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Published: November 8th 2018
I had arrived in Fuzhou the previous evening and since it had been late, just headed to my hotel. I had no intention of visiting Fuzhou, which is the provincial capital of Fujian province, but the lack of train tickets available because of the New Year holiday meant it was necessary. I had a day to explore so made some tentative plans of what I could see and do in that time. Breakfast was included in my hotel. I got down to the breakfast room just before the mad rush. The breakfast was pretty crappy, normally I like traditional style Chinese breakfasts, but everything here was just so bland. I was glad that I had coffee in my room as there was none on offer.
After checking out and leaving my bag in storage, I headed to the subway station. I only had to ride a couple of stops to reach the Three Lanes and Seven Alleys, where I intended to spend the morning, before heading up to the West Lake Park and the Fuzhou Museum, which is located close next to the park. Well, that didn't work out. After being in the Three Lanes and Seven Alleys district for
about an hour, I realised that I could easily spend the whole day there and decided to do so. This meant I didn't have to rush around trying to cram in as much as possible and could take my time walking around the neighbourhood and exploring the little nooks and crannies. I wandered down the main street for a while, it reminded me of the pedestrianised tourist street in Hangzhou. The street was mad busy and there were just people everywhere. I love how in China people get out and about in the holidays exploring their own country. The first alley I came across was Langguan Alley. The alley had had several different names before the present one was chosen by the Emperor Wangli during the Ming Dynasty. While the alleyway was busy it was no where near as crowded as the main street and I loved walking up and down it taking in all the traditional architecture. There were a few sights to see in this alleyway and there are plaques outside of the notable buildings explaining their histories. I came across the former home of Yan Fu, who was a renowned enlightenment thinker, translator and educator, and also
the Double Plum Study. The study is now home to the Fujian Folk Museum, which I had a good look around. The museum depicted what life was like in the olden times and there were also quite a few artefacts such as pottery and Buddha statues on display. There was a small courtyard garden that was quite pretty. The Temple of the Sea Goddess is also in the alleyway. This temple was constructed during the Qing Dynasty and was small but perfectly formed. I don't think you were meant to take photos inside, but I took a few sneaky shots, maybe it was just the Buddhas that they didn't want you to photograph. The temple was really pretty and I loved the dark red colouring inside and out. I also paid the entrance fee to enter the former residence of Yan Fu, the clerk seemed a bit perplexed as everything was in Chinese and she was worried that I wouldn't understand anything, which I didn't, and was probably thinking I was wasting my money, but it was still nice to look around the house. I could appreciate the architecture, if nothing else, which I did.
I headed back to
the main street and from there to my next alley, Tower Alley. Once again, the alley has had several name changes over the years and the older names all implied that the area was named with regards to encouragement of education. The Tower Alley name came from a wooden structure that was built during the Five Dynasties period and although the tower has long gone, the name still exists. There is also now a tower on the gate one enters th alley through. This alley seemed a bit smaller than the previous one and there weren't as many people wandering through it. I took a stroll up and down the alley, looking at the buildings. I think of one of the reasons I like the alleys is because I can't understand Chinese so if there is no English translation I have to use my imagination to decide who lived in each building and what the purpose of it is/was. From Tower Alley, I walked a little way up the main street, Nanhou Street, which was still teeming with people. I came to the former residence of Dong Zhiyi, who was part of the Fuzhou literary circle. I really liked the
sculpture of what I presumed to be him hard at work, in front of the house.
The next lane I made my way down was Yijin Lane. It had been known as Tongchao Alley in ancient times, which means tide meeting, what a pretty name. Then it changed to Dijin (official brothers) Lane during the Xuanhe period of the Northern Song Dynasty as when two local brothers Lu Tun and Lu Zao were appointed Magistrate of Fuzhou successively. The current names implies that someone has 'returned to his hometown in full glory'. This person is Wang Yixiang, who had been a chief justice of the southern Yangtze region and returned to live here when he retired. This alley was quite busy and there were a few commercial properties such as cafes near the entrance. I liked the guy who was selling Hello Kitty balloons. Next up was Minshan Alley, which was tiny. It was a narrow walkway, 2-3 metres wide, between the walled properties. It got its name because it lies at the bottom of Minshan Hill. I had a quick walk along the alley, but headed back to Yijin Lane as I hadn't finished exploring that. I love
the old architecture, it is so pretty and I feel like I am stepping back in time to how China used to be a long, long time ago. As I headed back to Minshan Alley and I came to Xinyingying Alleyway. It had originally been called Tiyunli, which means cloud ladder neighbourhood and its present name means wealth lover neighbourhood. I loved the mix of greys and whites on the walls surrounding me. And also how quiet it was, there was barely another soul around. It felt so far removed from the madness of the main street, when it is only a few hundred metres away.
