Landscapes Along The Waterways
From Guangzhou To Macao
Two hundred years ago, Guangzhou (Canton) was the only opened port in China, and Macao was the only place that foreigners were allowed to reside. Before the 20th century, commuting between Macao and Guangzhou was heavily relied on waterborne transport, as the dense river networks in the Pearl River delta made land transport inconvenient at that time. There were two main waterways between two places, the inner passage started from the Inner Harbour in Macao, took the westward way into the West River and entering the Shiqi River toward the Xiangshan County; therefrom took the zigzag waterway passing through Shunde, Zini(Purple Mud) Custom, Bijiang, Dawagjiao(The Great King Channel) and arriving at the city of Guangzhou through the back waterway of the Pearl River (also known as Macao Passage by foreign merchants). The outer passage, on the other hand, started eastward toward the Lintin Sea (the Solitary Sea), entering the Lion Sea through Humen (Bogue); thereafter anchoring at the Whampoa Anchorage for custom inspections before entering the city of Guangzhou. These waterways therefore once carried the responsibility for all the foreign communications of a closed China before the Opium War.
Located at the Pearl River estuary, the ‘South Gate’ of China, the east passage is mainly for logistic purpose. With the distance of around 130km, it was one of the most important sea route in history of modern China. Before the 1840s, the smuggling of opium in this area triggered the Sino-British Opium War. The defeat of China in this war made Hong Kong a British colony. And the trading business in Guangzhou and Macao gradually moved to Hong Kong and all other ports in China after the sea embargo has lifted.
During 2020-2022, I travelled along the waterways between Macao and Guangzhou with an ancient river map to locate each outposts before the Opium War, and used a drone to capture the current landscape of the waterways.