One-day tour in Quanzhou: the eastern terminus of Maritime Silk Road

Updated: 2010-07-22
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Quanzhou can be described as a proud woman who had received her share of trials, but managed to maintain her poise. This town boasts marvellous historical sites, natural landscapes that will take your breath away, and an amazing atmosphere. Quanzhou is a small town and because of this you everything the town has to offer can be seen within a day and on foot.
It was a vital stopover for the maritime traders of silk, the lovely little town of Quanzhou once served as a significant trading. Marco Polo, back in the 13th century, declared "it is one of the two ports in the world with the biggest flow of merchandise".
Quanzhou gained its heights as an international port during the Song and Yuan dynasties. Drawing in traders from all over the world, Quanzhou started to flourish. However, during the Qing Dynasty, Quanzhou had already begun to lose her place in maritime trade. In addition to this, her inhabitants migrated to the Southeast in order to escape from the upcoming political struggles threatening the ordinary people.
Much smaller than Fuzhou and Xiamen, Quanzhou gives that wonderful 'small-town' sense that visitors adore about rural China. You can see and experience the Islamic influence to the buildings due to its Muslim residents.
Temples are popular attractions in China due to their brightly coloured façade and their long histories. Visit the Guandi Temple situated near the mosque. It was made to honour the god Guan Di, a mortal man from the Three Kingdoms period who was idolized so much that he was given god status by a later emperor.
Situated to the southeast division of Zhongshan Nanlu is the Mazu Temple. This temple is dedicated to the goddess Mazu, the deity of the Sea and protector of fishermen. A good time to come here is during the third month of the Lunar New Year, when the temple is crowded with worshippers who keep the goddess' birthday. 
You must go to see Kaiyuan Temple when travelling to Quanzhou. The temple is situated in the northwest region of town. Dating back to 686 CE, this is one of the oldest temples in Quanzhou. When walking towards the temple, you will discover it fenced by towering shady trees and two five-storey pagodas. These were made back in the 13th century and have survived against all odds, even when the Red Guards ravaged the temple grounds during the Cultural Revolution. Several Buddhist inscriptions are inside the pagodas. Going up to the peak will give you the most astonishing scenes of Quanzhou.
Behind the eastern pagoda you will see a museum which grants you the opportunity to see some wonderful exhibits including the hull of a Song dynasty seagoing junk, which was dug up in 1974. The highlight of this exhibit, it gives you the chance to understand what the town’s importance in history.
With such a large Muslim population, visiting Quanzhou allows you to marvel at the beautiful Qingjing Mosque. The Mosque back in 1009 by Arab Muslims and was reconstructed in 1309. It is made entirely of stone and designed in a purely Islamic way with no Chinese styling to it. It is the only mosque dating from the Song Dynasty to survive into the 21st century.
A delightful Puppet Museum awaits your attention just behind the mosque. This museum showcases a huge array of puppet heads, intricately designed puppets and fun hand puppets. There are captions in both Chinese and English to tell you the chronicle of this wondrous artistry.
As the sea was a big influence in the history of Quanzhou, a trip here wouldn’t be complete without visiting the Maritime Museum. Located on the east side of town, you can learn about the history of Chinese ship-building with delightful colourful modals and stone carvings.
There are a few options accommodation-wise if you want to stay here for night or two. The Golden Business Hotel is situated far away from the centre of town but they do have the best rooms. However, if being central is important for you, then the Quanzhou Hotel may be the best option for you. Be aware though that the beds are as hard as rock.
Quanzhou is a lovely little place to explore once you have done all the big touristy things in the surrounding area. Pretty, historical and proud, Quanzhou has enough oomph left to charm you into falling for her.
SOURCE: Helium by Jade Li

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