also permitted to trade. But much was about to change since the British relied heavily on its trade in opium to maintain its balance of trade with China. By 1839, the issue of opium had attracted so much attention in China that the emperor commissioned Lin Zexu, commissioner of Guangzhou, to eradicate the drug problem. This led to the first Opium War, which ended with the Treaty of Nanking, ceding Hong Kong to the British. A later treaty allowed the French and the British to occupy Guangzhou.
In 1911, the city was a seat of a revolutionary movement under the guidance of Dr. Sun Yat-sen. It was in Guangzhou that the Republic of China was proclaimed on January 1 1912. In 1927, Guangzhou was briefly a seat of one of the earliest Communist communes in China. The city was occupied by the Japanese from 1938 to 1945, and in October 1949 the city was taken over by the People's Liberation Army. When the Chinese economy was opened up in the early 1980s, the early phase of market liberalization centered on the southern coastal regions, and Guangzhou saw rapid economic growth. Today, the city is the nerve center of the booming Pearl River delta economic zone, and one of the most economically important of China's cities.
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