Xi­a­men be­comes sea­side haven for artists, cul­tural in­dus­tries

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA -

“Whether you come or not, the host is not there.” That is the slo­gan of a store called Nest in Xi­a­men, Fu­jian prov­ince, which pro­vides a shar­ing space for vis­i­tors to drink tea, read books, meet friends and kill time, all for free.

Along the nar­row cor­ri­dor of Nest re­side shelves of old books and paint­ings. Walk­ing up the even nar­rower spi­ral stair­case, vis­i­tors will find a bright and broad roof with a wooden tea ta­ble, some fine china cups and sev­eral green bon­sai.

“We have no prod­uct or ser­vice here. The guest is also the host,” said Shao Ye, co-founder of the store.

He said since the store’s open­ing in 2014, vis­i­tors have not taken any­thing away from the store. In­stead, many of them brought tea, cof­fee beans and snacks to share with oth­ers.

“A store with­out con­sump­tion makes tourists more re­laxed and free. Xi­a­men is a city of civ­i­liza­tion which can re­al­ize this idea,” Shao said.

Xi­a­men has at­tracted many young peo­ple due to its ro­man­tic cul­tural el­e­ments and friendly cit­i­zens, ac­cord­ing to Zeng Lian­gliang, a tour guide who has worked in the city for 12 years.

The pi­ano mu­seum on Gu­langyu Is­land and the Furong Tun­nel in Xi­a­men Uni­ver­sity, dec­o­rated with pic­tures painted by col­lege stu­dents and the danc­ing team of the Xaobailu Art The­ater, show a col­or­ful city of cul­ture and art, she said.

“Most of the tourists on my team were young peo­ple, along with some older peo­ple seek­ing a warm place to stay in win­ter,” she said. “Ninety-five per­cent of vis­i­tors said they were sat­is­fied with the trip.”

Zengcuoan vil­lage, once a small fish­ing vil­lage dat­ing back to the Qing Dy­nasty (1644-1911) near the coast­line of Xi­a­men, has trans­formed it­self into a gath­er­ing place for cul­tural cre­ativ­ity.

Along the nar­row road, more than 1,200 creative cul­tural stores and ho­tels wel­come more than 10 mil­lion vis­i­tors ev­ery year.

In the past, the more than 1,500 lo­cal cit­i­zens made their liv­ing by plant­ing crops, catch­ing seafood or rais­ing fish. With the rise of ur­ban­iza­tion, the old pat­tern of life changed.

A group of young pain­ters, sculp­tors and folk singers came here due to ge­o­graph­i­cal lo­ca­tion, form­ing the foun­da­tion of the area’s cul­tural and creative tourism.

The lo­cal gov­ern­ment helped to or­ga­nize grass-roots as­so­ci­a­tions for the about 5,000 youths in­volved in art to hold cul­tural events such as New Year par­ties and train­ing cour­ses for artis­tic top­ics.

Li Ren­jia, owner of a cake store in Zengc- uoan vil­lage, said he left Bei­jing af­ter seven years of work­ing with the US-based cater­ing group, Yum Brands Inc, and re­turned to his home­town in Fu­jian prov­ince in 2012 to be­gin his own busi­ness.

“When Fu­jian peo­ple wel­come a vis­i­tor in their home, the first thing the host will do is make a cup of tea,” Li said.

When in­volv­ing busi­ness is­sues, peo­ple here tend to be more re­laxed and would chat or have din­ner to­gether, in­stead of only stress­ing ef­fi­ciency and re­sults, he added.

“Not all things were writ­ten in black and white in con­tracts, but they would keep their prom­ises. It is a spirit of in­tegrity,” he said.

A few years ago, the shop own­ers signed an agree­ment for hon­est trad­ing. Stores en­gaged in any be­hav­ior of cheat­ing will be driven out of the vil­lage, he said.

Li brought the recipe of tra­di­tional cake­mak­ing of Pinghe county in Fu­jian from 1899 and ap­plied it to the cook­ing of sweet cakes con­tain­ing fresh flow­ers to tar­get fe­male cus­tomers, typ­i­cally from 18 to 30 years old.

Daily sales have surged from about 100 yuan ($14.73) in 2012 to more than 10,000 yuan to­day, he said.

Hou Yen-chin, a 36-year-old man from Miaoli county in Tai­wan, opened a porce­lain store in Zengcuoan vil­lage in 2015.

“There are many things in com­mon be­tween here and my home­town,” he said. “They both have a slow and tran­quil life­style.”

Now tourists from across the coun­try come to his shop to paint porce­lain cups with cus­tom words and im­ages with their own hands, show­ing love for their loved ones, he said.

The Sim­ing dis­trict of Xi­a­men is not only at­tract­ing young artists but also young cou­ples. The 13 hectares of Xi­touxia vil­lage are now home to 10 wed­ding pho­tog­ra­phy or­ga­ni­za­tions and more than 70 pho­tog­ra­phy work­shops where about 30,000 cou­ples from around the coun­try come to take wed­ding photos ev­ery year.

As the clos­est vil­lage to the Jin­men Is­lands, Xi­touxia has ex­pe­ri­enced ex­tra­or­di­nary changes.

The first house con­structed af­ter the war in 1958 now dis­plays an­tiques, in­clud­ing sol­diers’ caps and wa­ter cups, sewing ma­chines and black-and-white tele­vi­sion sets.

The stone houses once ac­com­mo­dated vil­lagers who lost their homes dur­ing the war and has been kept in its orig­i­nal form.

As the vil­lage clos­est to the sea in the city with a higher al­ti­tude, Xi­touxia also has large beach ar­eas and long coast­lines.

In 2003, the first photo stu­dio set­tled in the vil­lage, fol­lowed by oth­ers.

New cou­ples love the seascapes, mak­ing it the per­fect place to de­velop the pho­tog­ra­phy in­dus­try, said the owner of Houguhuayi Stu­dio.

PHOTOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

A cou­ple have wed­ding photos taken in Xi­touxia, a fish­ing vil­lage in Xi­a­men’s Sim­ing dis­trict.

Drum­mers play African-style mu­sic at the Xidi Cof­fee Street in Xi­a­men.

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