Travel guide to Fuzhou, China

Fuzhou is the capital city of Fujian Province, located on China’s southeastern coast. With a long tradition as a coastal port and shipbuilding center, Fuzhou is the major coastal city between Hong Kong and Shanghai. It is known as “Banyan Town” after the subtropical banyan trees planted there since the Song dynasty. As the central city of a province with many ethnic and linguistic links to Taiwan, Fuzhou has benefited from cross-strait investment and is today a major commercial and manufacturing center.

Fuzhou lies on the Min River, in the east of Fujian Province, some 50 km (30 miles) from the sea. The city is on a subtropical plain close to the Fu Mountains. It is 700 km (435 miles) northeast of Hong Kong, and 1,500 km (930 miles) southeast of Beijing.

Fuzhou’s history dates back to the 3rd century AD, when it became a center of ore smelting. Thereafter it was capital, known as Minzhou, of the coastal kingdom of Minyue. When it was absorbed into the Tang dynasty, Fuzhou acquired its present name, which mean “prosperous city” or “fortunate city.” It grew wealthy as a coastal port for the export of tea.

Marco Polo is supposed to have passed through Fuzhou at the end of the 13th century. He described it as a great center of international commerce with special links to the Indian trade, prosperous, with great gardens and an abundance of fruit. He also noted the presence of a large Christian community there, with roots going back several hundred years. These were possibly descendants of Nestorian Christians, a Syrian sect that had come to China via the Silk Road.

Fuzhou’s international links continued in the Ming dynasty, when it was the homeport for the international voyages of the eunuch-admiral Zheng He in the early 15th century. In 1842, following the Opium Wars, Fuzhou became one of the five ports declared open to foreign trade. It also became a center of both Catholic and Protestant missionary activity after that time.

Because of Fuzhou’s proximity to Taiwan, and the ethnic and linguistic closeness of the two regions, cross-strait investment has made Fuzhou one of China’s most prosperous cities.