Complete guide: Shamian island, Guangzhou

Complete guide: Shamian island, Guangzhou
Seeing the city and the sights changes completely when you know their history.
The history of Shamyan Island is inextricably linked to the 13 Hongs.

The island before and now

Guangzhou Shamian island 沙面岛
Address 荔湾区沙面北街54号 or 广州市荔湾区珠江岔口白鹅潭畔
This is a very large article with a detailed analysis of buildings and history! You have never read such a complete article about the island!
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Buildings on the island are represented by European architecture in Guangzhou: Victorian, new Baroque, eclectic, neoclassical.
There are a total of 163 buildings on the island, 53 of which are key cultural relics.
The photo below shows a map of Shamian Island in Guangzhou in the 20th century.
The size of the island is 300×900 meters.
85% British concession and 15% (to the right) — French.

I have this map in high resolution, I can share it to you.
What is 13 Hongs? In the 17th and 19th centuries, it is a complex of buildings on the Guangzhou waterfront, consisting of offices and warehouses of foreign merchants.
In the photo below: on the left – Shamian Island.
13 Hongs were located to the right (highlighted)

In 1822, the site of 13 Hongs was badly damaged by a major fire.
In October 1856, the British and the French began the 2nd Opium War. (on the embankment of the island, 2 cannons of those times have been preserved).
On December 15, 1856, the site of 13 Hongs is destroyed by fire.
In 1859, foreigners moved (by leasing land) to the island of Shamyan, establishing British and French concessions there.
Until 1859, the place was part of the mainland, there was no island.
In 1859, Burke, a British official, proposed to change the sand surface
into a concession. Governor Lao Chongguang promised to excavate a
30-meter-wide and 1200-meter-long Xiaoyong (today’s Shajiyong) north of the sand surface by the Chinese side and separate it from the land. He also built two bridges on the surface of the sand surface, the East Bridge to the West Dike, and the West Bridge to connect the Shaji road. In the second half of 1859, sand excavation and embankment construction were completed and completed in summer 1861.
The island in 1879:

20th century, central alley:

On June 23, 1925, British and French soldiers killed 52 Chinese demonstrators as they passed by the island.
On this day, a demonstration was held by the residents of Guangzhou against foreign imperalism.
In memory of these events, there is a small memorial on the Xidi Embankment.

In 1949, all the buildings were nationalized by the Chinese government. Later, the island and the buildings on it were recognized as a cultural heritage.
Each of the buildings changed its purpose on average 3-4 times.
Now there is only a functioning Polish consulate on the island, and before there were many of them:
USA Consulate
Built in 1893.
Originally used as Japan Zheng Jin Bank.
The bank itself was founded in 1880 and is headquartered in Yokohama.

It is noteworthy that on the island there is another building, the former US Consulate, which was used from 1988 to 2013.

British consulate
Built in 1865. British consulate occupied an entire block and included the British Post Office.


USSR Consulate
Built in 1916.
In 1924-1927, the building housed the Consulate General of the USSR, in February-October 1949-the Embassy of the USSR in the Republic of China, in 1951-1958 – again the Consulate General of the USSR in Guangzhou. In 1958, due to the deterioration of Soviet-Chinese relations, the Consulate General was closed, and until 1962 the building was used by the branch of the Trade Mission of the USSR in the People’s Republic of China.

German consulate
Built in 1906. These are 2 buildings that are located 18 meters from each other. Also used as an office of Asiatic Petrolium Co. Ltd

It looks more fun after painting, doesn’t it?

But the paint on the buildings disappears very quickly and they regain their gray appearance. This is the climate of southern China! This is especially noticeable in Macau.

French consulate
This elegant building was built in 1890. According to other sources, in 1915. It was also used as a French Oriental Bank.
Now is Guangdong foreign affairs museum 广东外事博物馆
It houses a collection of gifts from foreign consulates, politicians, and foreign companies to the Guangzhou government.

Japanese consulate
Built in 1913 as The China and France Industry Bank.
In general, the Japanese owned 1.5 blocks on the island.

Czech Consulate
Built in the early 20th century and rebuilt in 1960.

