Xiamen Overview

Xiamen (Xiàmén, 厦门; formerly Amoy and still called E-mng in the local Hokkien dialect) is one of Fujian province's most beautiful coastal cities. Situated at the mouth of Jiulong River (Nine Dragon River), the city of Xiamen encompasses Xiamen Island, Gulangyu Islet and, on the mainland, Tong'an County (Tóng'ān Qū, 同安区).

Xiamen's history as a port goes way back: It was the first of the Qing Dynasty treaty ports where foreign merchants were allowed to settle and legally trade with Chinese traders. Today, the legacy of that history—the extensive concession-era villas, townhouses and consulates of Gulangyu—testify to that past. Later in the 20th century, the city became one of China's first special economic zones, leading to rapid development that continues today, though its popularity as a tourist destination only really began to realize its huge potential after the region, which is opposite Taiwan, was opened up after years as a sensitive military center.

Today, Xiamen's salty sea breezes, sunny days and picturesque scenery draw throngs of Chinese tourists. It is slowly gaining in popularity among foreign visitors as well and has become a favorite destination for expats and travelers looking to kitesurf in China. In the heat of the summer, Xiamen's beaches are popular spots to cool off, even if parts of the shoreline could use intensive cleanup efforts.

Xiamen is probably best known for Gulangyu, an islet accessible only by ferry located off Xiamen Island's southwestern coast. Cars are forbidden on Gulangyu and foot traffic prevails, although there is a small armada of electric powered golf buggy-style vehicles on hand to whisk leg-weary or less budget conscious tourists between scenic spots.

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