Cantonese people

Cantonese people

Edmund Ho
poptime=70 - 100 million (est. worldwide)Fact|date=December 2007
popplace=China ("Guangdong", "Guangxi", "Hong Kong", "Macau"), United States, United Kingdom, Malaysia, Canada, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, Australia
langs=Cantonese + language(s) of their country of residence
rels=Predominantly Mahayana Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Traditional Chinese religion. Small but significant Christian population; small Muslim population in and around Guangzhou, whom may be referred to as "Hui". Cantonese people (zh-tsp|t=廣東人|s=广东人|p=Guǎngdōng rén; Jyutping: gwong2 dung1 jan4), broadly speaking, are persons originating from the present-day Guangdong province in southern China. A narrower definition of "Guangdongren" based on a sociolinguistics and cultural perspectives excludes groups that do not speak Cantonese (Yue) as a primary language and speak other languages native to Guangdong, such as Hakka, Teochiu (a variant of the Min Nan group). However, this sociolinguistic and cultural definition will often also include native speakers of Cantonese in nearby Hong Kong and Macau, which were traditionally part of Guangdong prior to European colonisation, and eastern and southern Guangxi, parts of which were part of Guangdong prior to administrative reforms made by the People's Republic of China. The term "Cantonese people" would then be synonymous with the Punti subethnic group, and is sometimes known as "Guangfuren" (廣府人) for this narrower definition. The discussion in this article mainly focuses on the latter definition.


Cantonese is one of the major divisions of spoken Chinese with 110 million speakersFact|date=December 2007. In the native areas of Guangdong and Guangxi, many closely related varieties exist, and linguists collectively refer to these as the Cantonese (or Yue) group.

More specifically, the Cantonese language can also refer to a specific and prestige variant of the language, standard Cantonese. This is the language used as a lingua franca, education, media, and by Cantonese people in Hong Kong, Macau, and overseas. Unlike most other varieties of Chinese, Cantonese has official status in Hong Kong and Macau, and has an independent tradition of written vernacular.

Cantonese language opera exists in the form of Cantonese opera, which uses a theatrical form of Cantonese singing and rhyming patterns in its performances. The Cantonese opera tradition may date back as far as the Southern Song Dynasty in the 13th century.

Due to its political and economic status of being outside the direct control of the PRC, Hong Kong has been an active (and primary) producer of Cantonese language entertainment. Cantopop, Cantonese language pop music, enjoys a multinational fanbase, and the major center of the Cantonese music industry is in Hong Kong. Well-known Cantopop artistes include Andy Lau, Jacky Cheung, Leon Lai, Faye Wong, Sammi Cheng, and Coco Lee. Many of these well known stars are Cantoneses, and from the families of other internal Chinese immigrants. Hong Kong's Cantonese-language cinema is a thriving industry that enjoys international fame. One of the world's largest motion picture industries, recent films such as "Kung Fu Hustle" and "Infernal Affairs" have generated acclaim worldwide.

Cantonese cuisine is one of the most famous types of Chinese cuisine, popular both within and outside China and is characterized by its variety of cooking methods, freshness and use of seafood. Dim sum is equally famous for its variety of small servings.


Until the 19th century, Cantonese history was largely part of the history of Guangdong. What is now Guangdong was first brought under Qin influence by a former Qin Dynasty general named Zhao Tuo, who annexed and absorbed territories into the kingdom of Nanyue. Nanyue included the territories of modern-day Guangdong, Guangxi and northern Vietnam and its capital was situated at modern-day Guangzhou. This kingdom was fully brought under Han control under the Han dynasty, but it wasn't until subsequent dynasties such as the Tang dynasty and Song dynasty that major waves of Han Chinese literati migration to the South occurred. The migration came in waves, inter-mixing with existing local populations at different time periods and to different extents, causing a spectrum of Chinese populations to occur, have evolved into the present-day Cantonese, Hakka and Chaozhou groups in Guangdong.

The Opium Wars resulted in China's loss of control over Hong Kong, which was ceded to the British Empire. Macau, a Portuguese settlement subjected to Chinese sovereignty since Ming Dynasty (16th century), was subsequently turned into a colony.

The turmoil of the second half of the 19th century compelled many residents of Guangdong to seek their fortunes overseas. Until the second half of the 20th century, the majority of overseas Chinese emigrated from two provinces of China, Fujian and Guangdong. As a result of these migrations, many Chinese with Cantonese ancestry have settled throughout the world, particularly in North America, Australia, and Southeast Asia.

Unlike the migrants from Fujian, who mostly settled in Southeast Asia, many Cantonese emigrants also migrated to the western hemisphere, particularly the United States and Canada. Chinese immigrants in North America were brought as cheap labourers to build the transcontinental railroads in the United States and Canada, while those in South America were mostly forced laborers brought in as coolies. Chinese in California participated in the California Gold Rush, while Chinese in Hawaii found employment in sugar plantations as contract laborers. These early immigrants founded communities of Chinatowns but also faced hostility and a variety of discriminatory laws that targeted them. This includes denying the immigration of women to prevent Chinese families from taking root, culminating in anti-immigration laws that restricted Chinese migration. A large proportion of these early immigrants came from the Siyi (Seiyap) region of Guangdong. As a result, these early communities spoke mostly Taishanese, one of the dialects of Yue distinctive from Standard Cantonese. The Taishan (Toishan) dialect is still spoken in Chinese communities in the Americas, by older people as well as more recent immigrants from Taishan. It should be noted that Taishanese and Standard Cantonese are not mutually intelligible. The relaxing of immigration laws after World War II allowed for subsequent waves of migration to the United States from both mainland China and Hong Kong, while the majority of the Chinese-Vietnamese boat people from the Vietnam War spoke Cantonese either as a first or secondary language. As a result, Cantonese continues to be widely used by Chinese communities of Guangdong and Hong Kong origin in the western world and has not been supplanted by Mandarin.

ee also

* Chinese people
* List of Chinese people
* Han Chinese
* Hakka
* Shanghainese people
* Taiwanese people
* Punti-Hakka Clan Wars
* Cantonese people in Hong Kong
* Cantonese wedding
* Cantonese cuisine
* Yue (peoples)


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