Quanzhou (泉州; Choân-chiu in Minnan, Quánzhōu in Mandarin) is a coastal city in Fujian Province in China, located north of Xiamen and south of Fuzhou. Older romanisations, no longer in use, include Ch'üan-chou, Chuanchow and Chinchew.
Marco Polo sailed home from here around 1292; he called the city by its Arabic and Persian name, Zaiton, and described it as one of the world's two busiest ports (the other was Alexandria) and stunningly rich. Since then it has come down in the world somewhat, but is still a major port and still quite prosperous. For travellers, much of the history is still quite visible; the town is positively overrun with interesting old buildings.
Likely many readers in Western countries will never have heard of the place, but they have been somewhat affected by it nonetheless. The English word "satin" comes from "Zaiton", the port from which that fabric first reached the Middle East and thence Europe. The tea that American colonists threw overboard to protest British taxes at the Boston Tea Party was shipped from Quanzhou and grown in nearby Anxi.
- Fengze District (丰泽区; Fēngzéqū)
- Licheng District (鲤城区; Lǐchéngqū)
- Luojiang District (洛江区; Luòjiāngqū)
- Quangang District (泉港区; Quángǎngqū)
Other communities in Quanzhou Prefecture are covered in separate articles: Anxi, Dehua, Hui'an, Jinjiang, Jinmen, Nan'an, Shishi, and Yongchun.
Nearby Xiamen was administered as a district of Quanzhou for centuries, but it grew very rapidly due to foreign trade after it became a treaty post in the 1840s. Today it is a separate city, at least as important as Quanzhou.
Quanzhou was one of the main bases for the great Chinese treasure ships that routinely traded in Southeast Asia and India and sometimes reached at least as far as Persia and Aden. When Vasco da Gama — sailing the Cape Route to become the first European to reach India by sea — reached East Africa in 1498, he found Chinese trade goods such as blue & white pottery already in the market. The Chinese ships were far larger, longer range, and more advanced technically than European vessels of the period.
One writer says that the treasure ships did much more in the early 1400s. He claims they circumnavigated the globe, discovered both Americas decades before Columbus (who used some of their maps, obtained through trade with Egypt), and explored Australia centuries before Europeans arrived. However, his theories are not accepted by most historians.
There is a Maritime Museum in Quanzhou with many relics of this period.
Marco Polo sailed home from Quanzhou about 1292. He described it as the world's busiest port, with Alexandria a distant second. At about that time, Kublai Khan's fleet for the invasion of Japan sailed from Quanzhou. It was wiped out by a storm, the kami kaze or "spirit wind". This is the origin of the name for kamikaze (suicide) pilots during the Second World War; it was hoped they would save Japan in a similar way.
In the 1420s, there was a shift in power in Beijing; the Confucian scholars won out over the eunuchs, and many of the admirals and captains were eunuchs. The emperor cut off all foreign expeditions, destroyed the records of previous voyages, and let the great ships rot. After this, Quanzhou declined considerably. Also, over the centuries the harbour became partly clogged with silt. Today, Quanzhou is less well-known than the provincial capital Fuzhou or booming Special Economic Zone Xiamen, and certainly gets fewer tourists than either. However, it has more historic buildings than either, some interesting modern architecture, and some good shopping.
Like most Chinese cities, Quanzhou has some of the standard 8-storey concrete apartment blocks. However, there are far fewer of those than elsewhere and whole districts are much prettier. The city government has regulations that require new buildings in some areas to follow certain architectural conventions. Downtown, there are many new 4 to 6 floor buildings with the traditional Chinese tile roofs with points on the corners. Near the old mosque there are new buildings with Islamic themes, such as arched windows, in the architecture. The rebuilding of the Zhongshan Road shopping area got a UNESCO award for heritage preservation, and Quanzhou got an international award in a contest for most livable cities in 2003; neighboring Xiamen had won the previous year.
As with elsewhere in China, English is not widely spoken, though staff at more luxurious hotels will usually have at least a basic command of English.
Quanzhou Jinjiang International Airport
Nearby Xiamen has a more important airport with good domestic connections and quite a few international flights, including several long-haul ones. The Fuzhou airport is also reasonably close.
Quanzhou StationThe station, located some 12 km Northwest of the city proper, off Hwy S307, is served by frequent high-speed trains running on Fujian's coastal high-speed railway between Fuzhou and Xiamen. The line continue north beyond Fuzhou to Wenzhou, Hangzhou, and Shanghai, and south beyond Xiamen to Shantou and Shenzhen. A few trains also go to inland destination, such as Nanchang in neighbouring Jiangxi province, Wuhan, and points beyond. See High-speed rail in China for details.
