Historical origin of Xiamen arcade buildings

Updated: 27 Oct 2009
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As an outstanding characteristic in Xiamen architecture, arcade buildings are preserved very well in this city. This architectural style was introduced into Xiamen from Southeast Asia.


In the later half of 18th century, the strong British colonial force invaded the Southeast Asian countries. But the climate there was too hot for these outsiders who had gotten accustomed to the cool weather in Britain.


India style arcade building


In order to create a relatively cool living environment, they built corridors in front of their houses, which can provide shade from the sun. And these gallery-type buildings were widely imitated by local people and soon popular in Southeast Asia and south China.


Five Footway in Singapore


This architectural style was firstly created by the British in Beniapukur of India and later introduced into Singapore by Raffles. As a pioneer in the construction of Singapore, Raffles required that all the city buildings should build a five foot wide roofed passageway to provide a relatively fixed site for foreigners to run a business. It was named Five Footway by local people and the name was brought to Xiamen and exists to this day.




The old part of Xiamen


Walking under the arcade buildings, you can find the most authentic Xiamen. The small tea tables in front of the shops, the old people who sit against the pillars and the colorful smallwares, constitute a picture of peaceful Xiamen life.


It is said that, in the 1950s, Chiang Kai-shek’s aircrafts usually came to Xiamen and attacked this city with machine-gun fire and bombs. Clever Xiamen citizens then built parapet walls between the pillars and turned the arcade buildings into trenches. They still run business as usual during these hard times and arcade buildings had actually been turned into a safe haven for them.



Zhongshan Road arcade buildings


In the process of urbanization, arcade buildings have faded away in the cities of south China. But Zhongshan Road, the one hundred years old street which is made up of arcade buildings, still maintains a strong business vigor. It has become the special cultural identity card of the city of Xiamen.


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