At 13.5 sq. kilometers, this district is the smallest of the four that make up downtown, but it is one of the oldest places in Dongguan—with just over 1,200 years of history since it was named Guancheng in 757 A.D. during the Tang Dynasty. The “Guan” was later incorporated by the city.
As the land was cut by the streaming Dongjiang River, the banks of Guancheng became an important commercial port for Dongguan that was linked to Guangzhou, Huizhou City and the sea. This unique connection gave it an edge to develop faster than other areas within Dongguan. It long reigned as the cultural, economic and political center of the city. Before the rise of Dongcheng and Nancheng, business prospered here and you can still see plenty of landmarks from those days. The famed Keyuan Garden and the rebuilt West Gate (Xīchéng lóu), both from older times, as well as the more modern covered arcades of the early 20th century.
In describing Guancheng today, history and culture play a significant role in the conversation. The most significant landmark is a re-envisioned, and rebuilt tower standing on the site of the western gate from the old city walls. Commonly called the West Gate, its official name is Ying’En Gate Tower, which loosely translates as graceful welcome.
The adored tribute is surrounded still by bustling stores and well-known old streets. Xichenglou Street, Xizheng Road and Xinfeng Road have made up what locals call the Xichenglou Business Zone.
But while officials have developed the area often trying to preserve that culture, some older buildings are jumping on more modern trends. Take for example Huifeng Center or Zhongtian and Lianfeng Creative Parks, these proved serviced start-up spaces for new age urban transformation.
The strategy there is to develop software, new media and culture industries. The Wisdom Small Town, an e-commerce industrial park, has attracted more than 80 such companies to its low rent and conveniences. Alibaba and city government together announced in June that its second phase has been green-lighted.
For locals, Guancheng is also considered the nerve center for Dongguan intellectuals because it is home to the famous Guancheng Primary School and Dongguan Middle School, which have lasted more than a century and educated many of the city’s most talented. What’s more, Zhitong Job Market, the biggest talent trading market here is also located on Guantai Road.
What Can I Do?
Visiting Guancheng can be a nostalgic journey through old Dongguan. Walking in the old streets, there are stories to be discovered in the clusters of alleyways with their old walls and people.
Again we mention Keyuan Garden. The tourist site is said to be one of Guangdong’s four famous Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) gardens and it’s a Guancheng must see. Built with traditional blue bricks in 1850 by deposed military leader Zhang Jingxiu, it covers an area of 2,200 sq. meters in a triangular-shape. Since 2001, the garden has been under state protection as a national cultural treasure. Walking inside, you will be greeted by hills, lakes and historic sites.
Traditional streets are omnipresent in Guancheng. Zhenhua Road is one of those famous traditional streets. People come here to buy ceremonial tokens, such as wedding or funeral ornaments, or to eat the local cuisine. Popular here are lemon chicken wings, gei dan zai and noodles with goose intestine.
Near Zhenhua Road, a five-minute walk will take you to the famous Guancheng Pet Market. It is relatively cheap with lots of choices. Many pet lovers find their adorable baby in this market. But before you do, stop by as the alley forks at Shanzhou Street to see the Quejin Pavilion, this little pink gazebo was built in honor of a benevolent Thai merchant.
You can take C3, 39, 20, 6 from the Nancheng Bus Station to arrive in Zhitong Talent Market. Then you can walk around Guancheng.
Location: Central Dongguan
Area: 13.5 sq. kilometers
Local Attraction: West Gate Building, Keyuan Garden, Quejin Pavilion, Zhenhua Road