XIAMEN -- I realized early in this adventure that much would be happening at the last-minute, and that I’d have to improvise to get what I needed. And so, with a heavy heart, I bought a last-minute plane ticket for Xiamen, a southern coastal city flecked with palm trees, cool breezes and 80-degree November days.
Yes, I have a difficult job, but someone needs to do it, and there is no tropical beach I won’t visit in pursuit of the story.
Xiamen is located just across the strait of Formosa from Tiawan – it could be its distinction as a possible site for World War III that makes it less combed over by Western tourists, but it definitely felt less discovered than many other places to boast similar climes. Before doing the work that brought me here I spent much of my day on Gulang Yu, the "island of pianos" (or so it's billed) and a place of sidewalk musicians. Download sidewalk.wmv The island was home to the Xiamen (then better known as Amoy) foreign community during its days as a treaty port.
Those days were fateful for both Amoy and Fujian province. As part of China’s territorial concessions after the Opium wars, Fujian was opened to emigration, the result being that much of the Chinese-ancestor population in the U.S. and other countries originates in Xiamen. The province is less provincial than many of its counterparts, and while Xiamen shares the country’s ambivalence toward the mid-nineteenth to mid-20th centuries, it’s proud of what the Chinese who left it accomplished. The city hosts an overseas Chinese museum to celebrate the achievements of those who left. It’s funded by Chinese who emigrated from Fujian and sent their money back home.
The trip was a bit of a jag, born of necessity and not something I had planned. But I was fortunate to make it to Xiamen -- Beijing, Shanghai and Xi’an are important cities, but visiting them and then saying you’ve seen China would be like traveling to Washington, New York and Wichita and saying you’ve seen America. My experience remains very, very narrow, but Xiamen added an important piece. I guess that now I’ve seen Washington, New York, Wichita and Tampa. Hey, it’s variety.