Xiamen Zhongshan Rd, a must-see destination for history buffs

Updated: 02 Aug 2013
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Zhongshan Road
As one of the oldest commercial streets in Xiamen, Zhongshan Road is known for its time-honored snacks and well-designed buildings constructed in the 1900's.

In 2012, the century-old shopping street ranked 4th on "China’s 10 Famous Historical and Cultural Streets" list. However, the road was a must-visit for visitors to Xiamen long before it made the list. Data from CITS (China International Travel Service) shows that the 1,198-metre-long street received more than 35 million visitors between 2002 and 2012.

The road is known as the only commercial street that leads to the seaside in the country. The bright sunshine, the azure sky, the exotic buildings, the pleasant local music, and the delicious Minnan cuisine all give it the feel of a holiday resort.

There are so many old buildings in Zhongshan Lu that history buffs will feel like they've been transported back to the mid-19th century.

On both sides of the street, there are rows of exotic buildings, which were mostly built after 1840, when the Opium War erupted. The war brought European architecture into the coastal city, and pioneering architects sought to develop a completely new style that blended European designs with local touches and met the needs of the foreign expats who dominated the area at the time.

The exotic buildings later became known as Qilou, literally meaning ''building riding on top'.

Most of the Qilou buildings are three or four storeys, with arcades on the ground floor and open balconies on the top floor, giving a distinctly nineteenth-century European flavour. These arcades together form a corridor of up to hundreds of metres, accommodating shops on the ground floor.

Walking through the small alleys amidst the historic Qilou buildings, it's possible to truly catch a glimpse of the old Xiamen
Xiamen Workers' Cultural Palace
Xiamen Workers' Cultural Palace
At the junction of Zhongshan Road and Xinhua Road there is a police station, but before the turn of the millennium the site was home to the Xiamen Workers' Cultural Palace. Built in 1958, the palace had strong echoes from the Soviet era, including a residential area and a cinema.

The site underwent major reconstruction during early years of the 21st century, and the palace was moved to Tiyu Road, with the police station then built on the original site in its place.

Prior to the construction of Xiamen Workers Cultural Palace, the site used to be the Fujian Navy Prefects Bureau. The bureau was established in 1685, during the Qing Dynasty.
 Tianxian Lvshe Tianxian Lvshe
Walking down the road, turn left at the second corner when you see the Printemps Department Store, after which you will see a branch of the ICBC (Industrial and Commercial Bank of China), which used to be Tianxian Hotel. Built in 1933 by Singaporean Chinese man Lv Tianbao, the hotel finally moved to another location after being battered by wind and rain for more than 70 years.

The reason why the hotel has been able to survive so long despite fierce market competition is largely thanks to a special early customer, Yu Dafu, who wrote the preface to a famous book about the hotel. Yu is a famous novelist and patriot in China.

Return to the main street and continue down it, and you'll come across a bank called Xiamen Overseas-Chinese Banking Corp. on your left hand side. Built in 1877, the bank was the only place for residents to pick up money sent back by relatives working overseas. As an important part of Xiamen’s history, the building is well-maintained although the bank was relocated a long time ago.

Not far from the Xiamen Overseas-Chinese Banking Corp, there lies a spectacular building, the Lujiang Harbourview Hotel, which is also the last stop of the journey
Lujiang Harbourview Hotel Lujiang Harbourview Hotel

Located at the intersection of Lujiang Road and Zhongshan Road, Lujiang Harbourview Hotel was built in 1958 and christened Xiamen International Hotel.

Decorated with red bricks and glass-like tiles, the 7-storey hotel boasts a great combination of Eastern and Western architectural elements and was the highest building in Xiamen at that time.

The long-lived hotel was the first place in Xiamen to install an elevator, and opened the city’s first bar and first night club.

Today, the Lujiang Hotel is still a landmark in the city.

SOURCE: WOX Info by Catherine Chou
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