There is a bus station in the square outside of the train station, with several local bus routes connecting the station with the city, and suburban routes running to places such as Chongwu.
Older maps and guidebooks may show the original Quanzhou Railway Station (renamed at some point Quanzhou East Railway Station) located at an entirely different location, in the Northeastern outskirts of the city, off Chenghua South Rd (Hwy G324), some 6 km from downtown. This station used to be served by conventional trains to various destinations in the interior of China, but in the mid 2010s those services were all terminated, and the old station was closed permanently at the end of 2014.
By busThere are frequent buses from Xiamen (¥27-35, 1.5 hours) and Fuzhou (¥46-65, 2.5 hours).
There are also direct overnight buses to/from more distant places such as Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Zhuhai, in the ¥300 range.
There are two main bus stations, a fairly large one in a new building toward the east of town and one that is much more central and looks more run down. The latter is the "new bus station". A small bus station next to the Overseas Chinese Hotel has buses to Fuzhou and Shenzhen.
By boatThere is regular ferry service from Taiwan-controlled Kinmen (Quemoy) Island to the port of Shijing (石井), some 50 km south of downtown Quanzhou. (¥150, or NT$750). However, as of early 2012, only PRC (China) and ROC (Taiwan) citizens can use it. The ferries from Xiamen to Kinmen, however, are open to most nations.
Be warned about local traffic! Traffic anywhere in China often horrifies visitors (see Driving in China), but Quanzhou is worse than most places. On some travel blogs, even Chinese complain about Quanzhou traffic.
Kaiyuan Templeaddress: Xi Jie near Xinhuan Bei Lu, northwest of downtownThe largest and most famous Buddhist temple complex in the area. The well-landscaped grounds house two famous tall pagodas, several temple buildings, an ancient stone turtle, and a variety of religious art. The Xi Jie (West Lane) outside of the temple is a busy shopping street, with all kind of shops selling souvenirs, joss paper and other Buddhist items, snacks, and books. The Ancient Ships pavilion of the Martime Museum (whose main building is elsewhere in town; see a separate listing below) is located on the grounds of the temple, in one of its ancillary buildings.
Qingjing Mosqueaddress: Tumen StreetThe only surviving mosque of the many that used to exist. It is over 1,000 years old, and was rebuilt in 2009 so the dome is now restored after a 200-year absence. Well worth a visit.
Guan-Yue Templeaddress: Tumen Jie 196 (鲤城区涂门街196号)A large and impressive Taoist temple. Note the huge (over 2 stories tall, with a big chimney) ritual furnace for burning joss paper. The furnace becomes very busy around the holidays such Yuanxiao, when people line up to burn their offerings.
Confucian TempleThis is the main Confucian temple in town.
Chongfu Templeaddress: Chongfu RoadA beautiful if small active Buddhist Temple.
Old SaintAn enormous statue of Lao Tse, the founder of Taoism, which attracts people from all over China.
Tian Hou GongDedicated to Tian Hou ("Heavenly Empress"), also known as Mazu, a sea Goddess worshipped by many sailors and fishermen. Note the ancient bixi turtle with an illegible stele on the temple's grounds. (It recently got itself a partner!), and a pond with fish and turtles in one of the courtyards in the back of the facility. The most important Mazu temple on Earth is on Meizhou Island, in the next city north on the Fujian coast, Putian.
Six Victories' Toweraddress: Shishi CitySix Victories Tower is the study of architecture and art precious kind of Song and Yuan dynasties. The tower is of granite attic type structure, 36.6 meters high, around the end of about 47meters, octagonal five layer, the carved Seiko, magnificent, with something comparable to Quanzhou tower.
phone: +86 595 2275-7518Don't miss a small "stele forest" behind the museum.
Puppet MuseumQuanzhou is famous for puppets and the museum is excellent. They sometimes do shows, which are excellent, but not on a regular schedule. You need to be lucky to catch one, or to have a group of 20 or so people and make arrangements.
phone: +86 595 2275-1800address: 212 Beiqing Road East, Fengze District
address: 425 Donghu Jie (泉州市东湖街425号)Excellent museum. Quanzhou was, up to the 15th century, one of China's greatest trading cities and a major base for her powerful fleets. Besides a collection of ship models and nautical artifacts, the museum has a large collection of stone inscription and reliefs - from ancient tombstones and temples - demonstrating Quanzhou's historical connections with India, the Middle East, and Europe, and attesting to the presence of Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, and even Manichaeism in the area. Don't miss a collection of stone tombstones and stelae in the back yard.
The museum's Ancient Ships Pavilion is located on the grounds of Kaiyuan Temple; as of Feb 2012, the pavilion was closed for renovations, but one could still peek into the windows.
