Explore Quanzhou, a port city along the Maritime Silk Road

(People's Daily Online) 09:39, January 25, 2024

"The city of Zayton (Quanzhou) is one of the largest ports in the world. A great number of merchants have swarmed into this city. Goods pile up like hills. The scene is incredible," wrote Italian explorer Marco Polo (1254-1324) in his travel notes.

Zayton, derived from "Citong," the Chinese name for the Erythrina tree native to India and Malaysia, is an example of a calque – a linguistic term for a word borrowed from another language by literal, word-for-word translation.

Photo shows flowers of an Erythrina tree in Quanzhou, located in southeast China's Fujian Province. (Courtesy of Quanzhou Radio and Television Station)

During the Wei, Jin, Southern and Northern dynasties (220-589), Quanzhou was already a hub for foreign trade. Around this time, the Erythrina tree, originating from overseas, was introduced to the region.

In the Five Dynasties period (907-960), military governor Liu Congxiao undertook the expansion of Quanzhou. Part of this development included planting Erythrina trees around the city walls, giving Quanzhou its name, Citong.

Photo shows Erythrina trees in full bloom in Quanzhou, located in southeast China's Fujian Province. (Courtesy of Quanzhou Radio and Television Station)

During the Song (960-1279) and Yuan (1271-1368) dynasties, Quanzhou was renowned for its advanced water transportation system. The city's docks were strategically divided into outer and inner harbors, accommodating a variety of ship types and facilitating extensive maritime trade.

Shihu Wharf, a significant historical port on the ancient Maritime Silk Road in Quanzhou, was one of the stops for Zheng He's fleet during their expeditions to the West. (Photo courtesy of Quanzhou Radio and Television Station)

In July 2021, UNESCO listed the city on its World Heritage List for its role as an "Emporium of the World in Song-Yuan China."

With the introduction of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, Quanzhou has begun a new chapter in foreign trade. By early December 2023, the city had established 18 Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) trade routes, enhancing its connections with various countries and regions, including the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Japan, Russia, and the United Arab Emirates.

Photo shows stone engravings that portray Zayton Port at Houzhu Port in Quanzhou, southeast China's Fujian Province. (People's Daily Online/Wang Jing)

(Web editor: Hongyu, Liang Jun)


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