Gulangyu Island

Gulangyu (鼓浪屿) is an island in Xiamen, a few minutes by ferry from downtown. It has a population around 17,000 and an area of about two square km (500 acres). It was a foreign enclave from the 1840s until the 1930s, and is now both a residential suburb and a major tourist area. In 2017 it was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The island is extremely popular with Chinese tourists, who arrive in droves, often in large tour groups. You can spot the guides because they hold up brightly coloured flags for their flock to follow. Although the island is quite scenic, the noisy crowds can be quite annoying at times. Gulangyu is probably best avoided during major Chinese holidays and may be more pleasant during the week than on a weekend.

Some readers may know the place from Neal Stephenson's novel ReamDe; much of the story takes place in Xiamen and one character, the female British spy, has an apartment on Gulangyu. Those who do not know the novel might consider picking up a copy for on-the-road reading when heading for Xiamen.


Books and films about Gulangyu

  • The Sound of an Island: Gulangyu As Seen and Described by Famous Writers (Gulang Wenyin: Mingjia Bixia de Gulangyu), edited by Zhu Shuiyong (朱水涌). Beijing: Dianzi gongye chubanshe, 2011. This is a collection of fifty-five short essays and poems about Gulangyu by forty-eight well-known modern and contemporary writers.

  • The Wind and Waves of Gulangyu (Tianfeng Hailang Gulangyu). Released in 2004, this is a 20-minute documentary directed by Wang Honghai (王鸿海) , which won the China Huabiao Film Awards.

  • Glancing Back at Gulangyu (Huimou Gulangyu). Released in 2014, this film is a ten-episode mini film series directed by Lü Zusong (吕祖松) and produced by the local U&A Television, Film, and Media Corporation.

Other information about Gulangyu historic international settlement:

Information about ferry tickets to Gulangyu: