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People's Daily Online>>China Society

1,500-year-old seaport gives up iconic identity

By Tan Zongyang and Hu Meidong  (China Daily)

08:20, April 13, 2012

Quanzhou Port, a famous ancient sea port considered one of the largest ports in the world by Marco Polo, has dropped its name after being integrated into a larger port area, incurring public outcry that the change would ruin the value of a centuries-old cultural identity.

According to the Fujian Communications Department, the three port zones in Quanzhou were merged as part of the Meizhou Bay port zones and came under the administration of the newly established Meizhou Bay Port Management Bureau. As a result, all the port zones in Quanzhou will be referred to as the Meizhou Bay Port.

The department claimed the arrangement aims to optimize seaport resources in the province. The integrated Meizhou Bay Port will be another important sea transportation hub, rivaling Fuzhou Port to the north and Xiamen Port to the south.

However, many residents of Quanzhou complained that it was groundless to abandon the name of the port that had been handed down from ancient times, which was disrespectful of history and also wasted the port's cultural identity.

Quanzhou, or Chinchew, is a port city with more than 1,500 years of history. Also known as Ci Tong Port, it flourished as the largest port in China during the Southern Song (1127-1279) and Yuan (1271-1368) dynasties.

Venetian traveler Marco Polo visited the city in the late 13th century.

The port was also the terminal for China's maritime Spice Route that rose after the land Silk Road declined. From there ships traveled along the east coast of China, passed through the Straits of Malacca and sailed past the Indian subcontinent on their way to cities in the Persian Gulf.

The port plays an important role for Quanzhou in terms of economic and cultural exchanges with foreign countries, Li Zhijun, a historical geography expert at Xiamen University, told China Daily.

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