Consulate of Portugal (I haven’t found any information yet)
Norwegian Consulate (about it below, HSBC building)
Arthur William Purnell was a famous architect from Australia, who lived for 5 years on the island of Shameen.
In the photo above, he is with his future wife Jane Farrell.
His business partner was engineer Charles Souders Paget.
9 buildings on the island were built by Purnell & Paget, incl.:
International Banking Co (where Purnell himself lived)

Red house 红楼 (Imperial Maritime Customs)
Started in 1907 and built by Purnell & Paget in 1909. It was used as a residence for foreign officers of Guangdong Customs. Because of the red brick, it got the name Red Mansion. Designed in the Victorian architectural style of the 18th century with a mixture of Baroque.
Souvenir. The building has very beautiful towers!

Canton Club (Guangzhou international club)
The building was built in 1868. It was used as a meeting and recreation place for foreign guests from high society. Old club photo:

Artheur Purnell in Club:

Current time:

The creation of the club quickly led to the appearance of a swimming pool in 1887 on the river bank, and later a swimming pool building was built. Information about it will be provided below
Nukha house. 印度人Nukha 住宅
Residential building, built in 1905. Purnell expanded the house with verandas with columns that were not there before.

T.E. Griffith residence (Cliffort house)
Also built by Purnell & Paget.

Decan and co building
Red and white building. Sir Hurd building.
Pictured is a building in 1908

Now it is an Emergency Shelter with rescue equipment.
Notice the cardinal differences!!

Arnhold Karberg and co
Built in 1907 for a German company. Later used as Deutsche Asiathische bank.

But most of all, the architect Arthur William Purnell is famous for the Italian-style cement factory building in the Haizhu district, which became the residence of Sun Yat-Sen. Now it is a museum. Be sure to visit! Pay attention to the coastline)

Other significant buildings on the island:
HSBC bank
Bank branch British HongKong & Shanghai Banking corporation
Built in 1865.
Also served as the Norwegian Consulate and office of Asiatic Petroleum Co., and The Imperial Chemistry Industries Ltd
The building is part of the hotel Guangdong Victory hotel – West building (about it below)

As I already wrote, the paint from the building disappears very quickly. Just compare the photos above and below.

Bank of Taiwan
Built in 1911 in the neoclassical style with Greek columns. Founded and owned by Japan.

Chartered Bank of India Australia and China
Built in the early 20th century.
A 2009 photo taken by my wife:

Photo from 2020. Notice the differences!!! Led to the original.

French Navy Office
The beautiful building was built in 1902.
Later changed its purpose to French post office.
From 1923 to 1950, it was subleased to a women’s school of the French Catholic sisters of St. Drasa.
Below is a postcard with a view of the building:


In total, there were 4 post offices on the island.
On January 1, 1923, the post offices of France, Japan, England, and the United States ceased to operate on the island.
Buttertfeld and Swire Co. Ltd
The building was built in 1881. It was used as an office for the logistics business of the SWIRE Corporation.

Swire is a British company founded in 1816 by John Swire as a small trading house. Since 1861, the company began to do business with China and in 1866 opened an office in Shanghai and a couple of years later its branch in Hong Kong. Taikoo Hui 太古 -It’s a Chinese name of Swire. The office was doing well against the backdrop of a growing trade, including probably on opium. Swire also had its own private trading port in Guangzhou – Taikoo Wharf.
Swire is the owner of sugar factories, Coca-Cola plants, and a logistics business. It is traded on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
Residence of India nationals 4 buildings.
Unexpectedly, merchants from India had as many as 4 huge buildings-dormitories. Here they are:
1. This building was later used by a British company

2. Very elegant building with beautiful balconies

3. The building is simpler

4. The stunning building at the East Bridge

Oriental Huili Bank
Other names – Bank of India or the Bank of Vietnam
or Banque de L’inao-Chinese (French).
The bank was founded in 1875 and is headquartered in Paris.
In fact, it is a French bank for the development of its colonies abroad.

The Hong Kong Dairy Farm and Cold Storage Company.
There is also an ice production plant. Built in the early 20th century.

