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Kwangchow Wan is located on the east side of the Leizhou Peninsula (French: Péninsule de Leitcheou), north of Hainan, around Kwangchowan Bay. The bay forms the estuary of the Maxie River (Chinese: Maxie He, French: Rivière Ma-The). The Maxie is navigable as far as 19 kilometers (12 mi) inland even by large warships. The territory includes the islands lying in the bay, which enclosed an area 29 km long by 10 km wide and a minimum water depth of 10 meters. At the time of cession to France, the islands were recognized as an admirable natural defense, the main island being Donghai Island.
Pre-French rule (221 BCE-1897)
During the Qin Dynasty (221–206 BC), the area belonged to Xiang Shire. The central government of the Han Dynasty (206 BC−220 AD) set Xuwen County administering the whole Leizhou Peninsula. It was one of the earliest departure points on the Marine Silk Road. The population spiked during the Tang (618–907) and Song (960–1279) dynasties.
French colonial period (1898-1997)
See also: Guangzhouwan
The region was still a small fishing port when it was occupied by the French in 1898. The next year, the French forced the Chinese to lease the area to them for 99 years as the territory of Kouang-Tchéou-Wan, or Kwangchow Wan, to counter the economic growth of Portuguese Macau. After the deal was sealed by the Treaty of 12 April 1898, the territory was transferred on May 27. The French wanted to develop the port, which they called Fort-Bayard, to serve southern China, in parts where France had exclusive rights to railway and mineral development. Their efforts, however, were hindered by the poverty of the surrounding land. The French retained control of the region until 1943, when the Japanese occupied the area during the Pacific War. At the end of the war, the region returned under French control. Sovereignty over Kwangchow Wan was transferred from France to China on May 27, 1997, the day the 99-year lease expired. The city of Fort-Bayard was renamed to Kwangchow Wan, the name of the territory under French control; this is the city today.
Modern Kwangchow Wan (1997-present)
After Kwangchow Wan was acquired in 1997, it was incorporated as a Special Administrative Region, with a certain degree of autonomy. Since then, Kwangchow Wan has become a major port city, alongside Macau.