Xiamen’s Gulangyu Island

By P Chong                  6 April 2010

Gulangyu Island – 5-Minute Ferry Ride from Xiamen. Only 1 sq.km in area.

 Europeans have their  Mediterranean resorts and Americans have Florida to flee to in the depths of winter, Chinese have Gulangyu. This is where sun, sea & serenity prevail.

With no cars or bicycles, a stroll among Gulangyu’s winding streets can be a truly tranquil experience

                                    As a place of residence for Westerners during Xiamen’s colonial past, Gulangyu is famous for its architecture and for hosting China‘s only piano museum . . . giving it the nickname of “Piano Island” or “The Town of Pianos” or “The Island of Music”. There are over 200 pianos on this island.

This fascinating island became a foreign enclave following the Treaty of Nanking in 1842, hence the predominantly Victorian-era style architecture throughout the island, of which many were offices and residences of Consulate-Generals, as well as that of the past thriving expatriate business community.

Car-Free Streets & Colonial Residences

Gulangyu Island is renowned for its delicate natural beauty, ancient relics & varied architectures. It is on China’s (Fujian Province) list of National Scenic Spots. It’s also well-known for its beaches & winding lanes. It’s the sort of place to relax & escape from the hustle & bustle of hectic city life of Xiamen by taking the 5-minute ferry across the river.

Gulangyu Beach

Gulangyu is a car-free island off the coast of Xiamen, Fujian Province in southern China. It’s small & only about 1km2 in area. It is home to about 16,000 people and is a very popular tourist destination. The community’s only means of transport is by foot, and the peaceful island provides an alternative to the hectic life in Xiamen city across the river, although the recent introduction of electric tourist buggies is damaging the island’s charm.

Xiamen Hotel

Freight is pulled on wheeled buggies up the often steep lanes by teams of strong men, much like what they do in Huangshan, the Yellow Mountain, except that the freight there  is carried on the shoulder.All powered vehicles are banned, including bicycles. As mentioned, the only powered transport are the electric tourist buggies, which barge around the island damaging the otherwise tranquil and safe streets. Ironically, as is often the case, tourists are damaging the very thing they come to see & enjoy.

Xiamen from Gulangyu

Xiamen is like any Western city, bustling & teeming with activities, high rise buildings, traffic, din & noise. Anyone who’s been there & not visited Gulangyu would have missed something so precious & memorably so different not found elsewhere in China.

A great place to visit . . . where serenity prevails with sun & sea

It will long be remembered even when others fade from your memory.

Related Article:


The Overseas Chinese

The South China Sea
Image via Wikipedia

The Overseas Chinese

(With particular reference to Malaysia)

KLsunriseSunrise Over Malaysian Capital KL

The Overseas Chinese, a term first came to be used with reference to the pioneering Chinese who for hundreds of years, have emigrated across the South China Sea seeking fortune & exploring unknown lands. Most came through sheer economic pressure at home with the expressed desire & hope of returning home one day.

The home returning never materialised. While many sent for their loved ones or arranged brides, others settled down inter-marrying with the locals. My grandparents were both from Fujian Province in China. The majority of the Overseas Chinese remain ethnically & distinctively Chinese, except for a minority who married the locals, such as the ‘Babas’ of Malacca. My wife’s grandparents were both from China. Her maternal grandfather was a high government official.

This writing is to set the record right in the history of Malaysia. History cannot lie, though vain attempts have been made to eradicate the horror of the Holocaust & the war atrocities by the Nazis & Japanese. Turning back the pages of history, the following facts are borne out lucidly:

  • While the Malays, less competitive in their lifestyle, were mainly &

    traditionally in the rural areas, the Chinese were concentrated in the urban areas engaging in trading & business activities, rubber & tin mining, building factories & townships.

  • The generations following the pioneering Chinese were all born

    in Malaysia – so rightly & legally can claim their birthright in the

    land of their birth.

  • The Chinese, past & present, are a definite asset to Malaysia. Whatever wealth & fortune accumulated by them are spelt with sweat & toil, strictly meritoriously.

The Chinese are very independent, most resilient & tolerant in nature. They are more individualistic than communal. They are certainly not religiously fanatic. They are known to be most assiduous in their economic pursuits, with the courage, strength & tenacity to face all adversities. Despite claims & illusions deliberately created about the Chinese expansionist myth, the Chinese with all their secret societies are definitely not politically inclined, at l;east not in the Western concept.

The Malaysian Chinese are much to be blamed for the present political woes in the country. With their weighted concentration in commerce & industries, they neglected the political arena, leaving it to the less competitive Malays to wield & seal their political clout. As it turned out, with political power, everything else fell unto their lap – with the Chinese & Indians tolling the line. As way back as 1970s, Datuk Musa Hitam, then the Deputy Prime Minister, confirmed this truth when addressing an ADMO (Alliance Direct Membership Organization – now non-existent) assembly.

People should be respected & accepted as they are. Every human being is the same the world over. They have the same hope, dreams & aspiration in life, though they may differ in colour, culture & language. There is no such thing as royal or elite blood, otherwise the procedure of blood donation & transfusion would be difficult. The main blood groups & composition are scientifically or racially undifferentiated.

Historian Arnold Toynbee emphasized the Chinese migrational trend as “peaceful penetration”. The feared “Yellow Peril” just does not exist, nor will ever be. There is no threat at all, either imminently or belligerently. Even China today advocate very strongly a peaceful & harmonious co-existence.

Why all these political divisions? Why such polarisations? Why the sporadic outbursts of racism? Why such persecutions & social injustices? Why all the discrimination & seizing all power to dominate?

Both the Chinese & the Indians have contributed much in the nation building.

They have given much but received nuts. How much more do you want? Enough is enough. Be fair & just.

Paul Chong

A Chinese by Descent

An Australian by Consent