Recognising past glory: Ancient buildings in Quanzhou

Quanzhou is the starting point of the “Maritime Silk Road.” The city was once a prosperous center of foreign trade. Quanzhou is also the birthplace of many famous overseas Chinese. After achieving great success abroad, many of those overseas Chinese came back to their hometown and made great contributions to the city’s construction, creating a wealth of interesting architecture in the city. Now, these distinctive structures are part of Quanzhou’s culture.


Oyster-shell-wall houses | 蚵壳厝

@Xunpu Village in Quanzhou City

Xunpu Village is a small fishing village located at Donghai in Quanzhou, adjacent to the Jinjiang seaport. There in the village live a group of exotic fisherwomen named Xunpu women, one of the three largest groups of fisherwomen (Meizhou women, Huian women, and Xunpu women) in Fujian province. Xunpu fisherwomen love to decorate their hair with exquisite hairpins and colorful flowers. Their panoplied hairdos have earned the laudatory name, “head garden.” Another peculiar feature of the local architecture in Xunpu Village is known as the “oyster-shell-wall house” (蚵壳厝). These and other unique cultural artifacts are the collective product of the glorious history of Quanzhou’s “Maritime Silk Road.”


The Xunpu oyster-shell-wall houses were built in the late Song dynasty and early Yuan dynasty. According to experts, the oyster shells used to decorate the city’s walls originated from the east coast of Africa. Tradition has it that mariners loaded their ships with oyster shells to prevent the empty ships from being unstable during the voyage home from the north coast of Africa, where they sold silk and porcelain. In the later Yuan dynasty and early Ming dynasty, the affluent Quanzhou region was harassed and plundered by the Japanese. The villagers, wary of confrontation with the Japanese, had no extra energy to grandly redecorate their homes, and used the oyster shells to decorated the walls.


The houses are warm in winter and cool in summer. Homes in the village are walled with either oyster shells or red brick. There are more than 60 buildings in Xunpu Village with protected status.

Travel GuidesLocal specialties: seafoodWhat to do in Xunpu Village: visit ancient houses, make sketches from nature, practice photography, enjoy the beauty of the local ladies’ “head gardens,” and visit the harbor.


Fanzai Lou | 番仔楼
@Guanshan Village (观山村) in Nan’an City

Located at Guanshan Village in Nan’an, Fanzai Lou (also called Fanke Lou, meaning western-style mansion in Minnan dialect) is a type of residential house featuring a combination of Chinese and Western styles. Fanzai Lou buildings can be found throughout southern Fujian. The structures were built during the Republic of China era by overseas Chinese who had returned from long stays abroad in southeast Asia. The building materials were mostly shipped directly from southeast Asia.


Fanzai Lou buildings combine the advantages of traditional Minnan ancient dwellings and southeast Asian buildings. The buildings are made of fine stone, brick, and wood carvings, making them an architectural treasure in southern Fujian.


Surrounded by beautiful high hills and green flora, Guanshan Village has for years attracted painters and photographers who come to appreciate and capture its unique beauty. Today, more than 20 well-preserved, large old mansions remain in Guanshan Village. The oldest one was built over 200 years ago.


Travel GuidesLocal specialties: dehydrated sweet potato and dehydrated persimmonWhat to do in Guanshan Village: visit the village’s ancient houses and the Guanshan Art Museum, sketch from nature, and visit the ecological tea garden.


Colorful stone houses | 七彩石头厝
@Zhangjiao Village (樟脚村) in Quangang District

Legend has it that in Zhangjiao Village there once stood a more-than-700-year-old giant camphor tree. People who climbed atop the tree could see the whole village; hence the village’s name, Zhangjiao, meaning "at the foot of the camphor.” In Zhangjiao Village, there are more than 100 stone houses built of colorful cobblestones and clay.


These homes are known as qicai shitou cuo — “colorful stone houses.” The walls of the homes are thick and hard and can protect their inhabitants from heavy rains and wind. Even after more than 30 decades, the structures are as strong as when they were built. Interestingly, both the doors and windows of the colorful stone houses were built narrowly to prevent entry by thieves. Nowadays, most of the colorful stone houses are left uninhabited; some are still used for storage of farming implements.



If you happen to visit the area during the annual Lantern Festival, you’ll have a chance to see a beautiful lantern show decorating the alleys and byways around these ancient structures.


Similar to Fanzai Lou buildings, these colorful stone houses attract many painters and photographers, who come here to capture the village’s beauty in drawings and pictures.


Travel GuidesLocal specialties: Zhangjiao pig's knuckle, skin of soybean milk, and more. What to do in Zhangjiao Village: visit ancient houses, sketch from nature, practice photography, and enjoy unique lantern shows (only during the Lantern Festival).  


