The city of Quanzhou is located on the southeast coast of China. It was one of the most important Chinese ports along the Silk Roads. Travellers from many different cultures and religions came to Quanzhou, also known as Zayton (or Zaitun) by Arab traders. There is evidence of commercial and cultural interaction between Quanzhou and other regions as early as the Tang dynasty in the 6th century CE. It became the largest port in eastern China during the Song and Yuan dynasties. It was linked to many other ports, such as Madras in India, Siraf in Iran, Muscat in Oman, and Zanzibar.

Famous medieval explorers such as Marco Polo, Friar Odoric of Pordenone, and Ibn Battuta, visited Quanzhou. They described the port as one of the biggest harbors in the world. The city had a vibrant market where merchants from many different regions exchanged their wares.

Shipwrecks excavated in Quanzhou Bay testify to the prosperity of the port. A sailing ship that sank in Quanzhou Bay seems to have been originally built in Quanzhou in the thirteenth century. It was likely returning from South-East Asia loaded with spices, medicines and other merchandise when it sank. Quanzhou was a leading center for both shipbuilding and the development of navigation technologies during the Song dynasty.

Sailors, merchants and explorers came to Quanzhou from across many different regions of the world. They contributed to the development of peaceful coexistence between the many ethnic and religious groups in the city, including Buddhists, Hindus, Taoists, Nestorians, Manichaeans, Jews, Catholics and Muslims. Quanzhou had many historic religious sites and monuments. The Kaiyuan temple is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in China. The Tao Laojun statue is the largest Chinese stone statue of its kind. The Qingjing Mosque is China's oldest mosque. The Cao An Manichaean temple houses the only stone statue of the Manichaean prophet, Mani.

The prosperity of the Quanzhou-Zaitun harbor is illustrated by a number of civic constructions such as a stone-beam bridge and a scenic long bridge. They reflect a blend of Chinese and other cultures in their design and architecture.

Source: Quanzhou
Courtesy of UNESCO

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