By Roger ALLNUTT
China has a rich tradition in being a mercantile nation. They have developed the Silk Road and other major intercontinental trade routes for centuries. As part of China’s plans for economic growth they are developing a strategy referred to as One Belt One Road linking many countries in Southeast Asia and on to Europe by ocean and land. One of the key ports of the route is Fuzhou, the capital city of Fujian province opposite Taiwan.
Fujian is a province of great variety with coastlines and rolling countryside covered with many mountains and river valleys. It has a warm, humid maritime climate which makes it a perfect place to visit throughout the year.
The major tourist areas are around Mount Wuyi in the northwest corner, the largest city of Xiamen with historic Gulangyu Island just offshore and the unique circular houses of the Hakka tribes people.
Fujian province has an interesting connection with Australia. In the last couple of centuries a large number of people from Fujian (the current population is around 38 million) left for other parts of the world. Many of those came to Australia during the gold rush days of the 1850s-1870s. It is estimated that there are more than 10 million overseas Chinese of Fujian origin.
The capital Fuzhou has a population of around three million. Spreading out along both banks of Minjiang River it is well known in China for its hot springs and jasmine tea. Typical of most large Chinese cities it features many tall buildings with seemingly endless rows of 25-storey residential apartment blocks.
The best known hot springs in the area are Lianjiang Guian Hot Springs on the outskirts of Fuzhou. Large numbers come, especially at weekends, to relax in the excellent hotels and springs which range from small to quite large pools with temperatures from very hot to cool.
Gushan Mountain in the eastern part of Fuzhou is the site of one of Fuzhou’s five main Ch’an temples Yongquan Temple whose magnificent buildings date back to the Qing dynasty (1644-1912 C.E.) and feature stone-inscribed Buddhist texts. –
West Lake Park is by far the best-preserved classical garden in the city, with a history of more than 1,700 years. It was built in 282 AD during the Western Jin Dynasty (265-316 C.E.)
The most visited attraction in Fuzhou is Sanfang Qixiang, an old block consisting of three lanes and seven alleys. A large number of residences from ancient China are found there and it is often referred to as an architecture museum. The streets are lined with small shops, colourful lanterns, solid wooden doors with big locks, wall paintings and calligraphy. You can peer into courtyards full of flowers, some buildings have been turned into boutique hotels and there are sculptures of traditional scenes. It is a pleasant area to while away a couple of hours but I thought the old effect was spoilt by some rather tatty shops at each end of the main alley.
China is well known for its many and varied traditional arts and crafts. Our group was taken to the old town of Songshan where it appeared the whole town population was there to greet us. With my shaved head and white beard quite a few people wanted a photo taken with this strange apparition. At one point I was taking photos of the locals while they were taking photos of me – all on their modern mobile photos.
We were treated to a display of dancing, drum playing and traditional painting. Walking through the village the locals had prepared a selection of sweet and tasty items for us to try.
Later we moved on to Quanzhou. It is one of two large cities close together south of Fuzhou (the other is Jinjiang). We were again treated to a traditional show including a superb display of marionettes (one rode around on a bicycle), kung fu and also Chinese opera which is not one of my favourites art forms. The marionette group were featured during the Beijing Olympics.
Quanzhou is another historic city of China with many ancient cultural and religious relics.
Kaiyuan Temple is the largest Buddhist temple in Fujian with a history of over 1300 years. The Grand Prayer Hall has 86 huge stone pillars and the two pagodas at over 40m are the highest stone pagodas in China. Qingjing Mosque dating from 1009 C.E. is the oldest example of Muslim architecture in China.
Spanning the Luoyang River the bridge of the same name was built in 1053 C.E. and is one of the most famous ancient bridges in China; even Marco Polo described it in his journey notes. Built from light grey granite, the bridge resembles a silver dragon lying above the water. During construction thousands of oysters were bred around the foot-stones and piers so that their secretions would act as kind of cement.
Fuzhou and Quanzhou are easily reached by air from Shanghai, Hong Kong and Xiamen.
For more information check en.fjta.com
Roger Allnutt visited Fuzhou and Quanzhou in Fujian as a guest of the China National Tourist Office in Sydney.