Quanzhou, alternatively known as Chinchew, is a prefecture-level port city on the north bank of the Jin River, beside the Taiwan Strait in Fujian Province, People's Republic of China. It is Fujian's largest metropolitan region, with an area of 11,245 square kilometers (4,342 sq mi) and, as of 2010, a population of 8,128,530.[2] Its built-up area is home to 6,107,475 inhabitants, encompassing the Licheng, Fengze, and Luojiang urban districts; Jinjiang, Nan'an, and Shishi cities; Hui'an County; and the Quanzhou District for Taiwanese Investment.[3] Quanzhou was China's 12th-largest extended metropolitan area in 2010.



Chüanchowfu, Chin-chiang
View of Wanda Square, Quanzhou
Location of Quanzhou City jurisdiction in Fujian
Location in China
Coordinates (Licheng District Bureau of Civil Affairs (鲤城区民政局)): 24°54′25″N 118°35′13″E
CountryPeople's Republic of China
  CPC SecretaryZheng Xincong
  MayorZhu Ming
  Prefecture-level city11,218.91 km2 (4,331.65 sq mi)
872.4 km2 (336.8 sq mi)
4,274.5 km2 (1,650.4 sq mi)
 (2017 Est)
  Prefecture-level city8,650,000
  Density770/km2 (2,000/sq mi)
  Urban density1,600/km2 (4,300/sq mi)
  Metro density1,400/km2 (3,700/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+8 (China Standard)
Postal code
Area code(s)0595
ISO 3166 codeCN-FJ-05
 - TotalCNY 846.797 billion (US$127.915 billion)
 - Per capitaCNY 127,915 (US$14,788)
 - Growth 12.19%
License Plate Prefixes闽C
Local DialectMin Nan: Quanzhou dialect
Quanzhou in Chinese
Hokkien POJChoân-chiu
Literal meaning"Spring Prefecture"
Informal names
Literal meaningTung-Tree City

Quanzhou was China's major port for foreign traders, who knew it as Zaiton,[lower-alpha 1] during the 11th through 14th centuries. It was visited by both Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta; both travelers praised it as one of the most prosperous and glorious cities in the world. It was the naval base from which the Mongol attacks on Japan and Java were primarily launched and a cosmopolitan center with Buddhist and Hindu temples, Islamic mosques, and Christian churches, including a Catholic cathedral and Franciscan friaries. A failed revolt prompted a massacre of the city's foreign communities in 1357. Economic dislocations—including piracy and an imperial overreaction to it during the Ming and Qing—reduced its prosperity, with Japanese trade shifting to Ningbo and Zhapu and other foreign trade restricted to Guangzhou. Quanzhou became an opium-smuggling center in the 19th century but the siltation of its harbor hindered trade by larger ships.


Quanzhou (also known as Zayton or Zaiton in British and American historical sources) is the atonal pinyin romanization of the city's Chinese name 泉州, using its pronunciation in the Mandarin dialect. The name derives from the city's former status as the seat of the imperial Chinese Quan ("Spring") Prefecture. Ch'üan-chou was the Wade-Giles romanization of the same name;[4][5][6] other forms include Chwanchow-foo,[7] Chwan-chau fu,[8] Chwanchew,[9] Ts'üan-chou,[10] Tswanchow-foo,[7] Tswanchau,[9] T'swan-chau fu,[8] Ts'wan-chiu,[11] Ts'wan-chow-fu,[12] Thsiouan-tchéou-fou,[8] and Thsíouan-chéou-fou.[7] The romanizations Chuan-chiu,[11] Choan-Chiu,[13] and Shanju[14] reflect the local Hokkien pronunciation.

The Postal Map name of the city was "Chinchew",[15] a variant of Chincheo, the Portuguese and Spanish transcription of the local Hokkien name for Zhangzhou,[lower-alpha 2] the major Fujianese port trading with Macao and Manila in the 16th and 17th centuries.[7] It is uncertain when or why British sailors first applied the name to Quanzhou.