The Nationalist Government Bureau of Broadcasting.

The residence of the Associate Inspector General of the China salt trade. Impressive Mansion of Yuan Shikai.
In 1912, Yuan Shikai discussed the loan with the six countries bank
groups. The major powers proposed that all salt taxes should be
guaranteed and foreigners should control the collection and use of salt taxes. In January 1913, Yuan Shikai set up the Salt Supervisory Office to ensure the centralization of salt tax.

Now used as an office for a Chinese company Mo Bo-zhi Architectural Firm.

Privat house
Now there Art Tea house. It is noteworthy that this property is privately owned! In 2010, the house was completely renovated.

Mitsubishi Company building
Built in 1915.
Mitsubishi Company is the economic aggression organization of
Mitsubishi Consortium in Japan, and the branch of Mitsubishi
Commercial Corporation in China. Mitsubishi Business Association was
founded in 1870, with the support of the Japanese government in 1875, it established its headquarters in Shanghai and its branches in Hankou and Hong Kong in 1894.

Loxeley and Company (Losley Company)
Also used as Japanese Post office.

Reiss Bradley and Company (Taihe Company)

Shewan Tomes and Company (Qichang Company)
Now there Sino Pharma company

Vaucher and Co. (Baohuayi Company)
Built in 1915.

City bank (Wanguo Baotong Bank)
The American Bank was built in 1901.

Thai Club
This building is currently under reconstruction, in scaffolding. It used to look like this:

Sassoon and Swire Company
Built in 1870.
Shaxuan Company, owned by David Sassoon, born in 1792 in Baghdad. And his father Saleh was very famous in Turkey.
Initially, on the 1st floor there was Netherlands AnDa Bank.

One more Shaxuan Company building, owned by David Sassoon. Built in 1862. Also used for Société des Missions-Étrangères and for french company’s office.

Compare the most recent changes (2009 vs 2021)

The balconies led to the original view. And no clothes.

Sir Robert Hart house
This small house was built in 1907.
Photo of 2009:

In 2021, windows, doors, and plaster were changed.

Roman Catholic Church of Lady of Lourdes
Built in 1892 on the French territory of the island.
The hall can accommodate 200 people.

The color of the plaster changed many times. Now it is yellow, and 10 years ago it was pink and it is still unknown what earlier.
British Protestant church, Christ Church Shameen
(沙面堂;Shāmiàn Táng)
Built in 1865.

At a great distance there is a building a residential residence attached to the church –
Residence of clergy christ church
Parsonage Residence of the British Protestant Episcopal Church
Built in 1865.

Shamian Island swimming pool has a history of over 130 years. This was the first pool of this type in China. After the construction of the Canton Club building, it was necessary to offer more entertainment to foreign guests, and a swimming pool appeared.

In 1911 during the revolution the pool was used as a dining room for soldiers

Photo of the pool outside

Shamian exhibition hall 沙面展览馆
Built in 1924.
Before – Dodwell and Company, also Tianxiang Company (owners Adamson and Bell). The company mainly deals in import and
export trade, and also in the insurance agency business.
Now there is a museum with models of buildings and not only.
Open from 9 to 11.00 and from 15.00 to 17.00
Works every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
On March 2, 2020, the museum is temporarily closed.
Located to the left of the Polish Consulate.

There is also a medical center on the island-a pharmacy with traditional Chinese medicine. Come, feel the pulse and the doctor writes out a prescription for the potion. After 2 hours, pick up and drink at home.

There is a large pier on the island Huangsha Wharf 黄沙码头
Waterbus depart to Fancun Pier. Ticket 2 rmb
To get to the pier, you must first leave the island and go over the arched bridge (see the picture below, where the info about the bridges).

Behind the pier is a giant multi-level parking lot.
The British Tennis Club.
Shamian Lawn Tennis Club
Built in 1861.
Before 1949, Tennis court had only a house of about 30 square meters and a few simple tennis courts.

