Xiamen

Xiamen (厦门) (also called Amoy) and its surrounding countryside is known for its scenery and tree-lined beaches.  It is an island city with a rich and dramatic history, replete with pirates, rebel leaders, and European merchants. Now linked to mainland Fujian by a causeway, Xiamen retains a strong international flavor.

Xiamen has a long history as a port city, and became a center of British trade in the 19th century. Their foreign settlements, later taken over by Japanese invaders at the start of World War II.

Xiamen was founded in 1394 at the beginning of the Ming dynasty as a center of defense against coastal pirates. In the mid-17th century, Xiamen became a stronghold of Zheng Chenggong, known in the West as Koxinga, a Ming loyalist who held out against the Manchu invaders until being driven to Taiwan.

After the Opium Wars Xiamen became one of the first treaty ports to be opened to foreign trade and settlement following the Treaty of Nanjing in 1842.

Xiamen is headquarters of the 31st Group Army of the People’s Liberation Army, one of the 3 group armies under the Nanjing Military Region, which is responsible for the defense of the eastern China, including any military action in the Taiwan Strait.

The Jinmen Islands, still controlled by the Republic of China from Taiwan, lies only 6 kilometers off Xiamen.

Xiamen was designated one of the four Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in the early 1980’s.

Sightseeing

You can enjoy Xiamen’s unique scenery not only in the day but also in the night. Take a breather and walk beside Yuandang Lake in the evening and you can see how Xiamen transforms into a different setting: lighted artistic sculptures, scent of the sea, and romantic lovers by the lake. Enjoy your stroll and notice that some buildings even have a light show at night, simple laser/light shows that attract attention, which is some form of an advertisement mostly done by newly opened commercial buildings and some residential complexes to draw attention to their business.

  • Zhongshan Road Pedestrian Street. See the yearly facelifts and notice that older buildings are becoming extinct and being replaced by modern ones.
  • Night markets. See how smaller businesses trade in the night.
  • Yuandang Lake. See how the egrets flock in the day and fly home in the night.
  • Bailuzhou Park. A large and beautiful park. Go around 8:30PM and enjoy the vendors, music, and dancing.
  • Xiamen University. Beautiful campus with old traditional buildings and a tranquil lake outside the foreign language department.
  • Jiageng Park. A beautiful park in memory of Chen Jiageng, founder of Xiamen University.
  • Nanputuo Temple. A big Buddhist temple outside Xiamen University at Xiada (short for Xiamen University) Street. Visitors can climb the mountain behind the temple for beautiful views of Xiamen and surrounding nature. The mountain is also littered with small enclaves with hundreds of Buddhist statuettes.

Gulangyu Island

A 5-10 minute ferry ride from Xiamen, the 2 square km Gulangyu Island aka “Piano Island”, was the center for foreign communities who settled here after 1842.  Renowned for its beaches and winding lanes, many built Western-style mansions, churches, warehouses, and government buildings where more than 1000 historical buildings with different styles still survive today .

Gulangyu Island is known as the piano island because people here love the piano. As early as 1913, students in schools run by foreigners started learning the piano. The enthusiasm for music later spread to more people on the island. Many piano families have since then come into being and produced accomplished musicians.

No road vehicles are allowed here, bicycles are the only means of transportation. In recent years, some battery-powered sightseeing vehicles commute from the beach to the port.

What to see on the island:

  • The island is home to China’s largest piano museum.
  • Sunlight Rock (Riguang Yan) is a scenic spot on the island where you can get a bird’s-eye view of Xiamen.
  • The Xiamen Museum (Xiamen Bowuguan) includes more than a thousand exhibits, including porcelain and jade collections.
  • On the southern shore of the island is the Shuzhuang Garden, which once belonged to a Taiwanese businessman who moved to the island after the Japanese took over Taiwan in 1895.

Shopping

Xiamen’s only indigenous craft is lacquered thread sculpture for ceramics, but Zhongshan Lu offers beautiful jade and wood carvings, silk dolls, bead embroidery, bamboo ware and clay models. Marketplace specialties are whimsical clay teapots shaped like Buddhas, tree trunks or Human figures.

May 23rd, 2018|

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