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The first thing that struck me about Fujian mirrored my feelings upon arrival in Guangdong and Guizhou provinces: Southern Chinese culture starkly contrasts that of the North. As we shuttled through different cities, we caught sight of beautiful typical southern Chinese architecture and temples from the highway as well as countless crop fields with amazing vegetation thanks to the tropical climate of southern China.
Upon arrival in Fuzhou, the capital of Fujian Province, which is known as the City of Banyans for its beautiful trees, our first destination was the charming “Three Lanes and Seven Alleys”, or “Sanfang Qixiang” in Chinese. The traditional architectural complex is composed of small traditional alleys similar to the hutongs of Beijing. Often referred to as a “museum of ancient architecture of the Ming and Qing dynasties,” construction started in the Jin Dynasty (265-420), took shape in the late Tang Dynasty (618-907) and culminated in the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911). The area has also been inhabited by very influen-tial figures in Chinese history and remains iconic of Fuzhou’s long history and strong culture. The ancient buildings have been well preserved and restored, and many small restaurants and shops where tourists and locals enjoy the flavors of Fuzhou now flank them. Just discovering the place was a joyful experience in and of itself. Although the main lanes are crowded and quite comer cial, small peripheral alleys invite visitors to stroll these narrow peaceful streets and their many residential buildings. Some are now museums welcoming visitors.
An attractive Fuzhou characteristic that has nothing to do with culture is its hot springs. At the same time as the Maritime Silk Road tourism festival was held in 2016, the 7th Fuzhou Hot Spring International Tourism Festival was also held. While attending this festival we found the opportunity to take a dip in the warm waters of Xishan Hot Spring Resort, which proved a wonderful experience. The resort features over 50 different outdoor pools at various temperatures. The water is heated by volcanic activity under Fujian Province. Some pools overlook a river below, making the experience really magical.