Xiamen is a small port city, the center of South Fujian and one of the most pleasant places on the whole coast of China. The city is interesting with both ancient and modern architecture and used to be one of the five treaty ports opened for trade with Great Britain in the 1840s. Xiamen is located on an island connected by a causeway to the mainland. The colonial color still gives the city a special charm, with all the “ultra-modern” skyscrapers that every forward-looking port metropolis should have.
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Gulangyu Island, southwest of Xiamen Island, is mostly inhabited by foreigners. It is a paradise area with interesting buildings, where motorcycles and mopeds are forbidden. The city is developing rapidly and has the status of a special economic zone.
These days, most of Xiamen Island is urbanized, with beaches along the southern shore of the island and port facilities along the western shore. The main campus of Xiamen University is also located on the south shore of the island.
In the Jimei district is Jimei University and “Turtle Park”, a memorial complex in honor of the famous huaciao, the popular educator Chen Jiagen, where he himself is buried in a traditional turtle grave.
Also of interest is Yundang Lake, which is famous for its flocks of herons and picturesque views after dusk when the sculptures are illuminated. Locals like to relax in Bai Lu Zhou Park in the evenings. The marvelous Botanical Garden is a pleasant place to stroll around and see the plants.
Other buildings include the Nanputuo Temple of the Tang Dynasty, listed as a national treasure of China. Its green-roofed pavilions are beautiful. Within the temple grounds are also the Hall of Great Grace, the Precious Hall of the Great Hero, the Hall of Heavenly Kings, and many pagodas. Hulishan Fortress, dating from the late 19th century, is unusual in that its foundations are made from a mixture of camphor, sticky rice, brown sugar, tree syrup, sand, and clay. The granite fortress houses a magnificent collection of Ming dynasty cannons.
The first mention of Xiamen as a city dates back only to 1387, when a naval fortress arose here. In the 18th century, maritime trade with Southeast Asia began in earnest; to better control it, in 1727 the capital of the Quaizhou district was moved here. The Treaty of Nanjing (1842) opened the city to European trading powers; it became known internationally as Amoi, as it was pronounced in the South Fujian dialect. Xiamen soon became a major port of emigration from China, primarily for Quli workers to the Americas. In the twentieth century, the city developed slowly until the economic dynamism of the Deng Xiaoping era took hold. In 1980. Xiamen was one of the first to be designated a special economic zone and emerged as one of the leaders in China’s modernization and transformation.
The sights of Xiamen
The Lujiang Dao promenade on the west end of the island is the front side of the city. It is not too long, but thanks to abundant greenery, it has become a promenade. There is a good view of Gu-lan-yu Island. At the intersection of the waterfront with Zhongshan Lu shopping street, ferries dock.
Zhongshan Lu did not repeat the mistakes made elsewhere: the old colonial colonnaded houses, which allowed for dry and shady shopping strolls, were either preserved or replaced by new buildings that complemented them in size and style.
Gates and Ponds
The tour begins from the south, with an unusual point: there are two ponds in front of the temple. This is quite in the spirit of the rules of feng shui, which are strictly enforced in Fujian, but the smaller pond also served to release caught fish: by doing so, people tried to improve their karma. Instead of one temple gate, there are two; they stand on either side of the ponds; on their axis, on an elevated terrace, follows an inner gateway hall – the Hall of the Four Heavenly Kings.
In the main hall stand the statues of the Three Precious Buddhas and, behind them, the three saints of the west: the Buddha-Savior Amitabha and his assistant bodhisattvas.
Hall of Great Mercy.
The spiritual center of the monastery is the Hall of Great Mercy. The name of this octagonal pavilion-shaped structure naturally indicates that a statue of Guanyin stands inside.
Other buildings in the complex
The monastery library is the last building on the axis. Along its side, the path leads up the slope to the pavilions, tomb pagodas, and small halls. Much incense is burned in front of a tall rock block several meters high, adorned with the gilded hieroglyph “pho,” Buddha. Bus 18 or 45 from Zhongshan Lu to the terminus. Official hours: Every day from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. 8.00-17.00.
