Chaozhou, home to the Teochew people, is in the easternmost corner of Guangdong Province, facing Taiwan across the sea.
Chaozhou is a good place to learn about the culture of Guangdong. There is an old saying: "If you haven't been to Chaozhou, you haven't really been to Guangdong."
Chaozhou — 6 Places Show a History of Over 1,600 Years
Chaozhou was established in 331 during the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317–420). Its Dark Ages layout can still be traced in Chaozhou Old Town. Many characteristic buildings are still preserved there. Here are some recommended places if you are interested in Chaozhou's history and old buildings.
1) Guangji Bridge
Through the changing times and the weathering of wind and rain, Guangji Bridge has been the guard of Chaozhou. It is one of the greatest creations in China's history of bridge construction.
The most attractive part of this bridge is the middle junction, which is made of 18 parallel pontoon boats. When a big ship comes, the pontoon boats allow the bridge to swing open like a gate.
2) Paifang Street
Paifang Street is at the center of Chaozhou Old Town. The biggest highlight in the street is the memorial arch architecture. The 22 Chinese stone arches of the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1912) dynasties blend with Western-style arcade buildings on both sides.
The locals say: "A trip to Paifang Street will give you an insight into the past and present life of Chaozhou."
3) Kaiyuan Temple
The first Kiayuan Temple was built in 738 during the Tang Dynasty (618–907). It was maintained and rebuilt in the later dynasties. So in today's temple you will see a millennium of architecture art of the Song (960–1279), Yuan (1279–1368), Ming, and Qing dynasties.
4) Huang Jilue Temple
Huang Jilue Temple displays the best wood carving art of Chaozhou in the Qing Dynasty. It also reflects the artistic characteristics of residential buildings in Chaozhou in the late Qing Dynasty.
It is a private temple. There are varying opinions as to who the original owner was. One of the most popular ones is that the owner was a wealthy businessman. He hired the best woodcarvers in Chaozhou to build it, to show respect for his ancestors, and to prove his family's wealth and status.
5) Residence of the Imperial Son-in-Law Xu
The residence was originally built in the Song Dynasty. Though it has been repaired in successive dynasties, it still retains the architectural style and characteristics of the Song Dynasty. This is the earliest existing "mansion-style" residence in Chaozhou.
6) Longhu Ancient Village
The village was first built in the Southern Song Dynasty (1127–1279) and had its heyday during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Nowadays, more than 100 ancient buildings are preserved there. It is regarded as "Chaoshan's Ancient Architecture Expo".
Chaozhou — The Birthplace of Chaoshan Culture
Chaoshan culture refers to the culture created by the local people living in the Chaoshan region mainly including Chaozhou, Shantou, Jieyang, and Shanwei — i.e. the Teochew people's culture.
The Teochew ethnic group came from central China more than a thousand years ago, and the area was partially isolated from the mainland and had contact with cultures off the mainland, so they developed a distinct language, dialect, and distinctive art forms.
Chaoshan culture, one of the three major cultures in Guangdong, is a subculture of Han culture and it retains the ancient Central Plains culture well.
The area developed its own style of operatic theatre — Chaozhou opera, its own tea ceremony — "kung fu tea", its own food culture — Teochew cuisine, its own dialect — Teochew, and its own folk arts, such as Chaozhou embroidery, woodcarving, ceramic styles, etc.
To experience Chaoshan culture in Chaozhou, you could:
- Taste Chaozhou kung fu tea and watch Chaozhou opera in a teahouse in Chaozhou Old Town. Chaozhou kung fu tea is the most representative tea culture in China.
- Go to Baishi Garden — an intangible cultural heritage base — to see various exhibitions of traditional crafts and try Chaozhou embroidery yourself.
Contact us if you are interested in exploring Chaozhou's history and culture. We will create a trip for based on your preferences.
Chaozhou — A Food City
A saying goes: "Come to Guangzhou for good eats; come to Chaozhou for authentic flavors." Teochew cuisine is famous for its excellence in cooking seafood and vegetable dishes and its emphasis on the original flavor.
Cantonese cuisine is one of the "Eight Chinese Cuisines" and Teochew cuisine is the backbone of Cantonese cuisine.
Teochew cuisine has been officially designated as the only representative of Chinese food culture at the World Expo three times in a row.
Some notable dishes include:
- Sauced meat: meat or fowl such as geese, duck, pork, with bean curd and offal stewed with soy sauce and strained before serving
- Caitouke: a savory fried turnip cake made of white radish and rice flour.
- Fish balls / fishcakes /fish dumplings: they are often served in Teochew-style noodles or soups.
- Teochew beef hot pot
Chaozhou — A Gateway of the Maritime Silk Road
Chaozhou is located in a coastal area, from which, as early as in the Western Han Dynasty (202 BC – 8 AD), there were records of voyages. During the Song Dynasty (960–1279), when the Maritime Silk Road was flourishing, Chaozhou's location brought opportunities for expansion through maritime trade.
Local porcelain, tea, silk, brown sugar, and a large number of exquisite handicrafts of Chaozhou were shipped to all parts of the world through the Maritime Silk Road.
Chaozhou — Hometown of Overseas Chinese
Chaozhou is also the place of origin of about 10 million people of the Chinese diaspora. In the 1940s and 1950s, a large number of people from the area moved to Hong Kong or Taiwan, and they formed close-knit communities.
In Hong Kong, unlike most people, they didn't speak Cantonese, but spoke their own Teochew dialect. They opened small shops in Hong Kong and blended in. There are also large Teochew communities in Indonesia, Singapore, and Thailand.
Best Times to Visit Chaozhou
Chaozhou's climate is similar to that of Guangzhou. Though visitors could see Chaozhou in any season, the best time to visit Chaozhou is autumn and winter, from October to March, as temperatures are mild, and rainfall is lower.
- Spring (March–May) is a transitional season when temperatures and precipitation begin to rise. Precipitation begins to increase in April.
- Summer (June–August) has abundant rainfall because of Chaozhou's coastal, monsoon-belt location. There are typhoons each year. July and August are the hottest months, reaching 34°C (93°F) on average daily.
- Autumn (September–November) is sunny and dry. Temperatures cool. Average daily temperatures are 21–29°C (69–84°F).
- Winter (December–January) does not see a single freeze, and most trees are green throughout the year. It is mild and clear. The average daily minimum temperature is about 10°C (50°F).
How to Get to Chaozhou
Chaozhou's nearest airport is Jieyang Chaoshan International Airport — about 1 hour's drive west from Chaozhou on the east of Chaozhou. It's a medium sized airport with flights from key China cities and a few East Asian cities.
The best way to get to Chaozhou is to go by high-speed train from Guangzhou (3 hours) or Shenzhen (2 hours). Chaoshan Railway Station is its high-speed railway station — about 40 minutes' driving from Chaozhou Old Town.
Planning a Trip to Chaozhou
A trip to cover Chaozhou's essence basically needs 2 days. For example:
- Day 1: Arrival + Chaozhou Old Town (Guangji Bridge, Paifang Street)
- Day 2: A city walk to visit Kaiyuan Temple, Huangjilue Temple, Residence of the Imperial Son-in-Law Xu, and Baishi Garden + departure
Many extend their Chaozhou tour to Shantou to have a deeper sight into the Chaoshan region and its culture.
If you want a trip to Chaozhou (and Shantou), contact us to inquire.
Touring Chaozhou with Us
All our itineraries are customizable. If you have any ideas or requirements, or even no idea where to begin, let us know. We can expertlycreate a trip for you based on your group size, time, budget, interests, preferences, and other requirements.