Orienteering is a sport that’s officially over all seven continents of the world. China is one of the countries outside Europe where orienteering is a major sport. And the first dedicated orienteering museum in the world* is now in Conghua, Guangzhou, China.
Orienteering history comes alive in the Orienteering Museum
The museum opened on 28 October 2019, during the Orienteering World Cup Finals in China. It uses a historical building in Wenquan Town, in Conghua District, Guangzhou. Wenquan means hot springs, and the area is famous for the rare sodium bicarbonate springs that makes it a popular holiday destination in China.
The idea of the museum came as part of the South China Historical Trail Orienteering initiative. South China Historical Trail is a network of historical and cultural trails preserved from the various imperial dynasties of China since the Qin Dynasty (late 3rd century BC). Guangdong’s history is part of a larger cultural region in South China in which Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region of China adjacent but separate from Guangdong, is also part of, as seen from closely related languages such as Cantonese, Hakka and Teochew.
The Province of Guangdong markets the South China Historical Trail as a cultural and historical experience that links the many heritage sites in the province together. The South China Historical Trail Orienteering event series links these places together through a fun and engaging outdoor sport, leading orienteers to explore the historical landscape of Guangdong.
The museum presents worldwide orienteering history with maps, news and other artefacts in orienteering since 1984. Maps exhibited include high profile events such as World Orienteering Championships, World Masters Orienteering Championships, as well as O-Ringen in Sweden—the largest annual orienteering event in the world.
Separate sections in the museum explore deeper into orienteering history in China, documenting the development of the sport through maps since the 1980s. Hong Kong is represented prominently in the collection as it’s from where orienteering first spread into Mainland China. There are even maps of forest areas that, due to urban development, no longer exist.
China is great for orienteering
Orienteering in Mainland China started in the 1980s as a sport as the economy opened up. Boosted by contacts with orienteers in Hong Kong, Guangdong soon became a hotspot for orienteering activity, and the sport spread quickly to the rest of the nation.
Now, the sport is most popular in almost every corner of China, thanks to government support for major orienteering events and school orienteering. Activities now span from Hainan in the south to Heilongjiang in the north, from Shanghai at sea level to Yunnan in the highlands.
Stay tuned for more news on orienteering in China!
All photos and maps in this article are kindly provided by the Orienteering Museum. Special thanks to the museum for providing information and support towards this article.
Address: 13 Liyuan Road, Wenquan Town, Conghua District, Guangzhou, China. COVID-19 travel advisory (Jan 2021): China is not yet open for tourism, and only citizens of a small number of countries are allowed to travel for essential reasons, with 14-21 days quarantine (depending on province and region) and multiple tests.
*Note: The first orienteering museum in the world is usually considered to be the Centre of Orienteering History in Zlín, Czech Republic (est. 1984). It’s however attached to the Museum of Southeastern Moravia, and exhibits its collections via that museum. At this moment, we’re not aware of any other dedicated orienteering museums in the world that are independent of other museums. The Orienteering Museum in Conghua, therefore, can be considered to be the first dedicated orienteering museum in the world.