Take a trip back in time in Xiamen

Dec 11,2015

Xiamen has been called a “garden on the sea” and is consistently named one of China’s most liveable cities. Beneath its modern-day charm, however, lies the city’s vibrant heritage. The next time you’re in town for business, ask your concierge at Millennium Harbourview Hotel Xiamen to arrange an easy visit to one of these alluring places.


Just a five-minute ferry ride from the city centre but a world away from the hustle and bustle of Xiamen, Gulangyu, a name that translates to “Drum Wave Islet”, was once a designated foreign settlement. Colonial villas in various European and Mediterranean styles dot the island – some resplendent after careful restoration, while others showing clearly the effects of time. They pop up around corners of charming, winding streets, providing a pleasant surprise.

A ban on motor vehicles contributes to the laid-back vibe, though some buggies are available for visitors who might find the hilly streets a challenge. The highest point on the islet is Riguang Shi – which rises up 90 metres, affording travelers a panoramic view of Xiamen city.

There is also the Gulangyu Piano Museum, which houses a collection of over 100 pianos, an interesting site for music enthusiasts. All pianos featured in the museum were collected by patriotic Hu Youyi, who sourced the instruments from the Americas, Australia, Britain, Austria and France.

Xiamen University and Nanputuo Temple

Visitors from Southeast Asia might find parts of Xiamen University somewhat familiar. Many overseas Chinese in the region can trace their roots back to Xiamen and their generous contribution towards the infrastructure of the historic trading post. Xiamen University was funded entirely by overseas cash contributions at its founding in 1921.

The overseas Chinese also architecturally influenced the design of some buildings in the city, and this is also evident on-campus at the university. A bust of the philanthropist Tan Kah Kee can be found here, a symbol of the bond the overseas Chinese community had with their hometown in Xiamen.

Next door to the Xiamen University campus is Nanputuo Temple, which dates back to the Tang dynasty. In addition to ornate prayer halls and statues of deities, featured here are also lovely courtyards and a rock hill to scale on the grounds.

Hakka walled houses (Tulou)

Xiamen is also a convenient gateway to Yongding, known around the world for tulou – enclosed buildings that are either rectangular or circular. These usually have only one entrance and house up to 80 families within thick earthen walls that are three to five storeys high.

The residential structures were built uniquely by the Hakka people in Southern China and served as communal living quarters as well as a fortress against intruders after the village’s resources. The Fujian Tulou, located in the Fujian province in China, is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a must-see for travellers of all sorts.

Need more ideas for your next trip to China? Get them here.


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