Sunday, October 12, 2008

Shamian Island

Shamian Island, formerly known as Shameen Island, from its pronunciation is a sandbank island in Guangzhou city, Guangdong province, China. The territory was originally divided in two given to France and the United Kingdom by the Qing Dynasty government in the 19th century. The island's name literally means "sandy surface" in .

The island covers an area of 0.3 square kilometers and is a gazetted historical area that serves as a tranquil reminder of the colonial European period, with quiet pedestrian avenues flanked by trees and lined by historical buildings in various states of upkeep. The island is the location of several hotels, a youth hostel, restaurants and shops selling curios and souvenirs.

Various bronze statues are scattered around the island which depict life as it was during earlier periods on the island, as well as from more recent times. For example, one statute entitled "A gentleman, a lady and a darn woman" shows a Western couple watching a Chinese woman darning cloth. Another depicts the changing appearances and stature of Chinese women, with a woman from colonial times in traditional clothing, a slightly taller woman from the early or mid 20th century wearing a , and a relatively tall and slender young Chinese woman wearing shorts and talking on a mobile phone.

The island was the scene of fighting during the "May 30 incident" in 1925 .

Since the early 2000s, Shamian Island has become well known for the many Western couples who reside there while seeking to Chinese babies and young children, most of whom are orphaned and female. The White Swan Hotel is perhaps the best-known hotel in Guangzhou, having been in operation for many years, and is usually the hotel of choice for these couples. One reason for this popularity is that the hotel was once adjacent to the United States consulate, making it convenient to file paperwork and handle bureaucratic matters. The consulate has since moved , but the hotel is still the most popular destination for adopting couples. Beginning in 2007, the Chinese government slowed the rate of adoptions, and as a result the percentage of tourists to Shamian Island who are Westerners has decreased as well.

A is located within a short walk from the island.

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