Chua ancient dwellings | 蔡氏古民居 
@Zhangli Village (漳里村) in Nan’an City

Chua ancient dwellings are located at Zhangli Village in Guanqiao town (官桥镇) in Nan’an. They were built by Cai Qichang (蔡启昌) and his son Cai Zhishen (蔡资深) in the late Qing dynasty. On June 25th, 2001, it was announced that Chua ancient dwellings would be recognized as part of the fifth batch of national key cultural relics protected units.


Cai Qichang and his son used to do business in the Philippines, and achieved great success there. As a successful businessman, Cai Zhishen was also an adherent of Confucianism, and he deeply believed that agriculture could achieve long-term success better than commerce. With that in mind, he transferred his wealth from the Philippines to China and had many exotic houses built in his hometown.


In 1865 (during the reign of Emperor Tongzhi of the Qing dynasty), Cai Zhishen and Cai Qichang also bought a great deal of land nearby for building houses. Chua ancient dwellings are grand-scale and exquisite. The most noticeable feature of the Chua ancient dwellings is their red-brick walls. Many villagers in Zhangli Village still live in Chua ancient dwellings.


Travel GuidesLocal specialties: Zongzi with meat stuffing and beef broth.What to do in Zhangli Village: visit ancient houses, make sketches from nature


Palace-style red-brick buildings |“皇宫起”红砖建筑
@Wudianshi (五店市) in Jinjiang City

Located at the core area of Qingyang subdistrict in Jinjiang, Wudianshi is the last traditional block of Qingyang subdistrict. There are eight scenic spots in Qingyang subdistrict, four of which are at Wudianshi, including the Chua ancestral hall (蔡氏宗祠), the Zhuang ancestral temple (庄氏家庙), and more. At Wudianshi, there are palace-style red-brick buildings and exotic ancient buildings.


Legend has it that five Chua descendants opened five restaurants at the base of Qingyang mountain during the Yuan period of the Tang dynasty. The five restaurants provided convenience for people who passed through Qingyang subdistrict to all corners of the country. The five restaurants’ reputation spread far and wide. The Qingyang subdistrict hence obtained another name, “Wudianshi,” meaning “a bazaar developed from five stores.”


Although Wudianshi is now surrounded by towering buildings, all the ancient buildings at Wudianshi are well-preserved and have remained plain and elegant.


Travel GuidesLocal specialties: Quan Tou Mu (拳头母), pot rice (壶仔饭), sea worm jelly.What to do in Zhangli Village: visit ancient houses and art galleries, try out local specialties.


White-walled and black-roofed ancient buildings | 白墙黛瓦古厝群
@Foling Village (佛岭村) in Dehua County

Different from most of Quanzhou’s red-brick houses, the ancient buildings at Foling Village in Dehua are white-walled and black-roofed. Foling Village is more than one thousand years old; the village contains 67 ancient buildings that are over one hundred years old. Over 86 percent of the buildings in Foling Village are traditional buildings.


Strolling through Foling Village, you’ll see Fu Mei Tang (福美堂), which was owned by a  patriotic overseas Chinese named Ye Naishen (叶乃矧). You’ll also see Long Kui Tang (龙魁堂), and a fortress that was established during the Ming dynasty.


To this day, the walls of some ancient houses have collapsed, but they are still among the precious treasures of Foling Village.

Travel Guides

Local specialties: Dehua black chicken, Dehua black rabbit, Dehua pear, and more.
What to do in Foling Village: visit ancient houses and Yunlong Valley scenic spot (云龙谷风景区)


Yongchun Shanmei Tulou | 永春山美土楼
@Yangxian Village (仰贤村) in Yongchun County

Yongchun Shanmei Tulou (also known as Xun Lai Zhaung, 巽来庄, xùn lái zhuāng ) is located at Yangxian Village in Yongchun county. Built in 1777, the more-than-200-year-old Yongchun Shanmei Tulou is one of  Fujian Province’s key cultural relic protected units. Tradition has it that it was once owned by a famous official named Lin Youfeng (林悠凤) in Yongchun county during the Qing dynasty. There are ten other ancient buildings that were inhabited by his ten sons around the Tulou. The Tulou is 9.2-meters in height and has two stories.


Yongchun Shanmei Tulou has an area of 3,100 square meters and 96 rooms. Maximum occupancy is more than 400 people. In front of the building is a large field that looks beautiful in spring.



Travel Guides
Local specialties: Yongchun mature vinegar, ponkan, white duck meat soup (白鸭汤).
What to do in Yangxian Village: visit ancient houses, visit Wulijie ancient street (五里街古街), and check out the Yong Chun White Crane Kung Fu Club (永春白鹤拳馆).


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