A Famous Historical City Built of Stone
Those who had been to Quanzhou are all enchanted by the stone buildings with the influence of the Tang and Song dynasties. The bridges, pagodas and awe-inspiring temple halls there are all imbued with ancient culture.
Bordering the sea, Quanzhou is a time-honored city of culture. As early as over 2,000 years ago, Quanzhou was inhabited by the Minyue tribe, a branch of the "Hundred Yue" people. After the unification of China by the First Emperor of the Qin Dynasty, a prefecture was set up here. The city was officially named Quanzhou in 711 A.D., the second year of the reign of Jingyun of the Tang Dynasty. As the shape of the city looked like a carp, it was also called the City of the Carp. Again, as coralbean trees were planted all around the city, it was also called the Coralbean City in history.
Quanzhou started trading with foreign countries in the Southern Dynasties, and during the Song and Yuan Dynasties its foreign trade flourished unprecedentedly. It had trade relations with over 100 countries and regions, becoming the biggest sea port in the East and one of the starting points of the "Silk Road on the Sea".
Quanzhou was reputed as a "Holy City". It boasts the existence of a great many historical sites and scenic spots relating to religion. And the flourish of religions in Quanzhou in those days was matchless.
The Kaiyuan Temple on the West Street in the city, first built in the year 686 A.D. and covering an area of 78,000 square meters, are equally famous as the Quangji Temple in Beijing and the Lingyin Temple in Hangzhou. The Main hall of the temple, the "Purple Cloud Hall", is 20 meters in total height, 9-bay in width and 6-bay in depth, with an area of 1,287 square meters. It is large in scale and has three distinguished features rarely seen in other temples: 100 heavy stone columns supporting the roof of the hall-- the Hall of One Hundred Pillars; five huge Buddha statues standing in the same hall; and most admirable being the flying musicians carved on some of the pillars. The 24 flying musicians supporting the beams have the upper part of their bodies that of a beautiful woman and the lower part that of a bird. Wearing thin skirts and holding musical instruments or sacrificial objects, they seem to be singing and dancing among the beams. The ancient artists thus skillfully used these 24 figures to support the beams and to symbolize 24 solar terms, and made them to wait upon the buddha day and night. This masterpiece ingeniously embodies the harmonious unity of mechanics, aesthetics and Buddhism.
The city of Quanzhou was not the only host to Buddhism but was a friendly harbour to other religions, including Christianity, Islamism and Manicheism. Along with the development of economy, foreigners kept pouring in to do business, to preach or to settle down. Many splendid cultural and religious relics bear witness, among which the most famous are the Qingjing (lustration) Mosque of Islamism and the "holy tombs" on the Lingshan Hill.
The Qingjing Mosque in Quanzhou is one of the five most time-honored, best preserved and biggest Qingjing Mosques in the Islamic world. It was designed after the mosque in Damascus, Syria, and built with pure granite. its pointed-arch portal, 20 meters high, has three layers, outer, middle and inner. The outer and middle layers are similar to the caisson ceiling in the Chinese ancient architecture. The vaulted inner layer took on the architectural style of the ancient Arab. Standing under the vault, you can realize the time-honored cultural exchange between China and foreign countries.
In the "holy tombs" on the Lingshan Hill are buried the disciples of Mohammed, founder of Islam, who travelled with difficulties to China across vast ocean to preach. This is one of the few existing relics in the islamic world. In the shape of a crescent, the winding stone corridor at the "holy tombs" signifies the purity and holiness of the disciples. The "Zheng He Burning Incense Tablet" records the prayer of a pious Chinese Moslem. The huge stone that shakes slightly when strong winds blow is said to be the relic of the holy sage.... Over many years, countless Moslems came here to worship.
At the foot of Mt. Qingyuan in the northern suburbs of Quanzhou there is a huge "Yuhua Rock", which was carved into a seated statue of the founder of Taoism, Lao Zi who has left hand on his knee, his right hand against a small table, his eyes looking straight forward and his beard flowing, in a leisurely and carefree manner. Five meters high, the statue is the biggest stone statue of Lao Zi in China.
The stone of Quanzhou has contributed much to the brilliance of the culture of religion in the city.
The East and West pagodas are also known as the Zhenguo Pogoda and the Renshou Pagoda. First built with wood during the Five Dynasties at the end of the Tang Dynasty, the pagodas were later rebuilt with bricks and finally rebuilt with stone in the Southern Song Dynasty. The two pagodas have been standing erect there for nearly 800 years despite earthquake, typhoon and storm. Both pagodas were built in the style of tower, the West Pagoda being 44.6 meters in height and the East Pagoda 48.4 meters. They are octagonal in shape, five tiers high with five layers of eaves. The 39 granite carvings in relief at halfway up the East Pagoda depict the stories in the Buddhist scriptures and Indian folklores, done in the traditional way of painting and carving China mixed with the art of a foreign country. According to records, when the East Pagoda was built up the fourth tier, abbot Faquan passed away. It happened that an eminent monk Tianxi of India arrived at Quanzhou at that time ot preach scriptures. The last part of the construction project was then accomplished under his guidance. This unusual episode has made the East Pagoda a historical evidence of the friendly cooperation between China and foreign countries.
It is said, "the bridges in central Fujian are second to none under heaven". The most representative one is the Luoyang Bridge. In 1053, the 5th year in the reign of Huangyou of the Northern Song Dynasty, the people of Quanzhou, who are good at manipulating stones, built a dike by throwing stones into the sea where the Luoyang River empties itself into the sea, on the initiative of Quanzhou Prefect Cai Xiang. The foundation of the piers was ingeniously designed: shaped like a raft to ward off the pressure of the currents. Oysters were cultivated at the base of the piers to help glue them to the bedrock. This is the first sea port bridges in China, the Luoyang Bridge. A grand project when built, the bridge, 834 meters in length, 7 meters in width, had 31piers seven pavilions, nine stone pagodas and carved balustrades on either side with 28 stone lions. 7.. verdant pines were planted in the north and south of the bridge. The Luoyang Bridge spanning the Luoyang River has been described as a magnificent view like a rainbow spanning the sky.
The history of Human being began with stone. It is again stone, Quanzhou, that enables you to feel the greatness of the ancient culture of China.