China’s cities are those of perfect contrast, old meets new on every street corner, modern stands alongside tradition. But the one that stands out the most in Fuzhou in my opinion is it’s architecture. You are surrounded by towering blocks of cement and glass reaching for the sky. Of course there are also buildings that have questionable stability and leave you wandering as to what type of health and safety regulations China has with its construction. For me though, wandering through the ancient buildings of Sanfang Qixiang is what strikes a union between the modern city and its history.
Sanfang-Qixiang literally translates to ‘Three Lanes and Seven Alleys’. It is a beautiful and lively district that is steeped in history, dating back, I believe, to the late Western Jin Dynasty. Wandering through the twisted lanes and quaint courtyards you can lose the bustling sound of it’s main street that is now the dwelling of restaurants, stores and coffee shops. Instead, you find yourself absorbed in the history this museum of architecture presents, down to the very seashells embedded in the walls, collected amongst the sand used to make the bricks.
The alleys of Sanfang Qixiang become narrow in places as you glide alongside the white walls, until you come to either another turn, an open courtyard or a hidden museum, often free, that opens up the history of the ancient residential complex that has been, and still is
home to many famous poets, politicians and military leaders. The delicate grey tiled rooftops are perhaps my favorite, curving and being just as decorative as every other aspect of the buildings.
At night, Sanfang Qixiang is more alive than the day, often you can here opera singing competing with the excessively loud pop music bellowing from the clothing stores. Artists practice their craft at their open stalls. Small children eat the sculptured candy as they walk in and out of the bustling crowd. Coffee shops are always alive in the evening and even Starbucks sits in the style of the old buildings. This truly is one of my favorite spots in the city and should be on any tourists or expats list of things to do in Fuzhou.