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1 Exotic Gulangyu
Something for Everyone!
“To the rare foreign visitor, Gulangyu is astonishingly
reminiscent of an amalgam of other places far away:
Havana (which I know only from pictures, but its crumbling mansions seem
very similar to Gulangyu's).
“A Mexican hill town, such as Taxco or San Miguel,
even down to the tiled streets in some cases.
“The Cinque Terre of Italy--beautiful, balmy, quiet.
“Hawaii, with its wild poinsettias, bougainvillea, pleasant beaches.
“An Austrian village, with piano and violin music wafting from open
“A little bit of Las Vegas, with gaudy lights every evening on every
imaginable landmark on both sides of the channel.
“Put this all in a Chinese setting, and you have Gulangyu.”
Brian Dearle (www.newcolonist.com)
Xiamen is China’s “Garden Island” but
her Crown Jewel is Gulangyu (“Drum Wave Islet”), the elegant
1.78 square kilometer haven just 700 meters across Xiamen Harbor. Settled
during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), Gulan-gyu was named Yuan Shazhou
(“round sandy island”) during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644),
but a geological mystery gave rise to its present name…
Ancient settlers were unsettled by eerie drum beats emanating from the
clearly uninhabited island, but eventually discovered the ghostly drumming
was caused by tides surging through a hollow rock on the island’s
southwest corner. Relieved that “Round Sandy Island” wasn’t
haunted, or a lair for cannibal tribes from across the Strait, they renamed
their new home “Drum Wave Islet” (Gulangyu).
While Stone Drum is silent nowadays, the islet drums up plenty of tourism
because of its lush tropical gardens, rich musical and cultural heritage,
and its unparalleled panoply of international colonial-era architecture.
Gulangyu’s serpentine lanes wind past high-walled
gardens on lushly shaded hills, and hundreds of aged but elegant mansions
built during the heyday of the early 20th century. As you savor the scenery
and sleepy silence, you can almost imagine the opulence of yesteryear,
when this drowsy islet teemed with the International Settlement’s
turbaned Gurkha policemen, dignitaries of a dozen nations, and wealthy
Chinese and Western businessmen borne upon ornate sedan chairs by attendants
in uniforms emblazoned with pampered employers’ mono-grams.
In 1920, Hutchinson wrote that Gulangyu had more wealthy people than anywhere
on earth except Pasadena, California! The wealth is gone, but the rich
international heritage remains.
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at a Glance
2. Population: 15,000 (minus 2; Bill & Kitty Job
3. Language: Mandarin, Minnan (S. Fujian) Dialect
4. Location: 118 degrees East, 24 degrees North, and
just S.E. of Xiamen
5. Climate: sub-tropic maritime monsoon, warm year-round
with 20.9 C average temperature, high of 35 C, low of 5 C.
6. Nicknames: Garden on the Sea, Piano Island, Isle of
Museum of International Architecture
7. Unique customs: Dragon Boat Festival duck catching,
Mooncake Game, family music recitals, weekend philharmonic symphonies
8. Culinary Treats: Mooncakes (China’s best!),
prepared meats (from a shop opened in 1842!), Minnan cuisine, seafood,
light soups, crispy friend dishes, fish balls, zongzis, green bean pie,
coconut pie, etc.
9. Main Attractions:
Sunlight Rock (Koxinga Memorial, Ancient Fort, Cable
Historic International Architecture (hundreds of elegant
Shuzhuang Garden (and Piano Museum)
Hero Hill: Tingtao Bluff, Hero Garden, Gulangyu Aviary
Gulangyu Music Hall (frequent concerts), Xiamen Music
Bright Moon Garden (Koxinga Statue)
Xiamen Museum (and Organ Museum)
Gangzihou Beach, Drum-Wave Rock, Yindou Rock
Xiamen Sea World (behind the giant octopus sculpture
by the ferry)
10. Shopping—stock up on local specialties like
Gulangyu pearls, pre-pared foods and mooncakes, as well as Anxi tea, Zhangzhou
hand puppets, Hui’an stone carvings, Fuzhou’s Shoushan stone—and
Mr. Bai Hua’s inimitable Gulangyu postcards.
