Quanzhou and Xiamen, Fujian: Harbors
When Marco Polo arrived at the port of Quanzhou at the end of the 13th century he saw “500,000 people of every race, creed and color imaginable” and called it “one of the greatest ports in the world”.
Arguably the world’s first true, cultural melting pot, Quanzhou was home to everyone from Arabs and Persians to Franciscan catholics, Mongolians, Jews, Indians, and of course local Chinese, who heard endless stories of distant shores and mysterious religions. In the streets, carriages were piled high with spices, ivory, pearls, and hawksbill sea turtles from Africa and the Middle East. At the docks, boats were loaded with porcelain, tea, and silk. ‘Zayton’, as the city was called back then, would become the origin of the word satin.
By the turn of the 20th century, Xiamen had taken over Quanzhou’s role as a port of global importance. Xiamen was the main port through which China exported its crucial product of the day: tea. With green hills in the background, small, flat-bottomed wooden boats called sampans were scattered across the harbor. Sailors standing on bows in front of canvas sails beat their gongs to signal their arrival. Junks with their mat sails and bamboo masts went out for fish, disappearing between the nearby islands. Majestically rising above everything were the powerful steamers waiting to take their anxious emigrants and endless chests of Oolong tea across the ferocious Pacific waves to Vancouver or New York.
Imagine sailing away from that view, off to a new world and a new life, thinking it may be the very last thing you will ever see of your homeland…
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