Its Arabic name Zaiton[16] or "Zayton"[17] (زيتون), once popular in English, means "[City] of Olives" and is a calque of Quanzhou's former Chinese nickname Citong Cheng meaning "tung-tree city", which is derived from the avenues of oil-bearing tung trees ordered to be planted around the city by the city's 10th-century ruler Liu Congxiao.[18][19] Variant transcriptions from the Arabic name include Caiton,[20] Çaiton,[20] Çayton,[20] Zaytún,[12] Zaitûn,[7] Zaitún,[8] and Zaitūn.[18] The common folk etymology of satin as deriving from "Zaiton cloth"[22] seems, however, unsupported by the record.[23][24][lower-alpha 3]


Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation totals in mm
Source: Weather China

Quanzhou proper lies on a spit of land between the estuaries of the Jin and Luo rivers as they flow into Quanzhou Bay on the Taiwan Strait. Its surrounding prefecture extends west halfway across the province and is hilly and mountainous. Along with Xiamen and Zhangzhou to its south and Putian to its north, it makes up Fujian Province's Southern Coast region. In its mountainous interior, it borders Longyan to the southwest and Sanming to the northwest.


The city features a humid subtropical climate. Quanzhou has four distinct seasons. Its moderate temperature ranges from 0 to 38 degrees Celsius. In summer, there are typhoons that bring rain and some damage to the city.


Major earthquakes have been experienced in 1394[25] and on 29 December 1604.[26]


Wang Guoqing (王國慶) used the area as a base of operations for the Chen State before he was subdued by the Sui general Yang Su in the AD 590s.[27] Quanzhou proper was established under the Tang in 718[16] on a spit of land between two branches of the Jin River.[7] Muslim traders reached the city early on in its existence, along with their existing trade at Guangzhou and Yangzhou.[28]

Already connected to inland Fujian by roads and canals, Quanzhou grew to international importance in the first century of the Song.[29] It received an office of the maritime trade bureau in 1079[30] or 1087[16][31] and functioned as the starting point of the Maritime Silk Road into the Yuan, eclipsing both the overland trade routes[32] and Guangzhou. A 1095 inscription records two convoys, each of twenty ships, arriving from the Southern Seas each year.[29] Quanzhou's maritime trade developed the area's ceramics, sugar, alcohol, and salt industries.[29] Ninety per cent of Fujian's ceramic production at the time was jade-colored celadon, produced for export.[33] Frankincense was such a coveted import that promotions for the trade superintendents at Guangzhou and Quanzhou were tied to the amount they were able to bring in during their terms in office.[34] During this period it was one of the world's largest and most cosmopolitan seaports.[lower-alpha 4] By 1120, its prefecture claimed a population of around 500,000.[35] Its Luoyang Bridge was formerly the most celebrated bridge in China[7] and the 12th century Anping Bridge is also well known.

Quanzhou initially continued to thrive under the Southern Song produced by the Jin–Song Wars. A 1206 report listed merchants from Arabia, Iran, the Indian subcontinent, Sumatra, Cambodia, Brunei, Java, Champa, Burma, Anatolia, Korea, Japan and the city-states of the Philippines.[29] One of its customs inspectors, Zhao Rugua, completed his compendious Description of Barbarian Nations c.1225, recording the people, places, and items involved in China's foreign trade in his age. Other imperial records from the time use it as the zero mile for distances between China and foreign countries.[36] Tamil merchants carved idols of Vishnu and Shiva[37] and constructed Hindu temples in Quanzhou.[38][39] Over the course of the 13th century, however, Quanzhou's prosperity declined due to instability among its trading partners[29] and increasing restrictions introduced by the Song in an attempt to restrict the outflow of copper and bronze currency from areas forced to use hyperinflating paper money.[40] The increasing importance of Japan to China's foreign trade also benefited Ningbonese merchants at Quanzhou's expense, given their extensive contacts with Japan's major ports on Hakata Bay on Kyushu.[29]