I headed back to the main street and across to the Huang Family Alley. The Huang Family moved to Fuzhou due to the wars in the late Western Jin Dynasty and settled in this alley. Huang Pu was a Confucian scholar during the Tang Dynasty. I passed by a brown wooden fronted building that was the former site of the Chinese Peasants and Workers Democratic Party Central Committee during the Fujian Incident, which was a rebellion against th Japanese and the Kuomintang. Three further alleyways branch off from Huang Family Alley and I
headed down the first one, Liben Alleyway. The alleyway was called Japanese Alleyway as an opium den run by a Japanese person was located in this alleyway. The locals didn't like this and later changed the name to integrity. The alleyway later became home to the liaison office of the then Communist Party of China Fuzhou Prefectural Committee during the winter of 1926. I think it is so great that all these little alleyways hold so much history. I headed up Liben Alleyway to Anmin Alley and then down Photo Studio Alley. In the early 20th century, Zhuang Xinbo set up a photography studio at the corner of the alley. It was one of the first photo studios in Fuzhou and was well known locally hence why the alleyway was named after it. The last of the three side alleyways was Laryngology Alleyway. It got its name from Zhu Tianzhang, a throat physician, who lived there during the Qing Dynasty. Back in the Huang Family Alley, I visited a small art gallery, which was quite interesting and then the former residence of Chen Shouqi. This place had a bit more English than the other residence I had visited, so I
had a much better understanding of this place. Chen Shouqi was an Imperial Scholar, who gave up his post after his parents' deaths to lecture at academies in Quanzhou and Fuzhou. He also collected more than 100,000 books, which I feel is quite an achievement. From the entrance, I came into the East Garden, which was very pretty and was a typical traditional Chinese garden. I had a nice wander around the garden and courtyard of the house, playing with my camera.
Once again, I was back in the madness that was Nanhou Street. The contrast between the main drag and the lanes and alleyways was insane. It seemed like most people just stuck to the main street or just ventured a little way into the alleys. I headed into Anmin Alley, which I had briefly been in. Its name means reassuring the public, as legend has it that Huang Chao, the leader of the peasant rebel army during the late Tang Dynasty, put up a notice in this alley to reassure the public after fighting in Fujian province. I had a look around the parlour of the Yan Family, which was built during the reign of Emperor Qianlong
of the Qing Dynasty and originally served as the Yan Family's ancestral hall. The residence had some nice artwork and vases on display. I headed over to Wenru Alley, which seemed to be the busiest alley that I visited. It was originally named Shanyin, which means hill shaded due to its proximity to Wushan Hill. Then its name changed to Rulin Lane, which means scholars circle. Then it was changed to Wenru which means scholar. The lane underwent another name change, but it was later changed back to Wenru Lane. As I walked down the alley, I came across the local compact tablet. I am not really sure what it is, but I think it is a set of rules about what one can and cannot do in the alley. Anyway, it is the only one left in Fuzhou's ancient neighbourhoods, so it is a pretty important piece of history. Further down the lane was the Fujian Maritime Museum, which I really enjoyed taking a look around. It was also very informative. The local people of the Fujian area are called Min people and they were separated from inner China by the Wuyi and Daiyun mountains. However, due to the
rivers in the area that headed out east to the sea and the natural resources in the area, the Fujian people became ship builders and ocean faring people that opened up contact with the outside world.
Next, I came to the former residence of He Zhendai, who was the leader of the Tong-Guang School of modern poetry from Fujian Province. He was also appointed the official secretary for Governor Shen Yuqing and came back to Fuzhou to preside over the compilation of The Chronicle of the West Lake and wrote the Annals of Fujian. I love that this area is so rich in literary history. I walked down Zaoti Alley, which is another small, narrow alley. Then I headed down Fengjingying Alley. I do like that all the alleys have signposts telling you there name and the history of the alley, especially as I only saw about two other Western tourists. The tourism authorities in Fuzhou could have easily just written the boards in Mandarin only as this place doesn't seem like a Mecca for Western tourists. Fengjingying means abundant wells and the alley was named during this during the Qing Dynasty. Then I headed along Temple Alley, which
had previously been known as Faairlyland Alley. I think they should have stuck with that name as it is pretty epic. There was a Taoist Temple in the alley during the Ming Dynasty, however it is no longer there. The final alley I came to was Jibi Alley, which has now been expanded to make it the main road marking the end of the Three Lanes and Seven Alleys district. The original meaning of Jibi is hurry to hide from the local inhabitants of the Song and Zheng families. The name was then changed to refuge, but the pronunciation of the two words are the same, so I am presuming that only the characters used to denote the name changed.
It was getting late in the afternoon and I was starving. I found a Japanese place close by and they had a very nice picture menu that I was able to peruse. I ended up getting a big bowl of ramen, which was pretty good. I took my time over my meal as it had started to rain again and I wanted to avoid getting wet. I felt that I had seen pretty much everything that the Three Lanes
and Seven Alleys had to offer so decided to head to Starbucks for a coffee since I hadn't had one since the morning and was starting to get withdrawl. However, Starbucks was rammed so on my way back to the hotel to pick up my backpack, I stopped off at the McDonalds above the subway station. I have definitely been to a fair few McDonlads on this trip. I think it because I can use the self-service kiosks and don't have to deal with people. I then made my way to the train station. The woman scanning my ID and ticket didn't seem to be impressed by it and ran it through the machine a couple of times. Not what I needed on the last leg of my journey, but it was fine and I was allowed to enter the station. This was the train journey that I was least looking forward to as I had only been able to get a standing ticket, so I would be standing for the four hours back to Ningbo. It wasn't too bad. I was in the corridor the whole time, but when a lot of the people cleared out at Wenzhou, I
was able to sit on the floor for a bit. I really enjoyed my week exploring Fujian province and the amazing weather certainly helped. I knew nothing of the province before coming to China, and only due to proximity to where I live and my Japanese friend tellling me about the place as she has family there, spurred me on to visit and I am glad I did. I definitely hope to return as there is still more I would like to see.
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