China: Guangzhou – Shameen Island
Shameen Island is a small sandbank island on the Pearl River but it’s one of the most important places in Guangzhou aka Canton historically. The area was given as a concession to France (1/5th if the island) and Great Britain (4/5th of the island) in the 18th century and this is where most European merchants established themselves (British dig up a channel on the north side to actually make it an island). The island basically now consists of two pedestrian avenues lined up with beautiful European-style mansions of the 19th century. By the 20th century, every foreign mission in canton – Dutch, Portuguese, American, Japanese, Italian, German, and obviously French and British – all owned mansions on the island. In 1949 everything was nationalized and became government buildings, although one of the houses was given as a consulate to the USSR. Today, it’s a beautiful park-like place, lines up with old trees and cafes and restaurants, and almost all mansions have been fully restored.