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Fuzhou to Quanzhou
Text and photographs by Cecile Zehnacker

 

Two men talk on the doorstep of a restaurant with traditional wooden architecture in the Three Lanes and Seven Alleys area. An oil-paper umbrella shop in the Three Lanes and Seven Alleys area. Paper umbrellas are an age-old tradition that originated in Fuzhou and later expanded across China and even to some other Asian countries. Bamboo cabins shelter some of the numerous pools of Xishan Hot Spring Resort.

Local villagers perform a traditional opera in the ancient town of Songkou. Two elderly women of the Hui’an community in Quanzhou clean and prepare shells.

The next day we took the bus to Songkou Ancient Town in Yongtai County of Fuzhou for the 1st Folk Custom Tourism Cultural Festival. The ancient town has a history of over 1,000 years, and just like the Three Lanes and Seven Alleys, it is notable for a wealth of well-preserved old buildings from the Ming and Qing dynasties. Al Although several cultural activities organized as part of the festival led my group deeper into the traditional folk culture of Songkou and Fuzhou, the city isn’t yet a year-round major tourist destination, which keeps it tranquil. It was especially pleasant to witness the lives of the local people, some of whom were probably witnessing foreign faces for the first time.

The ancient town of Songkou is along the way to Quanzhou, our next destination and a former important port city on the Maritime Silk Road. The biggest tourist draw of Quanzhou is the Kaiyuan Temple, an ancient structure built in 686 during the Tang Dynasty and the largest Buddhist temple of Fujian Province. Interestingly, it houses fragments of a Hindu temple built in Quanzhou in the 13th century by the Tamil community. But perhaps the most impressive structure in the town is the beautiful Reshou Pagoda in the garden of the temple complex. It includes several courtyards.

My favorite stop on the trip was the Hui’an women’s community in Chongwu ancient fishing village. The village is particularly notable because they used seashells to construct many of its walls, but its other peculiarity is a community of Hui’an women who maintain a traditional shellfish farm. Hui’an women are a community of Han women with roots in Hui’an County, Quanzhou, known for their hard work and unique customs. They wear colorful traditional costumes and welcomed us with traditional dances. However, modern times have been overpowering tradition, and the community’s average age is quite high. Many of the women we met were over 80 years old. I felt tremendously honored for the chance to visit the amazing women of the community and their beautiful village.

Too soon I had to leave sunny Fujian and return to cold Beijing. I really wished I could have extended my trip with the final touch of the province’s beautiful beaches.

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