Under the Mongolian Yuan dynasty, a superintendent of foreign trade was established in the city in 1277,[41] along with those at Shanghai, Ningbo, and Guangzhou.[10] The former Song superintendent Pu Shougeng, an Arab or Persian Muslim,[42] was retained for the new post, using his contacts to restore the city's trade under its new rulers.[41] He was broadly successful, restoring much of the port's former greatness,[43] and his office became hereditary in his descendants.[41] Into the 1280s, Quanzhou sometimes served as the provincial capital for Fujian.[10][lower-alpha 5] Its population was around 455,000 in 1283, the major items of trade being pepper and other spices, gemstones, pearls, and porcelain.[16] Marco Polo recorded that the Yuan emperors derived "a vast revenue" from their 10% duty on the port's commerce;[44] he called Quanzhou's port "one of the two greatest havens in the world for commerce"[44] and "the Alexandria of the East".[45] Ibn Battuta simply called it the greatest port in the world.[10][lower-alpha 6] Polo noted its tattoo artists were famed throughout Southeast Asia.[44] It was the point of departure for Marco Polo's 1292 return expedition, escorting the 17-year-old Mongolian princess Kököchin to her fiancé in the Persian Ilkhanate;[46] a few decades later, it was the point of arrival and departure for Ibn Battuta.[12][36][lower-alpha 7] Kublai Khan's invasions of Japan[16][36][47] and Java sailed primarily from its port.[48] The Islamic geographer Abulfeda noted, in c.1321, that its city walls remained ruined from its conquest by the Mongols.[8] In the mid-1320s, Friar Odoric noted the town's two Franciscan friaries, but admitted the Buddhist monasteries were much larger, with over 3000 monks in one.[8]

In 1357, the Shiite Muslim garrison undertook the Ispah Rebellion against the Yuan and their local Sunni Muslim leadership. By 1362, they controlled the countryside as far as the outskirts of Fuzhou, but after a defeat by the Yuan there they retreated to Quanzhou. There, their leaders were killed by Nawuna, a descendant of Pu Shougeng, who was killed in turn by Chen Youding. Chen began a campaign of persecution against the city's Sunni community—including massacres and grave desecration—that eventually became a three days of anti-foreign massacre.[42] Emigrants fleeing the persecution rose to prominent positions throughout Southeast Asia, spurring the development of Islam on Java and elsewhere.[42] The Yuan were expelled in 1368.[16]

The Ming discouraged foreign commerce other than formal tributary missions. By 1473, trade had declined to the point that Quanzhou was no longer the headquarters of the imperial customs service for Fujian.[36] The "Japanese" or "dwarf" pirates, most of whom were actually disaffected Chinese, forced Quanzhou's Superintendency of Trade to close completely in 1522.[49] During the Qing Dynasty, the Sea Ban did not help the city's traders or fishermen: they were forced to abandon their access to the sea for years at a time and coastal farmers forced to relocate miles inland to inner counties like Yongchun and Anxi. Violent large scale clan fights with the thousands of non-native families from Guangdong who were deported to Quanzhou city by the Qing immediately occurred,[50]

In the 19th century, the city walls still protected a circuit of 7–8 miles (11–13 km) but embraced much vacant ground.[7] The bay began to attract Jardines' and Dents' opium ships from 1832. Following the First Opium War, Governor Henry Pottinger proposed using Quanzhou as an official opium depot to keep the trade out of Hong Kong and the other treaty ports but the rents sought by the imperial commissioner Qiying were too high.[49] When Chinese pirates overran the receiving ships in Shenhu Bay to capture their stockpiles of silver bullion in 1847, however, the traders moved to Quanzhou Bay regardless.[49] Around 1862, a Protestant mission was set up in Quanzhou. As late as the middle of the century, large Chinese junks could still access the town easily, trading in tea, sugar, tobacco, porcelain, and nankeens,[7] but sand bars created by the rivers around the town had generally incapacitated its harbor by the First World War. It remained a large and prosperous city, but conducted its maritime trade through Anhai.[4]

Administrative divisions

The prefecture-level city of Quanzhou administers four districts, three county-level cities, four counties, and two special economic districts. The People's Republic of China claims Kinmen Islands (Quemoy) (administered and also claimed by the Republic of China) as Jinmen County under the administration of Quanzhou.

