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Xiamen

[shyah-mœn]

Xiamen, English pronunciation /ˈʃjɑːmən/ or SHYAH-muhn (Amoy, Eng., pronunciation /ˈeɪmɔɪ/ or EH-moy) is a coastal sub-provincial city in southeastern Fujian province, People's Republic of China. It looks out to the Taiwan Strait and borders Quanzhou (Chôan-chiu) to the north and Zhangzhou (Chiang-chiu) to the south.

Xiamen and the surrounding countryside are famous for being an ancestral home to overseas Chinese and one of China's earliest Special Economic Zones in the 1980s. It covers an area of 1 565 km² with a local population of 5 million. It was recently named China's 2nd most livable city.

City name

Earlier, the name was written as , meaning "Lower Gate" — possibly because of its position at the mouth of the Nine Dragon River. The characters "下門" ("lower gate") in Zhangzhou dialect of Hokkien (one of the major Min nan languages) are pronounced Ē-mûi (using the POJ Romanization). This is the source of the name "Amoy". The dialect is still spoken in the west and southwest of the city. In Quanzhou dialect of Hokkien, the most common dialect, it is pronounced Ē-mn̂g.

Later, the authorities found "下門" too unrefined and changed the name to the modern toponym "", which has the same pronunciation in Mandarin (but not in Min Nan) and literally means "The Gate of the Grand Mansion". The name continues to be pronounced Ē-mn̂g in Hokkien, effectively using the older name, "下門".

Administration

The subprovincial city of Xiamen administers 6 districts.

The districts of Siming and Huli form the Special Economic Zone.

In May 2003, Gulangyu Island (Kó-lōng-sū) and Kaiyuan District were merged into Siming District, Xinglin District was merged into Jimei District, and Xiang'an District was created out of a section of Tong'an District.

History

During the early Jin Dynasty, the place was made Tong'an District (同安縣) in 282, a sub-entity of Jin'an Prefecture (晉安郡). During the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD), the city was known as a sustainable international seaport, and the Chinese scientist and statesman Shen Kuo (1031-1095) spent some of his youth there while his father was a local bureaucrat on the government staff. In 1387, the Ming Dynasty used the place as base against pirates, and was part of Quanzhou. Koxinga, stationed here in 1650, named it Siming Island (思明洲), or "Remembering the Ming", but the city was renamed by the Manchus in 1680 to Xiamen Subprefecture. The name "Siming" was changed back after the 1912 Xinhai Revolution and the settlement was made a county. Later it reverted to the name Xiamen City. In 1949, Xiamen became a provincial city (省辖市), then was upgraded to a vice-province-class city (副省级市), or a municipality. It was made a Special Economic Zone in 1980.

Xiamen was the port of trade first used by Europeans (mainly the Portuguese) in 1541. It was China's main port in the nineteenth century for exporting tea. As a result, Hokkien (also known as the Amoy dialect) had a major influence on how Chinese terminology was translated into English and other European languages. For example, the words "Amoy", "tea" (茶; tê), "cumshaw" (感謝; kám-siā), "ketchup" (茄汁; kiô-chap), and "Pekoe" (白毫; pe̍h-hô), kowtow (磕頭; khàu-thâu), and possibly Japan (Ji̍t-pún) originated from the Hokkien.

Xiamen was one of the five Chinese treaty ports opened by the Treaty of Nanjing (signed in 1842) at the end of the First Opium War between Britain and China. As a result, it was an early entry point for Protestant missions in China.

In 1999, the largest corruption scandal in China's history was uncovered, implicating up to 200 government officials. Lai Changxing is alleged to have run an enormous smuggling operation, which financed the city's football team, film studios, largest construction project, and a vast brothel rented to him by the local Public Security Bureau. According to Time, "locals used to joke that Xiamen should change its name to Yuanhua, the name of Lai's company." They subsequently claimed that potential investors were discouraged by the taint of corruption.

Economy

Since Xiamen Special Economic Zone was established, it has opened up to foreign direct investment and created many jobs, factories, export opportunities for local companies and multinational corporations. Xiamen benefits particularly from investment capital from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. Xiamen's primary economic activities include fishing, shipbuilding, food processing, tanning, textiles, machine tool manufacturing, chemical industries, telecommunications, and financial services.

Xiamen is a favourite destination for foreign investors. By the end of 2000, a total of 4,991 projects with foreign direct investment had been approved in the city, with a contractual foreign investment amount of US$17.527 billion and an actual foreign investment amount of US$11.452 billion.

In 1992, Xiamen was ranked among the top 10 Chinese cities in relation to comprehensive strengths with its GDP increasing by an average of over 20% annually. In 2007, Xiamen's GDP amounted to 137.5 billion Yuan, an increase of 16.1% over the previous year; and the per-capita GDP was 56,595 yuan (US$7,398). Further economic reforms were introduced and this brought about a total volume of imports and exports in 2007 of US$39.8 billion, while that of exports totalled US$25.6 billion.

Xiamen is also the host of the China International Fair for Investment and Trade held annually in early September to attract foreign direct investment into the Chinese mainland.

Financial services

By Chinese standards, Xiamen has highly developed banking services. The biggest bank is the state-owned commercial bank, Sino-foreign joint venture Xiamen International Bank, and solely foreign-funded Xiamen City Commercial Bank.

