Fujian (福建; Fújiàn) is a coastal province in South East China. It has long been an outward-looking province, much involved in maritime trade, and is the ancestral home for many overseas Chinese, especially in Southeast Asia and the Philippines.
The terrain is very hilly. There is a saying that Fujian is 80% mountain, 10% water, and 10% farmland. Presumably largely because of mountains and isolation, Fujian has a large number of local dialects, no two of which are mutually intelligible.
Population is about 37 million, which is small for a Chinese province (17th of 23) but about the same as Canada, Poland or California. The major cities are either on the coast (Xiamen and Quanzhou) or a few miles up a navigable river (Fuzhou).
Fujian is divided administratively into nine regions. Eight of them are prefectures, each around a central city and named for the city. For the ninth, Xiamen, there is no separate prefecture, just the city. The nine cities are:
- Fuzhou — the provincial capital
- Longyan — in the West of Fujian
- Nanping — up the Min river from Fuzhou
- Ningde — on the coast, North of Fuzhou
- Putian — between Fuzhou and Quanzhou
- Quanzhou — historic port
- Sanming — up in the mountains
- Xiamen — special economic zone and port city, ferries for Taiwan
- Zhangzhou — southwest of Xiamen
- Mount Wuyi — a scenic area famous for its tea, mountains, rivers and traditional architecture
- Taining Town — a UNESCO Global Geopark near Sanming
- Yongding County — home to the Hakka earth round houses; fascinating, centuries-old buildings that are home to a whole clan
- Gulangyu — a car-free island near downtown Xiamen, full of old colonial-period buildings
Fujian was an independent Minyue Kingdom, paying tribute but not actually part of the Chinese Empire, until 110 BC when it was conquered and the main ethnic group of the region, the Yue people, assimilated into the Han Chinese.
Fujian has long been one of the more prosperous and outward-looking provinces of China, an area of traders and seafarers. In the era of tea clippers, two of China's five Treaty Ports — Xiamen and Fuzhou — were in Fujian, and Fuzhou shipped more tea than any other port. After the Second World War, times were fairly hard in Fujian; trade with traditional customers Japan and Taiwan was greatly reduced. In recent decades, however, Fujian has recovered; like other coastal provinces, it is now one of the more modern and prosperous areas of China.
Light industry, especially clothing and shoes, predominates but there is some heavier industry. Agriculture is also important; in particular, Fujian produces a great deal of tea — notably some excellent Oolong teas. As a coastal province, Fujian is much involved with the sea. Fishing and fish farming are important industries and the local cuisine emphasizes seafood.
Fujian has a higher proportion of Muslims than most areas of Southern China due to the history of trade via the Maritime Silk Road, and quite a few Christians since it was a focus of 19th century missionary activity.
Today, all educated people in Fujian speak Mandarin. It has been the language of education throughout China since the 1950s and is now the lingua franca in Fujian as everywhere else.
However, Fujian also has dozens of its own dialects. The terrain is mountainous; at one time nearly every valley had its own language. These dialects are usually described with the prefix "Min" (闽 Mǐn), where Min is another name for Fujian. These dialects are not mutually intelligible, though they do share certain common features. Generally speaking, the "Min" group of Chinese dialects is the most different from standard Mandarin of all the dialects in China. Minnan has fewer similarities with Mandarin than English has with Dutch.
Among the most important is Minnan Hua (闽南话 Mǐnnán huà; Southern Min), spoken in Xiamen, Quanzhou, Zhangzhou and surrounding areas. There are slight dialectal variations of Minnan between the three cities; the Xiamen dialect is considered to be the prestige dialect. Many people in Taiwan speak the same language, though they may call it Taiwanese. In Malaysia and Singapore, the same language is called Hokkien (the Minnan word for Fujian). The language of Hainan is closely related to Minnan, but not mutually intelligible with it.
The Mindong (闽东 Mǐn dōng; Eastern Min) or Fuzhou Hua (福州话 Fúzhōu huà; Fuzhou speech) dialect is spoken in Fuzhou and also has a large number of speakers in the northern coastal areas. In Malaysia and Singapore, it is known as Hokchiu (the Mindong word for Fuzhou). There are dialectal variations; the Mindong dialects in Fuzhou and Fu'an, which are only about 4 hours apart by car, are not mutually intelligible, though the Fuzhou dialect is considered to be the prestige dialect of Mindong.