After 1949, the municipal government allocated
funds to renovate it into six lawn tennis courts and three sandy tennis
courts. A new 140 square meters office building and two training barriers were built. In the 1980s, Mr. Huo Dongying, a wealthy businessman in Hong Kong, made a huge donation to rebuild the Shamian Tennis Hall and transform the tennis court into one of the most advanced tennis courts in the world. The tennis court is fully equipped with six open courts and two indoor courts. It also has a table tennis hall and a shower room.
Next to the courts, on the embankment, there are 2 cannons from the 2nd Opium War.
And before that, there was a football field on the island (on the site of the White Swan Hotel).
School (new building in the center of the island)
There is also a kindergarten, a separate building

In the center of the island, on the main street, there was an interesting Antiques shop.
Its Shenchang Company’s building.
Shenchang Company is a business established by American Capital in
China. Founded in 1906 at No. 2 Sijing Road, Huangpu, Shanghai.
Founded by Mayer, a Danish American, and co-founded with a colleague and fellow countryman Anderson in 1906, the company was initially short of funds and only engaged in small-scale cotton import business to promote Danish products.
Therefore, the other name of the building is Mayer and Anderson Co.

Lots of vintage stuff in the store!

But now here is an atmospheric coffee shop. In general, over the past 15 years, many landlords have changed at the building.
Previously, there were only 2 bridges on the island –
French bridge (East bridge)

English bridge (West bridge) built in 1861. The bridge belonged to England and was under the control of the British police. There was an iron gate.

… which were closed at night, so that no one entered the island.
The Chinese were not allowed to enter the island at any time.
Yellow marks the old bridges, red marks the new ones.

Now there are 6 bridges plus the road to the White Swan Hotel.
White Swan Hotel Guangzhou 白天鹅宾馆 The 5 star Hotel was built in 1983. Along with the Garden Hotel Guangzhou, they were two of the most luxurious hotels in Guangzhou and one of the best in all of China. The hotel was renovated in 2015. There is a waterfall in the lobby. 843 numbers. 34 floors. Height 102, 8 meters
US President Nixon was here in September 1985.

Guangdong Victory Hotel 广东胜利宾馆 4 stars hotel.
Part of White Swan Hotels group.

The hotel has another building – West building (HSBC bank).
Other hotels on the island:
Qiao Bao Hotel
Shamian Hotel (nearby to White Swan hotel)
The Customs Hotel
Yue Hai Hotel
Guangdong Overseas Chinese Hotel (2 buildings, one closed).
Marhause Boutique Hotel (temporarily closed)
The hostels on the island are all closed.
French restaurant Orient Express, at the entrance there is an old train.

The train has now been moved to the right of the restaurant.
Theme Restaurant Durian Jungle
Restaurant Shameen House
Restaurant Rose Garden
Lucy’s bar 兰桂坊(沙面翠洲园店)
Thai /cantonese restaurant 粤泰美食
I highly recommend the Chinese restaurant – 拖手记新乳鸽小吃.
Many coffee shops, several 7Eleven stores.
MacDonalds opened on the island in 2020.
New Macau Street Restaurant.
One of the historic buildings was occupied by Starbucks.
The history of the building has not yet been found out. Unfortunately, not all buildings on the island have info signs.

The French Police Station.
French Army Patrol House
The building also belonged to the Danish royal family.
Now is Kafelaku Coffee.

This building is the first to meet you on the island, if you have entered from the French bridge.
Friendship garden on the central alley of the island)
Queens Garden
British garden (Shamian Park)
In 2018, the island underwent a large-scale reconstruction for 300 million rmb. Including a completely redesigned British garden. Also, the tiles on the entire island were moved.
There is a bus route from the island!

There are many old banyan trees on the island, over 200 years old.
This tree is 231 years old

Sculptures on the island
3 Chinese women of different generations

Children-perhaps the most famous sculpture

The lady with the dog and many many other sculptures

The island is a traditional place for wedding photo shoots and shooting clothes for Taobao shops.

Finally , a mock-up of the island from the Guangzhou City Planning Museum

And another historical photo

If you liked this article, repost in your Wechat moments and throw in the Wechat groups! I really worked hard on this article to share the information.

Alex Iurlov tour guide and bloger in Guangzhou
+79268278273 (WhatsApp, Telegram)
Wechat id: iurlov