Foreign banks that have established representative offices in Xiamen include:

There are more than 600 financial institutions in operation in Xiamen. Retail and corporate customers in Xiamen have access to a wide variety of financial services and various financial services firm.

Geography

Xiamen comprises Xiamen Island (longitude 118° 04'04"E, latitude 24° 26'46" N.), Gulangyu Island, and a larger region along the mouth of the Jiulong River on the mainland. Huli District and most of Siming District (except Gulangyu) are on Xiamen Island, while the other four districts lie on the mainland. The Gaoji (Gaoqi-Jimei) Causeway built in 1955 transformed Xiamen Island into a peninsula by linking it with the mainland.

Xiamen Island is located very close to the island of Quemoy (Kinmen), which is governed by the Republic of China (based on Taiwan).

Climate

Xiamen has a monsoonal humid subtropical climate. Summers are hot and humid with 32°C average highs in July and August. Winters are humid and chilly with 10°C average lows in January and February. The maximum summer high is 38°C and the winter low is 2°C. The annual rainfall averages 1100mm, and strong north-eastern winds prevail.

Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Avg high °C 17 17 19 23 27 30 32 32 30 27 24 19
Avg low temperature °C 10 10 12 16 20 24 25 25 24 20 16 12
Source: MSN Weather

Culture

The local vernacular is Amoy, a dialect of Southern Min (閩南), also called Hokkien. Amoy is widely used and understood across the southern region of Fujian province as well as overseas. While it is widely spoken in and around Xiamen, the Amoy dialect has no official status, and the official language of all government business is Mandarin.

Media

  • Xiamen is served by Xiamen Television, which broadcasts news and entertainment such as movies and television series.

Transportation

Currently, there are nine Asian cities that have direct flights to Xiamen. They are Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Jakarta, Osaka, Nagoya, Tokyo, Seoul, Singapore and Bangkok. Cities outside China's mainland that have direct flights to Xiamen are Hong Kong and Macau which are situated on Guangdong province's southern border.

  • Taxi rides are available from the airport to the city. The taxi fare is around 30-40 RMB.
  • A ferry service links Xiamen Island and Gulangyu Island.
  • There are two major bridges linking Xiamen Island to the mainland.

There is also a bus service for 1 or 2 RMB. This is the main form of mass transit. Taxis are also common and can be easily hailed in most areas of the city.

Many people in the city also ride bicycles to get from place to place. Unlike in most Chinese cities, where motorcycles and mopeds are the major form of transportation, such vehicles are not allowed in Xiamen. Using car horns is also banned. These two laws make Xiamen's streets especially pleasant.

Infrastructure

Xiamen Port

Xiamen Port is one of the top ten ports in China. It is a huge, deepwater, ice-free port that never silts up. Xiamen Port is located on Xiamen Island which is at the mouth of the Jiulong River. It has an excellent natural harbour and is well connected to the mainland. The natural coastline in the port area is 64.5 km while the water is over 12 m indepth. There are 81 berths of big, medium or small tonnage, including 16 deep-water berths, of which 6 operate containers of over 10,000 tonnes. 100 000 t ships can berth straight at the inner port, while 50 000 t ships can pull in for loading and unloading. Currently, Xiamen port has navigation routes to Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Kaohsiung and Singapore. Xiamen has recently opened ocean routes to the Mediterranean Sea, Europe and the Americas. In 2000, the cargo throughput at the port was 19.65 million tons, an increase of 10.82% over the previous year; the container throughput reached 108.46 million TEUs, up by 27.83% from the previous year.

Tourism

Xiamen was recently voted China's cleanest city, and has many attractions for the tourist. Xiamen and its surrounding countryside provides spectacular scenery and pleasant tree-lined beaches. Gulangyu, also known as Piano Island, is a popular, peaceful weekend getaway with amazing views of the city and features many Victorian-era style European edifices. Xiamen's Botanical Garden is a nature lover's paradise. The Buddhist Nanputuo Temple, dating back to the Tang Dynasty, is a national treasure. Xiamen is also famous for its history as a frontline during the war with Kinmen (also known as Jinmen or Quemoy) 50 years ago. One attraction for tourists is to view Kinmen island, a few kilometres away and under Taiwanese control, from Xiamen island.

Shopping

Xiamen has a wide variety of department stores. There are also supermarkets run by Metro and Wal-Mart and the ShoeMart Shopping Mall which is owned and operated by Mr. Henry Sy a businessman who hails from the Philippines. There are also supermarkets on university campuses and they have delivery services for many goods. In the university campus, there are many bookstores. Both the supermarkets and bookstores open seven days a week from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. In Xiamen, there are also night markets.

Zhongshan Lu

This is the main commercial street in Xiamen. It includes traditional shophouses with the latest fashion, shoes and wide variety of products. A large section of the street (between the ferry landing and Siming Street) has recently been fully pedestrianized.

Xiahe Lu

This is a newly established busy commercial precinct in Xiamen. Shopping centres located here include Railway Station World Trading Mall, Chengda Mall, Holiday World for Women and Children, Eupa and 3C.

Bailuzhou Shopping and Recreational Centre

This is situated in the upper Hubin Zhonglu and has a large assortment of shops and restaurants.

Colleges and universities

National

Public

Private

Sister cities

Notable inhabitants

References

External links

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