This place offers a nice respite from the bustle of Xiamen: a small island with sandy beaches and rocky outcroppings, a small town with narrow, car-free streets, museums, parks, cafes, restaurants – and piano music! The roads are well-maintained, with strict environmental controls.
The beauty of the place dates back to 1844, when the first British Consul in Xiamen was the first to build a villa here. In that time the land on Gulangyu was still under cultivation. In the next 60-80 years gradually emerged a village marked by European architectural styles, which stands to this day, and there were built not only villas, but also schools, churches and shopping facilities. Japanese – and well-to-do Chinese also settled here, because Gulangyu was not a ghetto for foreigners. Unlike Tianjin, there were no separate zones of influence of various foreign powers here either.
A look around
It takes a good half day to see the most important things and breathe in a little of the local atmosphere. You can take an electric car around the island on a 6 kilometer route. But most of the way should be done on foot. However, Gulangyu is a place where you can stay longer. Do you want to take a week’s vacation after the stress of traveling through China? You couldn’t find a nicer place to stay than here.
Qingyuan Piano Garden
There is at least one stop to make when touring the open electric bus: get off when you pass the big sandy beach after the ride on the north end (or, if you missed the stop, at the second beach) and walk uphill to the nearby Piano Garden, a well-maintained park that includes an art gallery, an audiovisual room and a large aviary that you can walk into.
Jiguangyang Sunshine Rock
From the Piano Garden you can take a cable car to the Rock of Sunshine, the island’s highest point (93 meters). It makes sense to climb to the top and enjoy the panorama. On the east side of the peak is the Temple of the Rock of Sunshine, a new but unified ensemble with an open-air statue of Guanyin.
If you exit the park around the Rock of Sunshine not near the temple (through the northern gate), but through the southern gate, you will get to a sandy beach (the second during the tour) and walking eastward, you will come to a piano museum with seventy instruments from all kinds of countries, occupying two buildings in the middle of the beautiful Shuzhuangyuan Garden. Continue on the slightly uphill main street and you will reach the next destination: the former British Consulate, a one-story, brilliantly restored and wonderfully located building from 1870. The two museums are open every day. 9.00-12.00, 13.30-17.00.
A somewhat curious combination: on one side a sandy beach and elegant “summer villas” to rent for beach vacations, on the other side a pompous nationalistic bronze relief in honor of Zheng Chenggong, the general who expelled the Dutch from Taiwan in 1661 – he is therefore considered a patriot. What is deliberately forgotten is that Zheng, as a supporter of the Ming dynasty, fought the Beijing authorities, the new Manchu dynasty, and created an independent (albeit short-lived) kingdom in Taiwan. Zheng is now the banner under which the campaign to return Taiwan “to its native state” is conducted, so in addition to the bronze sculpture of the commander, there is also a monumental monument: from a large rock in the southeast corner of the park, he looks out to the sea, toward Taiwan, with courage and determination.
From the pier, Dragon Head Lane (Longtou Xiang) leads in the direction of the Rock of Sunshine. This is the Gulangyu shopping street; restaurants can also be found there. After refueling there, you can also visit Xiamen Undersea World, a modern aquarium just north of the marina.
Gulangyu has the highest “density of pianos per capita” in all of China. There are six hundred in all, one for every thirty islanders. Having pianos in villas was considered “a good thing,” and not only among Europeans. Today the town’s music school also contributes its share. And do not forget the Piano Museum. However, in the Piano Garden piano is present only in the name.
How to Get There
Xiamen has an airport not far from the city from which planes fly to all major cities in China and Hong Kong. From the city station, direct trains go to Nanchang, Shanghai, Kunming and Xi’an as well as to Wuishan, among others. From the square in front of the station, buses go to Quanzhou.
Zhongshan Lu, the main shopping street, has several good tea shops that sell typical Fujian semi-fermented oolong tea as well as tea utensils.
Xiamen is a small port (by Chinese standards) and the administrative center of Fujian Province. The picturesque city, located on the coast of the Taiwan Strait, is a true tourist paradise and one of the most ecologically clean regions of the Middle Kingdom.
