Xiamen was first extablished during the Jin Dynasty as part of Tong'an County.

The area was known as Tong'an County under Quanzhou under Emperor Changxing's reign in the Late Tang Dynasty (933 A.D). The records reflect strong growth during the Song Dynasty.

The city walls were built during the Ming Dynasty, when Xiamen became an important commercial center and pirate attacks were a real threat to the city. The sheltered harbor provided the city with a port which was one of the major links on to the Indies, and its proximity to Quanzhou, gave the goods imported a route into the rest of China

Xiamen's importance as a port continued to grow into the 1600s, when Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands began to trade through the city. The Dutch in particular made an impact on the area when they attempted to colonise it in the first half of the 17th Century. The famous Chinese General, Zheng Chenggong used the city as a base from which to fight the invading forces, finally fighting them off and establishing his own outpost on Taiwan in 1661. The end of the war with the Netherlands led to resumed trade relations with Europe, which continued well until the outset of the Opium Wars.

The Treaty of Nanjing which was signed after the end of the Opium Wars named Xiamen as one of the first five ports to be opened up to foreigners. Gulang Yu (Gulang Island) became an international settlement, which brought trade, money and European architectural styles to the area. The Japanese took control of the island in 1939. In the 1980's, Xiamen was opened up yet again after being named as one of China's four SEZ's (Special Economic Zones) alongside Shenzhen, Zhuhai and Shantou.
 

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