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
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.