Today the UDNSLIY group took a culture trip to the nearby city of Quanzhou. Although present-day Quanzhou is a relatively small city (by Chinese standards, anyway), it has great historical significance – it was once a prosperous port city at the start of the ancient Maritime Silk Road. The city maintained its prosperity and avoided war for nearly 1000 years by paying off potential invaders, a stint ended only by the military commander Zheng Chenggong of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), whose troops retreated south from Nanjing, bringing war with them. But because of Quanzhou’s centuries of being a hub for international trade, it was also a hub of cultural exchange. Western merchants brought a wide variety of religions and languages to Quanzhou as early as the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and many even settled down in the city, married local people, and started families, creating an ethnic group unique to the Quanzhou area, turning it into one of the earliest “globalization” cases! As student Kelby Kramer remarked, “In Quanzhou Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Taoism inhabited the same space for 10 centuries with little or no conflict. In this sense, Quanzhou was truly ahead of its time, as there is still no other city that can rival the religious tolerance exemplified by this ancient shipping port.”
Student Camille with a group of African visitors in Quanzhou
Carrie and Samara inside an ancient Mosque in Quanzhou
Carrie and Jessica inside an ancient Mosque in Quanzhou
Our first stop in Quanzhou was the Quanzhou Maritime Museum. At this museum, students had the opportunity to explore various aspects of China’s maritime history, as well as many of the effects of the Maritime Silk Road on Quanzhou specifically. Exhibitions included tombstones and parts of temples that evidenced the many religions that came to Quanzhou; boats and other artifacts from China’s seafaring and river-boating history; porcelain; and artifacts regarding the Islamic culture in Quanzhou. Everyone had an excellent time exploring all that the museum had to offer! Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough time for us all to see everything, but at least that gives us a good excuse to go back!
Next, after a big, family-style lunch, we visited the Qingjing Mosque, the oldest Arab-style mosque in China, dating back to the Song Dynasty (960-1279). We also went to two Buddhist temples: the Tonghuai Guanyue Temple and the Kaiyuan Temple. The Guanyue Temple is closely associated with Guan Yu, a character from the Chinese classic novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, while the Kaiyuan Temple is the largest in Fujian Province. Each of these locations offered the students something beautiful to see and something interesting to learn. By the end of the day, the whole group felt tired but fulfilled.