Canton, a large commercial city and port in the south of China, and capital of the province of Kwang-tung (of which the name Canton is merely a corruption), is situated in 23° 7' 10" N. lat., and 113° 14' 30" E. long., on the north or left side of the Shu-kiang, or Pearl River, in a rich alluvial plain, 70 miles N. of Macao, at the mouth of the estuary of the Canton River, and 90 NW. of Hong-kong. The city is surrounded by walls 25 to 40 feet high and 20 thick, with an esplanade inside, six miles in circumference; and it is divided by a partition wall running east and west into two unequal parts, the north or old city, much the larger, and the south or new city. There are twelve outer gates, four gates in partition wall, and two water gates; shut and guarded by night. The entire circuit, including suburbs, is nearly 10 miles. At the south-west corner of the suburbs, south of the river, are the Hongs or European quarter, divided from the river by a quay, 100 yards wide, called Respondentia Walk. The streets, more than 600, are in general less than 8 feet wide, and very crooked. The houses along the water-side are built on piles, and subject to inundations. There are two pagodas, the ' Plain Pagoda,' erected ten centuries ago, 160 feet high, and an octagonal nine-storied pagoda, 175 feet high, erected more than 1300 years ago; and 124 temples or Joss-houses. The Honam temple covers, with its grounds, 7 acres, and has 175 priests attached. The 'Temple of Filial Duty' has 200 priests, supported by 3500 acres of glebe-lands. The priests and nuns in Canton number more than 2000, nine-tenths of them Buddhists. The ' Temple of Five Hundred Genii' has 500 statues of various sizes in honour of Buddha and his disciples. Examination Hall, in the old city, is 1330 feet by 583 feet, covers 16 acres, and has 8653 cells. Nearly half the craft on the river are fixed residences, and the population on land and water can hardly be less than a million and a half. The climate of Canton may be pronounced healthy. The average temperature ranges from 42° to 96° F.; though falls of snow occurred in 1835 and 1861. The average rainfall is 70 inches. Pop. 1,800,000.
The admirable situation of Canton, with a safe and commodious anchorage for the largest vessels, explains how, from an early period, it was a favourite port with foreign merchants. The earliest notices date back to two centuries b.c.; and the Arabs made regular voyages hither as early as the 9th century a.d. The Portuguese found their way to it in 1517, and were followed by the Dutch a hundred years later. These in turn were supplanted by the English before the close of the 17th century, and an immense trade was carried on by the agents of the East India Company, whose monopoly ceased in April 1834. In 1842 Canton became one of the five 'treaty ports' open to foreign commerce. The city was captured by the allied French and English forces in December 1857, and continued to be garrisoned by them till October 1861. The chief exports from Canton are tea, silk, sugar, and cassia; the chief imports, cotton, woollen, and metal goods, foodstuffs, opium, kerosene, etc.
Canton River is a name given to the chief channel by which the united waters of the Si-kiang and the Pe-kiang rivers reach the sea through the delta. Shu-kiang or Pearl River is another name for part of this waterway; and Boca Tigre (q.v.), Bocca Tigris, or Boque, a part of it below Canton, where the estuary is compressed between escarped hills.