by Amanda Sinclair
Quanzhou has an ancient history, dating back to the 13th century when it was a trading port and a stop on the maritime silk route. Now, still a vibrant city, it is smaller than Fuzhou and Xiamen, but is full of variety and culture. In Quanzhou there is much evidence of its Muslim population, which can be seen by local dress and buildings. It adds a true beauty to the town, which is not found in many other places.
Chongwu is about 50 km east of Quanzhou and home to the ancient ‘stone city’, which has one of the best-preserved city walls in China. The town was initially used to help defend against marauding Japanese pirates, hence the large stone walls.
Quanzhou’s train station is slightly outside of the town, but you can easily take a bus or a taxi into the city. Getting there from Fuzhou is easy. You can either take a bus or a train. The bus takes three and a half hours, costing 62 Yuan, whilst the train takes an hour, leaving every 30 minutes and only costs 29 Yuan, making the train the quickest, and cheapest mode of transport.
To get to Chongwu from Quanzhou, there are frequent minibuses that leave from the long-distance station and take an hour and a half, costing approx. 12 Yuan, and retunrning to Quanzhou is very easy, just take another bus.
There is so much to see and do. As previously mentioned, Quanzhou has a small Muslim population and a beautiful Mosque – Qingjing Mosque, which is well worth a visit. Along with the Mosque there are a number of temples that are magnificent to behold, such as the Guandi Temple, and the Kaiyuan Temple. Quanzhou is also a good place to sample some of the local teas, such as the green tea and TaiGuanXi tea. There are numerous tea houses around that offer tea ceremonies for free, and allow you to sample the teas before you buy, should you wish to buy them.
Not far from the city centre, there is a park around and on a hill, which, upon the zenith is a statue of a mounted warrior. This statue can be seen before entering the city, and makes for a rather impressive sight.
In Chongwu, make sure you walk around the old wall, and take in all the sights. There is a large park with over 500 carved stone statues that is well worth a visit, as well as the beach. The beach isn’t the biggest around, but it is a quaint little fishing beach, with a lighthouse at the end. It makes for a relaxing morning just walking around and exploring, before sampling some of the fine cuisine available in the restaurants.
The locals also have a very unique dress custom, with bright colours, and bandanas, very different from other local custom dress. The locals are very friendly, and eager to help should you need any help.
Quanzhou and Chongwu should definitely be on any travellers list of places to visit. You can do it in a very energetic day trip, or take a little bit longer to fully explore what there is to see, and spend a weekend traversing the streets and submerging yourself into the Muslim aspect of life. There are a number of hostels and hotels that provide quality and cheap accommodation, very close to the city centre or the transport hubs.