by Galia Rautenber
On a sunny, beautiful spring Sunday in March a large group of adults and children met for a community outing to Kuliang (or Guling). We met at the Westin Hotel and drove all together up to the mountain. We had Mr. Cheng He, journalist of Fuzhou Evening Paper and his wife Crystal Sun to be our guides for this outing and Ms. Dong Xiuping helped with translation to English. Guling is a summer resort, located in the Jin’an District of Fuzhou. It was opened up by Western missionaries in 1886.Located about 13 KM from the center of Fuzhou city, on a mountain of about 800M, 24sqm in size, with highest temperature of 30C degrees in the summer, no wonder it attracted many westerners who could not bear the heat in Fuzhou during the hot season.By 1935 it had more than 200 summer villas of different styles and also a church, gymnasium hall, hospital etc. During our outing we saw three of the villas which are still in good condition.
Before 1949, in the hard times of poverty there were quite many foreigners living in Fuzhou. In order to escape the heat in the city they built a “foreign style” stone villas, known as “avoiding heat village”. Every time the heat in Fuzhou was unbearable, they were carried on bamboo sedan chairs up to this mountain resort.
In February this year, during a formal visit to Washington, USA, the Chinese President Xi Jinping vividly described the friendly co-habiting existed 20 years ago between Chinese and Americans in Kuliang.
In April 2012 the list of villas that will be renovated has been decided on; six of the villas would be renovated, in addition to the swimming pool, post office and church. Due to this renovation work we were not able to access some of the sites, it is not very safe especially while accompanied by children.
(Note from 2018: The renovation project of all the mentioned buildings finished in 2014. )
The first villa was built by a foreign Pastor in 1886 and by 1935 Guling already had 366 villas. Among them was the villa known as “Left Bank Lushan”, which was the first holiday resort for westerners in the world. Yixia villa is located in Yixia village, it is the earliest villa built and it’s the best preserved one as well. Inside the villa there are more than ten spacious rooms, it’s newly painted and its general condition is quite good. This villa is now used by the Fujian South China Women Vocational College, who will establish there a memorial hall for the Sino-American educational cooperation and for the school’s history. It will also be used for hosting visiting professors from abroad.
Most of the villas are made of stone and have a distinctive western influence. The majority of them have been used as summer resorts and are relatively small, due to shortage of construction material on the mountain.
“Cryptomeria (often called Japanese Cedar) King Park” (柳杉王公园) is located in Kuliang and named after one of the impressive trees there, 30 meters tall and with a history of 1300 years. Its trunk is separated to two halves and therefore it gained the name of “a couple’s tree” or “lovers tree”. This Cryptomeria tree has been announced as protected in China. We enjoyed the beautiful weather and walked in a beautiful trail with lakes surrounding Kuliang. Lunch was arranged at a local Fuzhou restaurant on the mountain with special delicacies served.
Apart from the beautiful villas, the stunning nature and the clean air, one can also purchase some locally grown vegetables. Guling radish is famous in Fuzhou, it tastes very good due to the climatic conditions in Guling. In a closer look you might find some special vegetables grown only in Guling.
At the end of the outing we wished to have a beautiful overview of Fuzhou but ran by mistake into an army closed zone… Another experience to be told about our life in Fuzhou.
How to get there?
30-60 minutes drive depending where you are at in town, or use the 193 Bus (starting the north square of Fuzhou Train Station 福州火车站北广场) or the 63 Bus (starting Fuxin Bus Terminal, at the corner of Fuxin Rd by Fuguang Road 福新路与福光路交叉路口) . Please note both buses run with very low frequency.