China, Cultural Travel, Fuzhou

Fuzhou, Capital City of the Fujian Province

20 year old panda eating bamboo

We will be ending our Fujian province travels with a day and a half visit in Fuzhou, the capital city. It was only a one-hour high speed train ride away from Wuyishan East rail station.

High speed train to FuzhouFuzhou is an ancient city along the southeast coast and an old foreign trade port of China, with 2000 years of history.   Marco Polo visited it.  In the 19th century, it exported more tea than any other Chinese port.

Today, it is a major center for light industry.  For example, Nike has a factory here.  Many factories are investments from Taiwan since Fuzhou is right across the strait from Taipei.

We started our visit at the historic district of the city, in the center of the city, named Three Lanes and Seven Alleys (pronounced as “san fang qi xiang” in Chinese).  This area has preserved 268 ancient residences dating from Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911).  The residences are of the Foochow architectural style, which can only be found in the Eastern and Northeastern part of Fujian.

The Old Town of Fuzhou – Three Lanes and Seven Alleys

At first it seems like the area are just shops selling expensive tourist souvenirs, traditional snacks, and even a Starbucks.  But once we wandered deeper into the lanes and alleys, we came across buildings full of history and character.

Inside the Huang residence

We paid the required admission to visit one of the landmark, Huang (Wong in Cantonese) residence No. 36 on Huang Alley.  The house used to be the residence of Huang Pu, an officer in charge of proof reading and records keeping during the Tang Dynasty.  Then it was inhibited by quite a few famous people in the Qing Dynasty.

It is very nice for the city to preserve the historical buildings dating back to the Ming and Qing Dynasties

The building was quite exquisite and quite well preserved considering the wooden construction.  The drawing room is a double-floor attic with a timber frame. Beams are carved with dragons and phoenixes.

We have seen many scenes depicting these types of buildings and residences in historical Chinese movies

It was nice to stroll along the lanes and alleys and imagine the lives of these citizens several hundred years ago.

One of the three lanes well preserved

Next we visited Yu Mountain Park, a nice little park in the middle of the city.  In spite of the name, it is more of a hill than a mountain.  Fifteen minutes of walking took us to the hilltop with a pretty temple.  We can see Wuyi Square below us but not much more of the rest of the city.

One of a few temples and pagodas on Yu Mountain

City view from Yu Mountain

Wuyi Square

Big statue of Mao Zedong

We walked back down to Wuyi Square, a central square with a huge statue of Mao Zedong, just in time for the daily ceremonial lowering of the flag by highly trained and immaculately uniformed soldiers.  The raising of the flag is apparently at dawn.  After the ceremony, we sat at the square and people watched a bit as the sun went down behind the White Pagoda, constructed around 941 AD, just behind the Mao statue.

Marching soldiers for flag lowering ceremony

Big fountain in Wuyi Square

Sunset behind White Pagoda

Fruits like Dragon Eye, freshly peeled Water Chestnuts was plentiful and inexpensive to buy

The following day, we started our day with a quick visit to Hualin Temple, a Buddhist temple in downtown Fuzhou. Built in 964 AD,  surviving 10 centuries, it is now a museum.  This is the oldest wood architecture in China south of the Yangtze River.  It did not seem to be a popular place for tourists as we were the only ones there during our visit.

Hualin Temple, a thousand year old temple

Finally, we thought it was time for some relaxation at the Westlake Park, an urban lake in the center of the city, since we need to stay energized for a late evening flight to Guangzhou.

Walking path through a nice hotel resort just outside of Westlake Park

Westlake Park has been a scenic spot since the Tang Dynasty (618-907).  It is a big park, 45 hectares, mostly composed of lakes.  This park is full of history and enchanting scenery .  Shortly after we entered the park, we crossed a bridge to one of the two islands within the park, aptly called the Fairy Bridge. It was a beautiful entrance, as both sides were planted with big willow trees, along with peach blossom trees and other flowers.  We were seeing just the beginning of blooms, but we can imagine that during peak bloom times, which would be just a few weeks later, this place will be amazingly beautiful.

Westlake Park in Fuzhou, one of many Westlakes in China, including the most famous one in Hangzhou

Beautiful willow and plum blossom trees

We walked around and checked out a couple of the historical buildings (one was exhibiting some Chinese art), temples, halls, pavilions, all surrounded by beautiful landscapes.  There were plenty of resting benches along the paths.   As the weather was a bit on the cold side, there were only a few people on the lake using paddle boats and traditional canoes. There were groups of seniors playing card. A group of ladies were singing Chinese folk song while a man accompanied with a classical Chinese instrument.

Chinese painting exhibit

Singing and classical instrument at Westlake Park

Then we spotted a large interesting building and discovered that it was the Fujian Museum.  Inside, there several large exhibits on the Fujian life, Fujian Archaeology, and most interesting of all, a museum of the Maritime Silk Road, of which Fuzhou played the most important part.  Incredibly, the entire museum  did not require admission fees. We enjoyed this museum very much, and learned much history about this part of China.

Grand entrance to the Fujian Museum

Lots of history about the Maritime Silk Road. The Fujian shipbuilding was more advanced than the Portuguese at one point.

Then it was time to look for the Panda World, where if we are lucky, we can see some pandas doing some activities.  Panda World is where the world’s most famous panda, Basi, lived until she passed away in 2017 at age 37 (average age of a Panda is 12 years).  In 1990, Basi was chosen as the prototype for Pan Pan, the mascot of the Beijing Asian Games.

One of three pandas in Panda World

Our luck was with us today as we were able to see an active twenty year old panda that looked like Basi, and two other pandas napping away.  We enjoyed the close up view of the panda snacking on her favorite food. Then we went to a Panda Museum where we learned a lot about Basi’s life, which included her skills in doing the plank sway, weight lifting, and basketball shooting.

20 year old panda eating bamboo

Our day turned out to be fuller than anticipated.   It was now time to head for the airport.  We walked from Westlake Park to the downtown area, purchased some famous Fujian tea for gifts, downed a few more of our favorite street snack food, then took the metro back to our hotel to retrieve our luggage.  From our hotel, we  walked over to the Fuzhou South Rail station and boarded the Airport Express bus for the Fujian Changle Airport.

Delicious and inexpensive snack foods everywhere

 

 

 

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