Xiamen becomes seaside haven for artists, cultural industries
“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.
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.