English Name Simplified Pinyin POJ Area Population Density
Licheng District 鲤城区 Lǐchéng Qū Lí-siâⁿ-khu 52.41 404,817 7,724
Fengze District 丰泽区 Fēngzé Qū Hong-te̍k-khu 132.25 529,640 4,005
Luojiang District 洛江区 Luòjiāng Qū Lo̍k-kang-khu 381.72 187,189 490
Quangang District 泉港区 Quángǎng Qū Chôan-káng-khu 306.03 313,539 1025
Shishi City 石狮市 Shíshī Shì Chio̍h-sai-chhī 189.21 636,700 3,365
Jinjiang City 晋江市 Jìnjiāng Shì Chìn-kang-chhī 721.64 1,986,447 2,753
Nan'an City 南安市 Nán'ān Shì Lâm-oaⁿ-chhī 2,035.11 1,418,451 697
Hui'an County 惠安县 Huì'ān Xiàn Hūiⁿ-oaⁿ-kūiⁿ 762.19 944,231 1,239
Anxi County 安溪县 Ānxī Xiàn An-khoe-kūiⁿ 2,983.07 977,435 328
Yongchun County 永春县 Yǒngchūn Xiàn Éng-chhun-kūiⁿ 1,445.8 452,217 313
Dehua County 德化县 Déhuà Xiàn Tek-hòe-kūiⁿ 2,209.48 277,867 126
Kinmen County * 金門 Jīnmén Xiàn Kim-mn̂g-kūiⁿ
*Since its founding in 1949, the People's Republic of China ("Mainland China") has claimed the Kinmen Islands (Quemoy) as part of Quanzhou but has never controlled them; they are administered by and also claimed by the Republic of China (Taiwan).



Medieval Quanzhou was long one of the most cosmopolitan Chinese cities, with folk, Buddhist, and Hindu temples; Islamic mosques; and Christian churches, including Nestorian and a cathedral (financed by a rich Armenian lady) and two Franciscan friaries. Andrew of Perugia served as the Roman Catholic bishop of the city from 1322.[8] Odoric of Pordenone was responsible for relocating the relics of the four Franciscans martyred at Thana in India in 1321 to the mission in Quanzhou.[16] English Presbyterian missionaries raised a chapel around 1862.[7] The Qingjing Mosque dates to 1009 but is now preserved as a museum.[45][51] The Buddhist Kaiyuan Temple has been repeatedly rebuilt but includes two 5-story 13th-century pagodas.[45] Among the most popular folk or Taoist temples is that to Guandi (关帝庙), the war god who is honored for his control of weather and wealth.[45] Jinjiang also preserves the Cao'an Temple (草庵寺), originally constructed by Manicheans under the Yuan but now used by New Age spiritualists, and a Confucian Temple (文庙, Wenmiao).[45]


Locals speak the Quanzhou variety of Min Nan essentially the same as the Amoy dialect spoken in Xiamen, and similar to South East Asian Hokkien and Taiwanese. It is unintelligible with Mandarin. Many overseas Chinese whose ancestors came from the Quanzhou area, especially those in Southeast Asia, often speak mainly Hokkien at home. Around the "Southern Min triangle area," which includes Quanzhou, Xiamen and Zhangzhou, locals all speak Minnan languages. The dialects they speak are similar but have different intonations.


Quanzhou has been a source for Chinese emigration to Southeast Asia and Taiwan. Some of these communities date to Quanzhou's heyday a millennium ago under the Song and Yuan dynasties.[52] About 6 million overseas Chinese trace their ancestry to Quanzhou and Tong'an county. Most of them live in Taiwan or Southeast Asian countries, including Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Burma, and Thailand.


