The evolution of Cantonese culture
The culture of Guangdong province is influenced by a marvelous blend of elements. Its history dates back to 2,220 years ago when the Lingnan Culture emerged. Over time, the indigenous culture of the province has continued to be influenced by the culture of emigrants from central China who were forced to leave their homelands because of wars and famines.
Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province, was one of the first five ports opened to overseas countries during the early industrial era in Europe and America. The mechanically assembled commodities and arms that flowed into Guangzhou as a result were accompanied by ideas of freedom and liberty. Democratic doctrines inspired a generation of revolutionaries, most prominently represented by Guangzhou native Sun Yat-sen, whose efforts led to the toppling of the last Chinese empire. Over a decade after the Xinhai Revolution of 1911, Sun established the Whampoa Military Academy, China’s first modern professional military school, in Guangzhou. The school later provided modern China with a constellation of famed military officers.
After the adoption of reform and opening up policies in 1978, Guangdong became an experimental area for overseas investment and a market economy. Because of the province’s geographical proximity to Hong Kong and Macao, an integrated Cantonese culture has gained strength in the three regions in recent years. Now that the 24-hour customs clearance policy has been adopted in the Hengqin New Area in the southern part of the city of Zhuhai, Guangdong province, exchange among the three regions is expected to become more frequent.
Cantonese Opera, the major type of opera in Guangdong, has been listed by the United Nations as intangible cultural heritage of mankind since 2009. Cantonese Opera evolved from the operas from northern China and was prevalent in Guangdong in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). In recent years, it has expanded to overseas countries as people have emigrated from Guangdong, Hong Kong and other areas influenced by Cantonese dialects.