Gulangyu Island’s Colonial Era Architecture: A Journey into the Past
Xiamen, also known as Amoy, is a small but bustling city located in southern China that overlooks the Straits of Taiwan. With a population of over two and a half million people, Xiamen is considered small by Chinese standards but has always been an important trading port due to its advantageous geographical position.
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Despite its modest size, Xiamen is a cosmopolitan city that has retained its multi-ethnic past. Visitors can observe the exotic mix of European, Chinese, and Japanese architecture that is present throughout the city. A must-visit spot is the nearby small island of Gulangyu, which is known for its varied colonial architecture and Mediterranean climate.
Gulangyu has an interesting history that dates back to the mid-1800s when the British established their first concession on the island. Later on, the Japanese and Americans also took an interest in the island as a possible naval base. However, after the conquest of the Philippines in 1899, they abandoned the idea. Despite this, foreign powers continued to open consulates and trade offices in Xiamen. In 1902, a city council was elected, consisting of six representatives from both foreign and Chinese backgrounds. Fourteen nations opened representative offices, including Germany, France, Denmark, Austria, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, and the Philippines.
Today, Gulangyu is a tranquil island that bans cars and bikes, which helps to create a peaceful atmosphere. Visitors can hear only the sounds of the wind, trees, and the many pianos and organs that can be found on the island. In fact, Gulangyu holds a special record for having the most number of pianos per capita.
Overall, Xiamen and Gulangyu are unique destinations that offer a mix of history, architecture, and natural beauty. Visitors can enjoy the bustling city life in Xiamen and then take a short ferry ride to the peaceful island of Gulangyu to escape the hustle and bustle.
The images showcase the exquisite details of the Western-style buildings that are found throughout the island. From the grand mansions to the more modest houses, the architecture on Gulangyu is a testament to the many foreign powers that have left their mark on the island over the years. Matteo Damiani’s photographs capture the essence of the island’s colonial past, and his images are a must-see for anyone interested in architecture, history, or photography. His work allows visitors to appreciate the intricate details of the architecture and to get a sense of the island’s rich cultural heritage.
Images of Gulangyu, Xiamen
Photos: Matteo Damiani
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