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Discovering Xiamen
Special> China International Fair For Investment & Trade> Discovering Xiamen
UPDATED: August 10, 2009 NO. 20 MAY 19, 1986
A Garden by the Sea

Xiamen, which faces Taiwan Island along China's southeastern coast, and which has a population of 330,000, covers an area of 131 square kilometres. In 1985 this medium-sized city, attracted 1.5 million tourists from at home and abroad.

Among these visitors was former U.S. President Richard Nixon, who toured Xiamen in September 1985. After the visit, Nixon said that of all the cities he had visited in the past 38 years Xiamen was the most beautiful. He predicted that with its mild climate, beautiful beaches and friendly people, Xiamen would become one of China's major tourist attractions. Many other visitors have likened Xiamen's beauty and attractions to those of Hangzhou, one of China's most famous centres of tourism.

A stone isle

Xiamen, which was once an island, was connected with an embankment built in the Jimei area in 1955. Xiamen Island was formed from volcanoes and is surrounded by 116 small reef islands.

One of Xiamen's most distinguishing characteristics is its curiously-shaped granite rocks, some of which resemble bells and camels. Stone is one of the island's main construction materials, out of which roads, walls, steps and dykes have been built. As a result, Xiamen has been dubbed the "island of a thousand stones."

Its pristine water and excellent beaches also make Xiamen an ideal resort. Because Xiamen is protected by Jinmen (Quemoy) Islands in the South China Sea, the water is free of sharks and perfect for recreational swimming.


One of Xiamen's more popular attractions is Gulang Island, which is just south of metropolitan Xiamen and covers an area of 1.77 square kilometres. Known as a"garden by the sea," Gulangyu has 24,000 residents and is closed to cars, buses and animal-drawn carts. The absence of traffic has left Gulangyu with clean streets, fresh air, and flowers that bloom year round.

More than 200 of the 8,000 households in Gulangyu have pianos. In the evenings piano music wafts through the air, adding a touch of serenity to the island. Some of China's more famous musicians have been born on Gulangyu, which has thus become known as "the hometown of musicians."

The highest mountain of the isle is Longtou Mountain, whose summit is called "sunshine rock," and from which one is treated to a panoramic view of the city's many buildings that attest to the architectural influences of such countries as the United States, Japan, France, Germany, Britain, India, Pakistan and the Soviet Union.

Shuzhuang Park is the most attractive park on the island. Its founder was Lin Erjia, whose family emigrated from Longxi County, Fujian Province, to Taiwan. Though Lin spent his childhood in Danshui, Taiwan, his family returned to the mainland and settled in Xiamen in 1894 when Japan occupied Taiwan. As a result, Lin often remembered his childhood in Taiwan with fondness and so built the park to resemble the grounds of his father's home in Taiwan.

The entrance to the park is so thick with shrubbery that the sea is not visible. About 200 metres past the gate, however, the sea leaps into view. Not far from this point there is also a bridge, under which a sluice gate channels sea water into the ponds in the park.

Shuzhuang Park was exquisitely designed, and all its pavilions, paths, bridges and pools were built in order to accommodate the ground's natural landscape. The park's stone paths are so numerous and complicated that they often make finding one's way out of the park a challenge.

To accommodate the growing number of tourists, several hotels have been built in Gulangyu recently. One such facility has 40 villas designed in the styles of various countries. Eight of these villas,totalling 88 rooms and 174 beds, have luxurious facilities, such as Chinese and Western restaurants, dance halls with sophisticated sound systems and facilities for simultaneous interpretation in four languages. To transport visitors from one villa to another, a cable car system is also under construction.

An ancient temple

Nanputuo Temple, built during the Tang Dynasty more than 1,000 years ago, is composed of Tianwang Hall, Daxiong Hall, Dabei Hall and a library of Buddhist scriptures.

Of the 6 million overseas Chinese whose hometowns are in Fujian Province, most set off from Xiamen. It is said that before embarking on their journeys many of these emigrants came to Nanputuo Temple to ask the Buddha's blessing for their safety and prosperity. In return, they promised to donate money to the temple. Many of these people have kept their promises, and a number of the temple's construction projects have been financed by their donations.

Thousands of Buddhist scriptures are kept in the temple's library, which also serves as a place for keeping several hundred cultural relics, including a bronze bell, an incense burner, a miniature bronze pagoda crafted in 973 A.D., and 28 rare jade Buddhas.

Aoyuan sculpture

The Jimei School campus faces the sea on three sides. The campus was built with money donated by Chen Jiageng, (Tan Kah Kee), a well-known overseas Chinese leader.

The Jimei campus is itself a scenic spot, but its Aoyuan Garden makes it an even more splendid site covering an area of 9,000 square metres, Aoyuan Garden contains the Jimei Liberation Monument and Chen Jiageng's tomb, both of which were built with granite and diabase, without a single piece of wood or a nail. At the entrance to the garden is a 50-metre-long corridor with walls on both sides, in which forty reliefs of historical figures are carved in green stone. These figures, 0.33 metres high, bear expressions of happiness, anger and sorrow on their faces, which are no bigger than a thumb.

A monument bearing inscriptions from the late Chairman Mao Zedong and Chen Jiageng stands in the garden. South of the monument lies Chen's tomb, which is encircled by a small wall decorated with 15 stone reliefs depicting Chen's life.

These stone sculptures are only a small part of the park's sculpture offerings. Others can be seen throughout the garden and can be divided into two categories: relief and inscription. The reliefs depict industrial and agricultural production, education, sports, and famous historical spots and ancient tales, and are the works of veteran stonemasons from southern Fujian Province. The inscriptions are written by Party and government leaders and other VIPs.

Fort hulishan

Built in 1891, Fort Hulishan formerly had two cannons that were purchased with 120,000 tales of silver from Germany. Now, however, only one remains. Weighing 48,974 kg, the cannon is 11,230 mm long, 28 mm in diameter and has a shooting range of up to 6,460 metres.

Beneath the fort is the site of the barracks of the Qing Dynasty. Standing in the fort, one can easily envision Chinese soldiers battling foreign invaders. From the fort, one can also see Dadan and Erdan mountains, which are occupied by Kuomintang troops. Only several years ago, soldiers on the two sides exchanged fire. Through a telescope, one can make out the buildings, vehicles and residents on the isles.

Other scenic spots and historic sites in Xiamen include the Overseas Chinese Museum, the Museum of Anthropology at Xiamen University and the Lu Xun Museum, the ruins of a drill ground used by Zheng Chenggong, a famous general of the Ming Dynasty who recovered Taiwan Island from the Dutch in the 17th century. The Zheng Chenggong Museum, the Botanical Garden, where many rare tropical plants are exhibited, and Zhongshan Park are also worth visiting.

Many visitors have enjoyed Xiamen's beautiful natural scenery. Over the last few years, the city government there has made great efforts to build more to accommodate its increasing tourist trade. In 1984 alone, 27 hotels with about 3,000 beds went up. giving the city a total of 1,534 rooms with 3,200 beds available for foreign tourists. Yuehua Hotel, a new hotel located in the Huli Industrial District, is composed of a main building of a Chinese palace style, three guest houses and 22 Western-style villas.

Xiamen's facilities, however, are still far from enough to meet its tourism needs. Such inadequacy is a weak aspect in the city's construction and requires an urgent resolution from the local government.


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