This film is part of Free

A Visit to Canton

A lively film showing the bustle of street and river traffic in Zhongshan, birthplace of China’s first president and founding father of the Republic.

Amateur film 1936 13 mins Silent


A spectacular array of junks - fishing boats, floating shop-fronts and trading vessels - opens this beautiful amateur film. After the Opium War of 1840, the mouth of the Pearl River became a hub of commercial activity and a major gateway to the fertile south. The West influenced fashion and architecture in coastal towns like Zhongshan, which gained significance as the birthplace of revolutionary leader Sun Yat-sen.

China’s defeat in the Opium War led to the Treaty of Nanking in 1842, forcing her to cede Hong Kong to the British and open up Guangzhou (then known as Canton) to foreign trade. A brisk commercial centre grew out of the Pearl River and its surrounding towns, including Zhongshan, lying on the west of the river mouth directly opposite Hong Kong and south of Guangzhou. Once known as Xiangshan, it was renamed after Sun Yat-sen (Sun Zhongshan) when he died in 1925. The memorial hall seen at the end of the film was built to honour him and his revolution, which brought about the collapse of China’s dynastic system.