Islamic Culture Exhibition
Luoyang Bridge (洛阳桥）A bridge that is considered one of the four ancient bridges of China. Its namesake goes back several centuries, although the railings look remarkably well preserved. But look at the pillars and that may be more indicative of its age.
Monument to KoxingaAn enormous equestrian statue that appears to be guarding the town, up on a hill on the east side of the city. He was a local boy whose family were seafarers, merchants trading with Japan, and pirates. On land, he became a general, resisting the then-new Qing (Manchu) dynasty. His base on Xiamen's Gulangyu is one of the tourist sites there. Lots of other Koxinga-related sites and monuments can be found in the nearby Kinmen Island, controlled by the Republic of China (Taiwan). Koxinga is best known for driving the Dutch out of Taiwan in the 1660s, the first major wave of Chinese immigration to Taiwan was his soldiers settling down and bringing their families. He is one of the few people seen as a hero by the current governments on both sides of the straits; beating the foreign devils makes you a good guy in everyone's books!
The residence of the Cai familyThe ancient residential buildings by Cai Qichang and his son, Cai senior in the Qing Tongzhi years (1862) to Xuantong three years (1911) built. The existing more complete house in all 16, and are arranged in parallel are orderly distribution to approximately 3 hectares (40 acres) of a rectangular block, 200 meters long and 100 meters wide, covering an area of 15300 square meters.
Qingyuan Mountain 清源山Climbing this mountain is a nice way to get away from the city, and some of its heat and noise. The Lao Tse statue is located near the main entrance. Mountain climbing in Qingyuanshan is a different experience from hiking in other places, the paths up the mountain (large hill, really) are clearly marked, and paved in most places, with steps up the steeper parts. There are lots of places to buy drinks or snacks along the way, and temples, pavilions, and even some carnival-style games are there to distract you from your trek, if you like. Nonetheless, its a beautiful, strenuous climb, with dense tree canopies above and cicadas all around, with openings along the way with clear vistas of the city below. There is a lake and a dam near the top. Wear good shoes and clothes you can sweat in.
Lantern FestivalThe Chinese New Year begins on the first day of the first lunar month; Lantern Festival on the 15th of that month brings the celebration to a close. Lantern Festival is celebrated all over China, but it is a fairly minor event in some places and a rather big deal in others. In Quanzhou, it is huge! Nearly every merchant downtown puts up at least a few lanterns, and they compete to have the best ones. The area around the Confucian Temple is one center of activity, with hundreds of lanterns and thousands of people out to view them. Another major center is down by the river where there is an enormous fireworks show late in the evening.
Souvenirs. There is large area of antique and curio shops on the north side of the mosque. They sell mainly to locals. Quality, variety and price are all better than most tourist areas. You do have to bargain fiercely, though.
Prices for a jin (half kilo) of tea in a typical shop start at about ¥40 and there are some very nice teas under ¥200. However, tea in Chinese culture is priced like wine in the West; a variety that is top quality, rare, or just well-marketed can fetch an amazingly high price. It is not uncommon to see teas at ¥600-2,000 a jin and the record for a rare top-grade tea sold at auction is ¥9,000 a gram. As for wines, a single variety — such as burgundy or tieguanyin — is available in a wide range of grades, the expensive products are best avoided unless you know exactly what you are getting, and most drinkers will be quite happy with lesser types.
Many Quanzhou tea shops also sell the miniature tea sets that are most commonly used in this area; making and drinking tea this way is somewhat labor-intensive (each cup is smaller than a shot glass and a 'pot' is about as big as a coffee cup) but an enjoyable social experience. Making and serving tea in this way is not really a tea 'ceremony' in the sense of a Japanese tea ceremony, but it is still a ritualized and celebrated process.
North of the mosque, across the arched bridge over the small creek (Baguagou), is a traditional courtyard house that has been converted into a teahouse. This is a good place to get an introduction to the local tea service, your server can show you how to prepare the tea. Most tea shops will also be happy to give you an impromptu lesson in brewing tea.
Books and maps. The labirynthine Quanzhou Book City (泉州书城), located underground in Zhongshan Park (Zhongshan North Road, just south of Quanshan Gate)， is pretty good for books and maps of all kinds (mostly in Chinese, of course). This is the only book shop in China where I simultaneously saw many provincial atlases from StarMaps "军民双用" ("Military and civil use") series, which are superior to most other publishers' products.
Electronics. Need a new iPad? A Chinese cell phone? Some spare parts for your laptop? Computer, cell phone, and electronics shops can be found in Jiuyi St (九一街), west of Wenling Rd. There are also many cell phone shops farther east, as Jiuyi St becomes Fengce Rd (丰泽路)。
phone: +86 595-22217892address: at Dong fang min zhu #115 (东方明珠） on Feng zi street (丰泽街)Southeast Asian and Western cuisine, with an English menu.
The Mandarin Hotel (悦华酒店)Large lunch (¥160) and dinner (¥270) buffet with both eastern and western dishes.
Amazon BBQ buffet (亚马逊烤肉)address: on Ci tong road (刺桐路)All-you-can-eat at moderate prices. Food is generally mediocre, but will hit the spot if you are feeling both hungry and carnivorous; the menu includes lots of meat. They brew their own beer, mostly excellent (the green one tastes like lawn clippings, but gold, red and black are very good) and also moderately priced. There are several locations across town. The lunch buffet is ¥40 and the dinner buffet is ¥60.
Yuan pan （元番日本料理）address: on Quan xiu road (泉秀路).Japanese sushi with buffet prices starting at ¥118.
Mr. Chiu’s Chiu Chau beef brisket noodles （啊潮牛栏面）address: on Hu xin jie（湖心街).Delicious slow-cooked cubes of beef served in a mild Chinese curry sauce.
Lan zhou hand-pulled noodles （兰州拉面）address: on Hu xin street （湖心街) opposite Mr. Chiu's beef noodles.
French-Vietnamese restaurant (红石）address: various locations across townHigh-quality in both decor and food, but high-priced as well.
Thai-Vietnamese Restaurant (泰好吃)address: 2 locations in town
Xiaolongbao (小龙包)address: 381 Zhongshan Road (中山路)More like Shanghai-style San jian bao, with a chewy dough, minced-pork stuffing, and a sweet chili sauce. It is generally ordered alongside a clear soup.
Little Fat Sheep Hot Pot (小肥羊火锅)address: several locations across townA huge chain of Hot Pot restaurants with hundreds of locations across China.
淳百味 Chun Bai Weiaddress: On the corner of 新华南路 (Xinhua nan lu) and 新门街 (Xinmen jie)A cheap, tasty fill-up with a picture menu. Delicious dumplings (6 for 4RMB). Noodle and rice dishes, large portions for 5-15RMB. Breakfast available until 10am, dumplings (bao zi, jiao zi), soya bean milk, dough sticks etc. (Feb 2015)
There are several vegetarian restaurants near Chengtien Temple on Nanjun Road
Pu Tiaddress: Nanjun Road
WumingziDecent, buffet style place.
Vegetarian RestaurantGood and quite fancy.
phone: +86 595 15960431105address: Unit 101, Block 6 Quanxiu Lu, Fengze District, Liveshow WonderlandA western-style pub & cafe popular with Quanzhou's western expatriate community.
Zhuangyuan Street (Bar Street) is to the east of Zhongshan Road north of the center of town. The street is parallel and slightly south of East Street. It has many bars.
Nicola Coffee (尼姑啦）address: Next to Hua qiao hotel (华侨大夏）Wen hua gong (文化宫）
By 2015, a fair number of Quanzhou hosts have registered with airbnb.com.
BudgetThere is a hotel attached to the main bus station; turn right as you come out of the station and look for the London/Moscow/Beijing/... row of clocks in the reception area. There are several more hotels along the (fairly long, but walkable) street that leads west from there toward the center of town.
Inconveniently located on Wenling Road or Chongfu Road are several cheap business hotels, for ¥50-100.
Baiyun Hotelphone: +86 595 22397807address: 157 Zhongshan South RoadA convenient hotel for cheap travelers. Rooms are relatively large and clean, but fixtures are old so have a careful look at the room first, and ask for a different room if needed.
Carp City Hotelphone: +86 22279888 (Reception), +86 22279111 (room reservations), +86 22272777 (restaurant reservations)address: Nanjun Middle RdA three star hotel in a fairly central location.
Overseas Chinese Hoteladdress: Baiyun RoadA business hotel with a good range of services in a central location.
SplurgeSeveral high-end hotels are located along Baiyuan Road and nearby streets; they look like palaces and are easy to spot.
Quanzhou HotelFancy. Excellent but expensive weekend brunch.
- Bus to Fuzhou leaves from the bus station at the southern end of the main tourist street (not the main bus station) and takes about 3 hours (¥60-70).
- There are also buses to Fuzhou, Xiamen and overnight to Shenzhen from the small station next to the Overseas Chinese Hotel. This will be a convenient location for many travellers, but larger stations have a better choice of routes and departure times.
- Several times a week, there is an early-morning bus to Mount Wuyi and Jingdezhen. This bus is small dirty sleepers, arrives at many of its destinations very late at night, and drops passengers off by the side of the highway rather than the bus station. Consider taking the train instead.
- Chongwu is an old walled town near Quanzhou. There are good beaches near it.