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Territoire de Kouang-Tchéou-Wan
Leased territory of France



Capital Fort-Bayard

Political structure Leased territory
Governor-General List of Governors-General
Historical era New Imperialism
 -  Treaty of 12 April 1892 16 November 1898
 -  Franco-Chinese Agreement 28 February 1946
Currency French Indochinese piastre

Guangzhouwan (also spelled Kouang-Tchéou-Wan, Kwangchowan or Kwang-Chou-Wan), meaning "Guangzhou Bay", was a small enclave on the southern coast of China ceded by Qing China to France as a leased territory and administered as an outlier of French Indochina.[1] The territory did not experience the rapid growth in population that other parts of coastal China experienced, rising from 189,000 in 1911[2] to just 209,000 in 1935.[3] Industries included shipping and coal mining.

Japan occupied the territory in February 1943. The French briefly took it back in 1945 before returning it to China in 1946,[4] at which point its original name of Zhanjiang was restored. The capital of the territory was Fort-Bayard, also known in Cantonese as Tsamkong. It was later romanized in pinyin as Zhanjiang by the Chinese government in 1958.


The leased territory was situated in Guangdong Province (Kwangtung Province) on the east side of the Leizhou Peninsula, north of Hainan, around a bay then called Kwangchowan, now called the Port of Zhanjiang. The bay forms the estuary of the Maxie River (Chinese: Maxie He. French: Fleuve Ma-The). The Maxie is navigable as far as 19 kilometres (12 mi) inland even by large warships. The territory ceded to France included the islands lying in the bay, which enclosed an area 29 km long by 10 km wide and a minimum water depth of 10 metres. The islands were recognized at the time as an admirable natural defense, the main islands being Donghai Dao. The limits of the concession inland were fixed in November 1899; on the left bank of the Maxie, France gained from Gaozhou prefecture (Kow Chow Fu) a strip of territory 18 km by 10 km, and on the right bank a strip 24 km by 18 km from Leizhou prefecture (Lei Chow Fu).[2] The total land area of the leased territory was 1,300 square kilometres (500 sq mi).[3] The city of Zhanjiang was developed as a port.


Establishment of French rule and early development

Kwangchowan was leased by China to France, according to the Treaty of 12 April 1898, on 27 May as Territoire de Kouang-Tchéou-Wan, to counter the growing commercial power of British Hong Kong.[5] Their colony was described as "commercially unimportant but strategically located"; most of France's energies went into their administration of French Indochina, and their main concern in China was the protection of Roman Catholic missionaries, rather than the promotion of trade.[1] Kwangchowan was effectively placed under the authority of the French Resident Superior in Tonkin (itself under the Governor General of French Indochina, also in Hanoi); the French Resident was represented locally by Administrators.[6]

In addition to the territory acquired, France was given the right to connect the bay by railway with the city and harbour situated on the west side of the peninsula; however, when they attempted to take possession of the land to build the railway, forces of the provincial government offered armed resistance. As a result, France demanded and obtained exclusive mining rights in the three adjoining prefectures. The population in 1911 was recorded as 189,000.[2] The return of the leased territory to China was promised by France at the Washington Naval Conference of 1921–1922 but this plan was in fact never realised.[7]

By 1931, the population of Kwangchowan had reached 206,000, giving the colony a population density of 245 persons per km²; virtually all were Chinese, and only 266 French citizens and four other Europeans were recorded as living there.[3] Industries included shipping and coal mining.[6] The port was also popular with smugglers; prior to the 1928 cancellation of the American ban on export of commercial airplanes, Kuangchowan was also used as a stop for Cantonese smugglers transporting military aircraft purchased in Manila to China,[8] and US records mention at least one drug smuggler who picked up opium and Chinese emigrants to be smuggled into the United States from there.[9]

World War II

After the fall of Paris in 1940, the Republic of China recognised the London-exiled Free French government as Kwanchowan's legitimate authority and established diplomatic relations with them; from June 1940 until February 1943, the colony remained under the administration of Free France.[4] This is an interesting fact bearing in mind that Kwangchowan had been governed from French Indochina, and that the authorities there were loyal to the Vichy Régime. The explanation may lie in the fact that Kwanchowan was totally surrounded by Free China and that the Japanese did not occupy that part of the China coast.

During the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong, Kwangchowan was often used as a stopover on an escape route for civilians fleeing Hong Kong and trying to make their way to Free China; Patrick Yu, a prominent trial lawyer, recalled in his memoirs how a Japanese civilian in Hong Kong helped him to escape in this way.[10] However, the escape route would not remain open for long; in collaboration with German-controlled Vichy France, which relinquished the concession to the Japanese-sponsored Chinese National Government (another claimant to the succession of the former Chinese Empire), the Imperial Japanese Army, would invade and occupy the area in February 1943.[4]

Just prior to the Japanese surrender which ended World War II, the National Revolutionary Army, having recaptured Liuzhou, Guilin, and Taizhou, as well as Lashio and Mandalay in Burma, was planning to launch a large-scale assault on Kwangchowan; however, due to the end of the war, the assault never materialised.[11] The French lease over Guangzhouwan would soon be terminated regardless, under an agreement concluded on February 28, 1946. In exchange for a withdrawal of Chinese forces from northern Vietnam, the French not only returned Kwangchowan to the Nationalist government, but also gave up extraterritorial rights in Shanghai, Hankou, and Guangzhou, sold the Yunnan Rail Line to China, and agreed to provide special treatment for ethnic Chinese in Vietnam and Chinese goods exported to Vietnam.[12] After the handover, the Zhanjiang City Government was formally established to administer the city.

French cultural and economic influence

A French school, École Franco-Chinoise de Kouang-Tchéou-Wan, as well as a branch of the Banque de l'Indochine, were set up in Fort-Bayard.[13] In addition, a Roman Catholic church constructed during the colonial period is still preserved today.[14]

See also



  • A. Choveaux, "Situation économique du territoire de Kouang-Tchéou-Wan en 1923". Annales de Géographie, Volume 34, Nr. 187, pp. 74–77, 1925.
  • Includes images of letters sent to and from the territory.

External links

  • WorldStatesmen - China
  • Wayback Machine (archived October 12, 2007)
  • Map of French Guangzhouwan
  • Map of French Indochina and Guangzhouwan
  • Other map about Guangzhouwan and Indochina
  • Map of Kwang Tchou Wan
  • "French Colonial Zhanjiang"

Coordinates: 21°10′38.2″N 110°25′4.76″E / 21.177278°N 110.4179889°E / 21.177278; 110.4179889

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