Historically, Quanzhou exported black tea, camphor, sugar, indigo, tobacco, ceramics, cloth made of grass, and some minerals. They imported, primarily from Guangzhou, wool cloth, wine, and watches, as of 1832. As of that time, the East India Company was exporting an estimated £150,000 a year in black tea from Quanzhou.[53]

Quanzhou is a major exporter of agricultural products such as tea, banana, lychee and rice. It is also a major producer of quarry granite and ceramics. Other industries include textiles, footwear, fashion and apparel, packaging, machinery, paper and petrochemicals.[54]

Quanzhou is the biggest automotive market in Fujian; it has the highest rate of private automobile possession.[55]

Its GDP ranked first in Fujian Province for 20 years, from 1991 to 2010. In 2008, Quanzhou's textile and apparel production accounted for 10% of China's overall apparel production, stone exports account for 50% of Chinese stone exports, resin handicraft exports account for 70% of the country's total, ceramic exports account for 67% of the country's total, candy production accounts for 20%, and the production of sport and tourism shoes accounts for 80% of Chinese, and 20% of world production. Because of this, Quanzhou is known today as China's "shoe city." Quanzhou's 3,000 shoe factories produce 500 million pairs a year, making nearly one in every four pairs of sneakers made in China.

Different districts and counties in Quanzhou have their own special industries which are known to the rest of China. Jinjiang and Shishi are famous for apparel and textiles, Huian is famous for its stone, Quangang is famous for petrifaction, Dehua for Ceramics, Yongchun for Citrus, Anxi for wulong tea, Nan An for building materials, and Fengze for resin.

Notable products


Quanzhou is an important transport hub within southeastern Fujian province. Many export industries in the Fujian interior cities will transport goods to Quanzhou ports. Quanzhou Port was one of the most prosperous port in Tang Dynasty while now still an important one for exporting. Quanzhou is also connected by major roads from Fuzhou to the north and Xiamen to the south.

There is a passenger ferry terminal in Shijing, Nan'an, Fujian, with regular service to the Shuitou Port in the ROC-controlled Kinmen Island.


Quanzhou Jinjiang International Airport is Quanzhou region's airport, served by passenger flights within Fujian province and other destinations throughout the country.


Quanzhou has two kinds of railway service. The Zhangping–Quanzhou–Xiaocuo Railway, a "conventional" rail line opened ca. 2001, connects several cargo stations within Quanzhou Prefecture with the interior of Fujian and the rest of the country. Until 2014, this line also had passenger service, with fairly slow passenger trains from Beijing, Wuhan, and other places throughout the country terminating at the Quanzhou East Railway Station, a few kilometers northeast of the center of the city. Passenger service on this line was terminated, and Quanzhou East Railway Station closed on December 9, 2014.[56]

Since 2010, Quanzhou is served by the high-speed Fuzhou–Xiamen Railway, part of the Hangzhou–Fuzhou–Shenzhen High-Speed Railway, which runs along China's southeastern sea coast. High-speed trains on this line stop at Quanzhou Railway Station (in Beifeng Subdistrict of Fengze District, some 10 miles north of Quanzhou city center) and Jinjiang Railway Station. Trains to Xiamen take under 45 minutes, making it a convenient weekend or day trip. By 2015, direct high-speed service has become available to a number of cities in the country's interior, from Beijing to Chongqing and Guiyang.


Long-distance bus services also run daily/nightly to Shenzhen and other major cities.

Colleges and universities


Quanzhou is generally ignored by Chinese tourists in favor of nearby Xiamen. Nonetheless, Quanzhou was one of the 24 famous historic cultural cities first approved by the Chinese government. Notable cultural practices include:

The city hosted the Sixth National Peasants' Games in 2008. Signature local dishes include rice dumplings and oyster omelettes.[45]

Notable Historical and cultural sites (the 18 views of Quanzhou as recommended by the Fujian tourism board) include the Ashab Mosque and Kaiyuan Temple mentioned above, as well as:

  • Qing Yuan mountain (清源山) - The tallest hill within the city limits, which hosts a great view of West lake.
  • East Lake Park (东湖) - Located in the city center. It is home to a small zoo.
  • West Lake Park (西湖公园) - The largest body of fresh water within the city limits.
  • Scholar Street (状元街) - Champion street about 500 meters long, elegant environment, mainly engaged in tourism and cultural crafts.

