For the western visitors Sha Mian Island is one of the most interesting places in Gaungzhou. The island, originally an uninhabited sandbank, was established by building retaining walls and embankments; it is linked to the river bank by two small bridge to the Chinese resident, however, the particularly, the forced introduction of opium into China by foreign merchants. Chinese were not allowed on the island without permission, and the were closed at night by iron gates.
In the early 1860s a Protestant church was built in the British concession and in the 1880s a small Catholic church was built in the French concession. The broad avenues were planted with a variety of Trees, gardens were laid out, and tennis court, a sailing club, and a football field were established.
Eventually the offices of several western banks were set up, as well the hotel of distinction called The Victoria. By 1911 over 300 foreigners were resident on the island: British, French Americans, Dutch, Italians, Germans, Japanese, and Portuguese.
In the 1920s Guangzhou was the center of Chinese revolutionary activities and the presence of the foreign enclave on the island was a continual reminder of foreign domination of China. The first boilover of indignation took place in 1925 when a crowd massed on the embank- ment opposite the French concession. Foreign troops on the Sha Mian side opened fire with machine guns and killed 60 or 70 people. The crowd the attacked the island and incurred further losses. One resident of the island was killed.
The event became known as the Sha Kee Incident and led to a great number of anti-foreign demonstrations throughout China and a boycott of the island. As a result the residents of the island bad to bring in provisions upriver from Hong Kong Until the restrictions were finally lifted.
Life quieted down on the island after the turbulent early 20s, and even when the Japanese took Guangzhou at the end of 1938 there were few change, although some residents left for Hong Kong. However, when Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941, the foreign residents of Sha Mian were interned by the Japanese at Shanghai. After the war many residents went back to the island under the assumption that business would return to normal. But by October 1949 the Communist forces were in control, and by December 1950 all foreign assets were frozen and the few remaining foreigners left Sha Mian for good.