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