Culture in the Pearl River Delta

Because of the large expanse of territory that makes up the Pearl River Delta, the area is known for its cultural diversity. Overseas Chinese, nationals of other Asian countries (mainly from Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and Taiwan), and several Chinese ethnic groups inhabit the Pearl River Delta area, and the diversity of the region continues to increase as the area opens up to the world and attracts investors and residents from other continents.

The Teochew (sometimes called Chaozhou) are one of the largest cultural groups in the region. They originate from the north of China, and settled in the Guangdong area more than 1,000 years ago. In our days, many consider that the Teochew culture is fully representative of Guangdong, as its manifestations are culturally and linguistically different from other parts of the Pearl River Delta and of mainland China. The Teochew dialect is significantly different from standard Mandarin Chinese, and traditional Teochew entertainment (like its music or operas) are renowned throughout the country for their uniqueness and originality.

As in other areas of southern China, Cantonese Chinese is the predominant language in the Pearl River Delta. However, Mandarin Chinese is also widely spoken throughout the region, especially around the cities of Zhuhai and Shenzhen, as these have the highest number of migrant workers whose first language is Mandarin.

Sociologists tend to classify the large number of cultures that are found in the Pearl River Delta into three main groups: Cantonese (or Guangzhou) culture, Hong Kong culture, and Shenzhen culture. Although each of these displays unique traits, they do have something in common: their efforts to adapt their cultural idiosyncrasies to the changes brought about by globalisation. Today, culture in the Pearl River Delta area is being increaseingly seen as an asset that can help promote the cosmopolitan image of the region at global level. Museums, theme parks, universities, opera houses, and shopping malls continue to be built in every city of the delta at vertiginous rates, and alongside the already existing historical temples and archaeological sites that are part of the delta's rich traditional culture, they form a unique and ever-changing cultural landscape.

However, some have claimed that since the region opened up to foreign cultural influences and became modernised, the true identity of the Pearl River Delta has been slowly dissolving into a set of ideas and values that are mostly unrelated to the region's traditional culture. Many fear the impact that consumerism and Western values can have on future generations too. In any case, the next two decades will be decisive in terms of seeing how well will the local culture face the challenges brought about by globalisation.

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