The Hakka (客家 Kèjiā) people in the West of Fujian, and in several other areas of Southern China, came as refugees from one of Northern China's wars some centuries back. Hakka means "guest people". They have their own Hakka language (客家话; Kèjiāhuà), related to Northern dialects rather than to any other Fujian language.
As with the rest of China, English is not widely spoken, though airline and high-end hotel staff in the larger cities will usually have a basic grasp of English.
Fujian is well connected via China's domestic airline, bus, highway and train networks.
The main airports are at Xiamen and Fuzhou; both have flights to Hong Kong and many mainland cities, as well as international flights to some other Asian cities. Xiamen also has flights to Amsterdam and cheap international connections to Manila, Singapore and Bangkok; see Discount airlines in Asia for details. The scenic Wu Yi Mountain area also has an airport with good domestic connections. Often package deals are available - flights and accommodation, and perhaps a guide, for a fixed price.
There are good highway connections around the province and out of it into neighboring provinces. There are regular buses from any of the main Fujian cities to any of the major cities in nearby provinces. Many of the roads are through mountainous (or at least very hilly) terrain and are feats of engineering involving a lot of bridges and tunnels. During World War II, the Japanese controlled most of Fujian but did not reach Sanming because of the mountains. Today, it is a few hours' drive on good roads from Fuzhou.
There is a high-speed rail line in service which connects Xiamen and Fuzhou to Ningbo, Hangzhou and Shanghai, running mostly along the coast. Speeds are over 200 km/hour (125 mph) and the Fuzhou-Shanghai trip takes about six hours. Extensions South to Shenzhen and inland to Nanchang in Jiangxi are planned. As of early 2011, construction on those is visible, but does not look near completion.
Older rail lines which wind inland through the mountains carry passengers as well and are cheaper, but much less convenient. For example, Fuzhou-Shanghai costs 130 instead of 280 (or 330 first class) on the fast train, but it takes 17 hours instead of six.
There are boats to Taiwan-controlled islands that are located near the Fujian coast — from Mawei, a suburb of Fuzhou, to Matsu and from Xiamen to Kinmen. From those islands, it is possible to continue to the main island of Taiwan.
The main mode of intercity travel is traditionally by bus. The standard low-cost low-speed trains are less convenient in Fujian than elsewhere because they wind around a lot in the mountainous terrain. Flying within the province is relatively expensive.
New lines for high speed trains, on a more direct route along the coast, are now in service. For anywhere they go — Zhangzhou, Xiamen, Quanzhou, Putian, Fuzhou, Ningde and off toward Zhejiang and Shanghai — they are now the most convenient way to travel.
Parks and landscapes
Wuyishan: Climb up this mountain and enjoy the view from the top. It is worth it! It takes about an hour to reach the top and half an hour to come down. Enjoy the scenic bamboo raft ride down the river. You get to see huge rocks of different shapes and sizes - some of which resemble people or animals. You will also get to see some "hanging coffins" - coffins, believed to be more than 2000 years old, placed inside large cracks in some of the gigantic rocks. These cracks are about 20-40 metres above the river. Nobody knows how the coffins got there. The ride takes about one-and-the-half hours. Each raft comes with two rowers and can take six passengers.
Gulangyu is a smaller island next to Xiamen Island, across the 500-meter-wide Lujiang from downtown Xiamen. Gulangyu was originally named round sandbar (Yuen Chau Tsai) during the Ming Dynasty because of a grotto created by the action of the waves. Gulangyu is known as “Sea Garden” since the island climate is warm in the winter and cool in the summer, as if it experiences spring all year around. All kinds of flowers bloom, and the grass and leaves are always green.
- The provincial museum is in Fuzhou, in the park beside West Lake (西湖 Xīhú).
- Mawei (马尾 mǎwěi), just outside Fuzhou, has a museum commemorating a battle there between the Chinese navy and the French in the 1880s.
- Xiamen has an Overseas Chinese Museum, located downtown roughly halfway between the ferry terminal and Xiamen University (厦门大学 Xiàmén dàxué).
- Quanzhou, formerly one of the world's great ports (Marco Polo considered it "one of the two greatest havens in the world for commerce"), has a Maritime Museum.
One could plan a tour of Fujian devoted to exploring its amazing variety of religious structures.
Xiamen, Fuzhou and Quanzhou all have major Buddhist temples, and there are dozens of lesser temples in smaller cities or scattered around the countryside. The Hualin Temple (Chinese: 华林寺) in Fuzhou, founded in 964, is one of the oldest wooden structures in China.
