Gulangyu Island is a small island located at South-West of Xiamen with a surface of 1.9 km2 and it’s the main attraction for who comes to visit Xiamen.
Xiamen government has build a ferry boat system that connect the small island with the arbor of the main city. Even if the trip takes just around 15 minuts, is quite unconvenient to reach the island due to the long cues, because of this we suggest to book the tickets online.
The Story Behind the Gulangyu
The island has always been sparsely populated due to its dimensions. Since the time of the Ming dinasty (1368–1644) the little island has maintained his today’s name of Gulangyu Island (鼓浪屿 , litt., The Island of the Drumming Waves).
During the Ming and Qing dinasties, due to the martime policies applied in the Fujian coasts, the area was only organize on the fishing industry, and just few works were made by the militaries to build water containers.
After the first Opium War (1839-1942), the British forces made of Xiamen one of the “Five Treaty” ports. Is in this period that the Island begins to to assume the appearance we see today, with its main structure on the top of a small mountain.
In 1902 Gulangyu becomes an “International Settlement“, countining around 14 embassies for different nationalities and an unique synergy of architectural styles. Between the flags we conted U.S.A., U.K., France, Spain, Japan and Russia. Some of the buildings in the island also has the influence of other styles of South-East Asia architecture and of the traditional local architercture of Fujian.
Gulangyu reminds me a lot of Venice, my home town. All the small streets of the city center are still well preserved in their structure but they became the shelter for little souvenir stores and the perfect setting for hit-and- run tourism.
As for all my travels I the simple rules to avoid the main streets offers another view of the city and by browsing around is still possible to find some schools, hospitals and buildings where residents of the island still live in their relaxed atmosfere.
The Statue of Koxinga
Koxinga (国姓爷 or Zheng Chenggong, 1624-1662) was military strategist, born in Japan, but loyal to the Ming dynasty and who had opposed the advance of the Manchus‘ Qing to the south.
His involvement in the South then led him into conflict with some Dutch forces, and His son became the founder of a small state in southern Fujian.
It is not a case that the statua of Koxinga has been build here, infact he is recognized by PRC and ROC as the person who first annexed Taiwan to the Chinese territory, moreover from Gulangyu island is very easy to reach the little arcipelago of Formosa Island.
Gulangyu the Piano Island
Gulangyu is famous between the locals as the “Piano Island”, for its appearance that resembles the shape of a piano and also because since 1913 with the opening of the first study of the piano, and was inaugurated a long tradition of musicians between the inhabitants of Gulangyu Island.
The architecture of the Islandand
The buildings of the island has received the influence of difference architectural styles from Europe and Asia. Below we can find many examples.
This ghotic-style Spanish church of “Santa Inglesia” is located in the northwest of the island. In his modhest dimension covers around 232 m2.
With his facinating structure the church is located in the top of the hill and is facing the old city center, unfortunately it apperas don’t have any use nowadays.
During the Japanese occupation (1942-1945) of the island many old constructions were restructured and mainly used for military purposes.
Along the on the beaches of the island are still a number of military posts in concrete to control costs.
Another interesting spot is a little museum located in the interior of the island there is a small museum used for the presentation of old maps, stories of navigation and maritime wars.
Gulangyu Island is definitely the reason why is worth visiting Xiamen, which might be pleasant town to pass by, but by Western standardsmight result not much entertaining.
For those who would visit Gulangyu I would reccomend to spend at least one night in the city, because it offers many local taverns where you can find local food.
Also to book tickets in advance online would be a smart because you might risk to spend 2-3 hours lining in the cues.
Finally consider to look for a private local guide whou could defenitely help to provide you the best experience in understanding Gulangyu Insland.