Tour Koxinga made China’s last stand for the Ming
Dynasty, here on Gulangyu, and from here sailed off to rescue Taiwan from
the Dutch. And a century ago this tiny islet’s an international
settlement was host to the planet’s most powerful trading firms
and consulates of 13 countries. Gulangyu and Xiamen were also the “Birthplace
of Chinese Protestantism.” with China’s oldest Protestant
Medicine and Education
Tour Known as “The Cradle of Tropical Medicine”,
Gulangyu was pivotal in developing both Chinese and Western modern medicine.
The islet was also home to many pioneer educators (especially in women’s
education), and boasted over 20 institutes of learning.
& Arts Tour The “Isle of Music,” or
“Piano Island,” has more pi-anos per capita than any other
city in China, Asia’s largest piano museum, and has produced dozens
of famous musicians, including world-renowned pianist Yin Chengzong, and
acclaimed conductor Madame Zheng Xiaoying. The islet was also home to
the famous writer Lin Yutang and artist Teng Hiok Chiu.
Tour In 2001 alone, Gulangyu spent 7.5 million USD pro-tecting
hundreds of historic buildings in this “World Museum of Architecture.”
Tour China’s 1st ISO-authenticated administrative
district, Gulan-gyu spent 120 million USD relocating enterprises off-island
to preserve this bo-tanical paradise. Key parks include:
(Shuzhuang Huayuan), Gulangyu’s largest garden includes the Piano
Museum (Gangqin Bowuguan).
Gulangyu Aviary (Bainiao Yuan)
Bright Moon Garden (Haoyue Yuan) & Koxinga Statue.
Yanping Park (Yanping Gongyuan): miraculous Koxinga Well.
Subtropical Botanical Garden
Private Gardens—many historic private villas have delightful gardens.
& Entertainment Tour Gulangyu is a shopper’s and
diner’s paradise, with value-priced Fujian handicrafts, specialties,
antiques, fine foods and teas, etc. You’ll shop till you drop—or
until your wallet is empty. (The best shopping is straight ahead of the
ferry on Longtou Rd.) Enjoy the Minnan Tea Ceremony, the famous Mid-Autumn
Mooncake game, and attractions like Xia-men Underwater World, the Cable
Cars, and the beaches.
& Quiet Savor the silence—Gulangyu has no cars
or bikes (though you may see the cute little red fire trucks).
to Gulangyu Ferry Terminal (Xiagu Lundu)
2, 3, 4, 8, 10, 12, 19, 23, 25, 27, 28, 30, 31, 32, 36, 44, 60, 51, 66,
make the 10 minute crossing several times an hour. Specialty tour fer-ries
include cruises around nearby Taiwan-controlled Jinmen Island.
and Guides English and Chinese maps are available in local
bookstores and hotels or from vendors at the Gulangyu Ferry Terminal.
Tour Guides. Hire only official guides (I learned this the
hard way). They wear light purple “China Xiamen Tourism” badges
depicting a running horse (China’s symbol of tourism) and a flying
swallow (because some tour guides’ tales are hard to swallow).
Gulangyu—a Popular International Port of Call
Gulangyu was a popular
destination for commercial and military ships from all over the world.
On October 30th, 1908, Gulangyu hosted over 7000 sailors from 8 American
battleships: the Louisiana, Virginia, Missouri, Ohio, Wisconsin, Kentucky,
Illinois, and Kearsage. Rev. Pitcher (1912) wrote:
“They put in about 9:00 am, for coal and provisions, and were feted
by dignitaries ranging from Imperial Prince Yu Lang and his Honorable
translator all the way down to the local judge.
Some folks, particularly the gentrified Europeans, doubted that tiny Amoy
could survive 7000 American sailors on shore leave at one time, but they
spent their time buying presents, or at the YMCA tent writing letters
to family and sweethearts.”
Today, cliff inscriptions
behind Xiamen’s Nanputuo Temple com-memorate that grand occasion
and China and America’s eternal friend-ship—which 30 years
later saved tens of thousands of lives on Amoy.
In May, 1938, the
U.S.S. Asheville commandeered a rice and water barge in Amoy and saved
the lives of about 60,000 Chinese whom the Japanese interned on Gulangyu
with neither food nor water. (Japanese oc-cupied Gulangyu after the Dec.
1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, and surren-dered on Gulangyu in the Seashore
Inn on Lujiao Rd.).
Fujian Sites Fujian
Foto Album Xiamen
Last Updated: May 2007
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