Of course there are many Taoist and Confucian temples as well. Quanzhou has Qingyuan Mountain, a major Taoist site that attracts visitors from all over China, partly because it has a famous statue of Lao Tse, the founder of Taoism. The original Shaolin Temple, one of China's greatest centers of kung fu, is in Henan, but during one of China's many wars a lot of the monks fled South and founded Southern Shaolin with one temple on Qingyuan Mountain and another in Putian.
Quanzhou also has relics of several religions introduced via the Maritime Silk Road. It has has one of China's oldest mosques, built in 1009, and the tombs of several Moslem saints. Across the river in Jinjiang is the world's last Manichean temple. Both Quanzhou and Jinjiang have relics of Nestorian Christians; the sect was based in Persia and sent missionaries East, reaching China by the 7th century AD. The first Catholic missionaries, Franciscan monks, reached China via Quanzhou in 1313.
Fujian was also a major area of missionary activity in the 19th century and well into the 20th. Christian churches of various denominations abound; China's oldest Protestant church is in Xiamen. The cities all have several churches and many villages have one or two.
Putian has the main temple of the sea Goddess Mazu; the annual festival in her honour attracts tens of thousands of worshippers from all over the Chinese diaspora, especially fishermen and sailors.
Fujian has its own cuisine, largely based on seafood.
- Fish Balls (鱼圆 yú yuán, 鱼丸). are made of minced fish and egg white, mixed with flour. Some varieties of fish balls have pork or shrimp added. These are then cooked in boiling water.
- Wind duck paste. Wind duck paste, is to use sweet potato powder (sweet potato flour) and hacked to pieces of the wind duck, winter bamboo shoots and silk, the film mushrooms, meat, garlic paste mixed with boiled.
- Tai Chi Taro. is to cook taro nut and pressed into mud, adding sugar, eggs, water and oil. After the taro cool down, people sometimes add chopped kernels, cherry on the surface.It is one of the traditional Fujian’s desserts.
- Light Cake. It is made with raw material of flour, salt, sesame seeds. The shape of light cake is similar like Donuts. It doesn’t have much taste. In Fuzhou, people usually do not face sesame cake is called "light cake", with the sesame, they called "Fuqing cake.
- Wonton (云吞 yúntūn). is the most common snack in Fujian. The wonton skin is thin, it cooks in a short time. The boiled dumplings would be required in the process of adding cold water 2 times. After cooked, it looks half transparent.
- Fo Tiao Qiang (佛跳墙 fó tiào qiáng). means "Buddha jumps over the wall". It is the most famous food in Fujian. It contains dainties of more than 30 kinds: Shark's fin, sea slug, chicken breast, duck, pig's trotters, dried scallop, mushroom, abalone, pigeon egg. with other condiments. It's said that after the dish is cooked, the air is heavy with a strong fragrance. Legend has it that it smelt so good that a monk forgot his vegetarian vows and leapt over the wall to have some, giving rise to its name.
Fujian is famous for tea (in the 19th century, Fuzhou was China's busiest tea port) and you can get good tea almost anywhere. In fact, the English word "tea" was derived from its Minnan name. Try the tea eggs (茶葉蛋 cháyèdàn), hard boiled eggs cooked in tea, available on streets everywhere.
Like most of China, Fujian has quite a few locations for several large coffee chains, including UBC Coffee (上岛咖啡 shàngdǎo kāfēi), Ming Tien and SPR. For most Western tastes, SPR are easily the best of those, but avoid their airport locations which have astronomical pricing. There are also some good smaller chains, Blenz, Dawin and King Buck; these are usually cheaper.
As anywhere in China, beer is widely available. Hui Quan is a Fujian brand, a light palatable lager.
- Tieguanyin Tea (铁观音 Tiěguānyīn). (Name of a Godness) This tea is grown in Songlintou and Yaoyang in the Fujian Province. It is one of the cherished teas grown in Fujian.
- White Tea. The white tea is grown in various regions of Fujian including the ShuiJie and Zhenghe counties. The white tea leaves have a unique shape. White tea is a little bit fermented tea with a mild flavor but leaves a sweet taste later.
Like other areas on the Southern coast of China, Fujian is prone to typhoons, which occur mostly from July to September. The province is also located on several small fault lines, and so is occasionally hit by earthquakes, though these tend to be minor.