Notable Modern cultural sites include:

  • Fengze Square - Located in the city center and acts as a venue for shows and events.
  • Dapingshan - The second tallest hill within the city limits, crowned with an enormous equestrian statue of Zheng Chenggong.
  • The Embassy Lounge - Situated in the "1916 Cultural Ideas Zone" which acts as a platform for mixing traditional Chinese art with modern building techniques and designs[57]

Relics from Quanzhou's past are preserved at the Maritime[45] or Overseas-Relations History Museum.[58] It includes large exhibits on Song-era ships and Yuan-era tombstones.[45] A particularly important exhibit is the so-called Quanzhou ship, a seagoing junk that sunk some time after 1272 and was recovered in 1973–74.[58]

The old city center preserves "balcony buildings" (骑楼, qilou), a style of southern Chinese architecture from the Republican Era.[45]

Notable residents

Li Nu, son of Li Lu, visited Hormuz in Persia in 1376, converted to Islam, married a Persian girl, and brought her back to Quanzhou. Li Nu was the ancestor of the Ming reformer Li Chih.[59][60][61]

The Ding or Ting family of Chendai in Quanzhou claims descent from the Muslim leader Sayyid Ajjal Shams al-Din Omar through his son Nasr al-Din or Nasruddin (Chinese: Nasulading).[62] The Dings have branches in Taiwan, the Philippines, and Malaysia among the Chinese communities there, no longer practicing Islam but still maintaining a Hui identity. The deputy secretary-general of the Chinese Muslim Association on Taiwan, Ishag Ma (馬孝棋) has claimed "Sayyid is an honorable title given to descendants of the Prophet Mohammed, hence Sayyid Shamsuddin must be connected to Prophet Mohammed". The Ding family in Taisi Township in Yunlin County of Taiwan, traces descent from him through the Ding of Quanzhou in Fujian.[63] Nasruddin was appointed governor in Karadjang and retained his position in Yunnan till his death, which Rashid, writing about 1300, says occurred five or six years before. (According to the History of Yuan, "Nasulading" died in 1292.) Nasruddin's son Abubeker, who had the surname Bayan Fenchan (evidently the Boyen ch'a-r of the Yüan shi), was governor in Zaitun at the time Rashid wrote. He bore also his grandfather's title of Sayid Edjell and was Minister of Finance under Kublai's successor.[64] Nasruddin is mentioned by Marco Polo, who styles him "Nescradin".[65][66][67]


  1. Zaiton's identification with Quanzhou was controversial in the 19th century, with some scholars preferring to associate Polo and Ibn Battuta's great port with the much more attractive harbor at Xiamen on a variety of pretexts. The Chinese records are, however, clear as to Quanzhou's former status and the earlier excellence of its harbor, which slowly silted up over the centuries.
  2. Zhangzhou itself is named for its former status as the seat of the imperial Chinese Zhang River Prefecture.
  3. "Satin" actually derives via French from the Italian adjective setino ("silken") derived from Latin sētā ("silk").[24]
  4. Among other testaments to this age are tombstones which have been found written in Chinese, Arabic, Syriac, and Latin.[16]
  5. It was considered so important by the Jesuits that they sometimes called all of Fujian Chinheo.[7] In 1515, Giovanni d'Empoli mistakenly recorded that "Zeiton" was the seat of the "Great Can" who ruled China[36] but Quanzhou never served as an imperial capital.
  6. Notwithstanding the derivation of Zayton from Quanzhou's old nickname "City of the Tung Trees", some details of Ibn Battuta's description suggest he was referring to Zhangzhou.[10]
  7. Quanzhou was also the probable point of departure for the Franciscan friar John of Marignolli around the same time but this is uncertain given the partial nature of the record of his time in China.
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Further reading

  • Brown, Bill (2004), Mystic Quanzhou: City of Light, Xiamen: Xiamen University Press.
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