Guangzhou (former common romanisation: Canton; less-commonly known as Kwangchow) is the capital and largest city of Guangdong province, People's Republic of China
. Located on the Pearl River, about 120 km (75 mi) north-northwest of Hong Kong
and north-northeast of Macau
, Guangzhou is a key national transportation hub and trading port. One of the five National Central Cities, it holds sub-provincial administrative status.
Guangzhou is the third largest Chinese city and southern China's largest city. As of the 2010 census, the city's administrative area had a population of 12.78 million, making itself the most populous city in South China. Some estimates place the population of the entire Pearl River Delta Mega City built up area as high as 40 million including Shenzhen
Guangzhou's earliest recorded name is Panyu (Chinese: 番禺; Jyutping: Pun1 Jyu4), derived from two nearby mountains known as Pan and Yu in ancient times. Its recorded history begins with China's conquest of the area during the Qin dynasty. Panyu expanded when it became capital of the Nanyue Kingdom in 206 BC; the territory of the Nanyue Kingdom included what is now Vietnam
The Han dynasty annexed the Nanyue Kingdom in 111 BC during the empire's expansion southward, and Panyu became a provincial capital and remains so today. In 226 AD, Panyu became the seat of Guang Prefecture (廣州; Guangzhou / 廣府; Guangfu). While originally referring to the prefecture alone, local citizens gradually adopted the custom of using the same name for their city. Although Guangzhou replaced Panyu as the name of the walled city, Panyu was still the name of the surrounding area until the end of Qing dynasty. Today, Panyu is a district of Guangzhou south of Haizhu District separated from the rest of the city by the Pearl River.
The Old Book of Tang (Chinese: 唐书) described Guangzhou as important port in the south of China. In that period, direct routes connected the Middle East and China. A Chinese prisoner, who was captured in the Battle of Talas and stayed in Iraq
for twelve years, returned to China by ship on a direct route from Iraq to Guangzhou. Guangzhou was mentioned by various Muslim geographers in the ninth and tenth centuries, such as Al-Masudi and Ibn Khordadbeh.
Malls and pedestrian streets