Г. Xiamen was mentioned for the first time in the chronicles in 282 under the name of Amoi; in XIII century Marco Polo wrote about this already quite big settlement in his diaries. For a long time, Xiamen (literally “port on the castle”) was a fortress city protecting the mainland from Japanese pirates. Since the late seventeenth century, the port became the center of Sino-English trade and after the Opium Wars it was open to all European countries. Xiamen Harbor is still a major industrial, transportation, commercial, and fishing area today.
Modern Xiamen was one of the first in the country to receive the status of a free economic zone and, according to official statistics, is one of the top 5 most comfortable and most expensive cities in China to live in. Xiamen population is 3 million 500 thousand people employed mainly in tourism, education, electronics manufacturing, light industry, as well as agriculture (tea growing).
To find Xiamen on a map of China pay attention to a group of islands located in the southeast of the country – opposite Taiwan. The city, in fact, occupies one large island, Xiamen, and one small island, Gulanyu, as well as a small area on the Chinese mainland, connected to the port by a dam and four bridges. The area of the territory is 1 thousand 865 sq. km. Distance to the nearest cities: to Quanzhou – 91 km, to Zhangzhou – 57 km.
Climate and nature
The weather on the islands is influenced by the monsoon from the South China Sea. Xiamen has a moderate subtropical climate with heavy rainfall from May to August. The average annual temperature is +21°C, the coldest in January and February – up to +10°C, the hottest months are July and August (up to +32°C). Winter is mild, dry and sunny, autumn is cool, spring and summer are wet, with thunderstorms and typhoons.
Despite the fact that the city belongs to the highly urbanized areas, here found a place and palm trees, and beautiful beaches, and huge parks and lakes. Xiamen is often called the “Bird City” in China because of the abundant colonies of great white herons.
What to see?
In addition to the marvelous scenery typical of coastal China, Xiamen can amaze tourists with sights of historical, architectural, and natural character. Among them are:
- The Botanical Garden, located at the foot of the Five Elders Peak. It was founded in 1960, its area is 5 sq. km.
- Museum of Chinese immigrants . It consists of 3 pavilions with the area of about 2.5 thousand sq.m., the total number of exhibits – 5 thousand.
- Buddhist temple of Puto, built during the Tang dynasty.
- Hulishan Cannon Fort , built in the late 19th century. Several dozen cannons on display, including some made in Europe.
- Sunlight Rock , also known as Camelback Rock or Dragon’s Head Hill, about 93 m. high.
- Museums : City Museum, Museum of Piano, Museum of Bridges, Olympic, Science and Technology.
- Turtle Park is a memorial complex built in honor of Chen Jiagen, the national educator.
- Xiamen University – its photo has become a calling card of the island.
Where to stay?
Most hotels in Xiamen are in the luxury category and offer guests additional services such as bicycle rentals, pool, fitness center, and spa, as well as free shuttle service from the airport. The city has hotel complexes for businessmen, sports and beach lovers, couples and honeymooners.
The best hotels are considered:
Where to eat?
In Xiamen there are many places with inexpensive, delicious and sometimes very unusual food that not everyone dares to try. It can be oyster omelet, triangles of sticky rice, peanut soup, crab porridge, and jelly made of worm-topper.
The most popular restaurants are:
What to bring with you?
Most malls and stores are open from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and are located on Ladies Street as well as Loton and Zhongan Streets.
The most common items brought from Xiamen are:
- Brand name clothing, shoes, hats and accessories;
- sculptures made of colored ceramics and lacquer, beadwork;
- statuettes made of jade, painted pictures;
- tea, dried fruits, nuts;
- cosmetics, medicines, biologically active additives;
- digital equipment and electronics;
- Antiques and calligraphy items.
A lot of cultural and entertainment events are held in Xiamen, including festivals:
How to get around?
The bus network in Xiamen is very well developed, but such transport moves only on a special overpass designed for it (fare on city routes – $0.14). Cabs are also cheap, starting at $1.15 per trip. Another popular means of transportation is a bicycle, but motorcycles are banned in some areas as environmentally destructive transport.