Fukien

/fooh"kyen"/, n.
Older Spelling. Fujian.

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Introduction
Chinese (Wade-Giles)  Fu-chien,  (Pinyin)  Fujian,  

      sheng (province) on the southeastern coast of China to the northwest of the island of Taiwan. It is bordered by the provinces of Chekiang to the north, Kiangsi to the west, and Kwangtung to the southwest; and by the East China Sea to the northeast, the Taiwan Strait to the east, and the South China Sea to the southeast. It occupies a strategic maritime position linking the two sections of the China Sea. One of the smaller Chinese provinces, Fukien has an area of 47,500 square miles (123,100 square kilometres). Its capital and largest city is Fu-chou (Fuzhou) (“Happy City”).

      The name of the province, Fukien, means “Happy Establishment.” The province is also known as Min Sheng (Min Province), after the “seven Min tribes” that inhabited the area during the Chou dynasty (1111–255 BC). It was, however, during the Sung dynasty (AD 960–1279) that the name Fukien was adopted and the basic geographical boundaries of the province were established. The region is one of the most picturesque in Asia, with wooded hills and winding streams, orchards, tea gardens, and terraced rice fields on the gentler slopes.

Physical and human geography

The land
      About 95 percent of Fukien is mountainous. The province is crossed by several ranges of moderate elevation that run roughly parallel to the coast. They constitute a part of a system of ancient blocks of mountains trending from southwest to northeast. The Fukien–Chekiang section forms a part of a raised massif that has been subjected to folding and refolding. A sharp natural boundary exists to the west and northwest between this uplifted block, on the one hand, and the low-lying Kiangsi Basin and the southwest part of Chekiang Province, on the other. Along this boundary run the Wu-i Mountains (Wuyi Mountains), which, in the extreme north, include the Hsien-hsia Mountains on the Chekiang–Fukien border.

      The Wu-i Mountains, which form a formidable natural barrier between Fukien and the interior of China, reach a height of about 6,000 feet (1,800 metres) in western Fukien and in adjacent parts of southwest Chekiang. The range forms the watershed between the Min River system to the southeast and the Kan River system—a tributary to the Yangtze—to the northwest. The few passes across the Wu-i Mountains are high and difficult.

      The mountain ranges tend to be more compressed in the interior and to broaden out toward the coast. Faults occur both along the axes of the mountains and across them, thus causing an extreme fragmentation of the land surface, so that local relief forms a complicated pattern.

      Fukien has a submerged rocky coast that abounds in islands and islets, capes and peninsulas, and bays and havens. The shoreline is extremely irregular, with a total length estimated to be 1,680 miles (2,700 kilometres). The chief offshore islands are Quemoy (Chin-men, under Chinese Nationalist control), Hsia-men, and Tung-shan in the south; and Hai-t'an and Matsu (Ma-tsu, also under Nationalist control) in the north.

      Rivers are of great importance in Fukien, having for centuries provided the only means of transport. They flow into estuaries that form natural harbours, and their abundant water supplies are used for domestic consumption as well as for the irrigation of the myriad rice fields in the alluvial plains along their courses.

      The general slope of the land descends from the northwest to the southeast. The main rivers cut across the intermediate ranges in deep gorges, while their tributaries drain broader intermontane valleys that follow the grain of the relief. The result is an almost perfect example of the trellis pattern of stream drainage, particularly well illustrated in the Min River system.

      The drainage area of the Min River of Fukien (to be distinguished from the Min River of Szechwan Province) occupies about half of the province. It is formed by the confluence upstream of three rivers, the largest of which is the Chien, which flows from its source near the Fukien–Chekiang border. The Chien has its own subsystem of tributary streams that drain the famous Wu-i tea district. The second source stream of the Min, the Fu-t'un, is also called the Shao-wu for the chief city of the region; it flows down the eastern slopes of the Wu-i Mountains. The third source, the Sha, flows from the south and southwest, arising on the eastern slopes of another section of the Wu-i range. The three streams, converging from the north, south, and west, meet at Nan-p'ing, their waters uniting to form the Min, which flows southeast past the city of Fu-chou to the sea.

      To the south of the Min is the Chiu-lung River (Jiulong River), which has its outlet to the sea at Amoy (Hsia-men). To the southwest of the Min is the Han River, which crosses the southwestern border of Fukien Province to empty into the sea at Swatow, the main port of eastern Kwangtung.

Soils
      After centuries of rice cultivation, soils in the valley plains have been greatly modified. Well-developed gray-brown forest soils are widely distributed in the forest areas of the interior mountains, whereas mature red soils are common in the low hills and on high terraces. White saline soils and salt swamps are found in the coastal flatlands. Their parent rocks are marine saline deposits, penetrated by seawater. Attempts at desalination appear to have been successful, and some soils that were formerly saline are now used for rice cultivation.

      Fukien lies just north of the Tropic of Cancer. The climate along the coastal area of the province is semitropical—very hot in summer but cool in winter. The mean temperatures in Fu-chou are about 84° F (29° C) in July and about 52° F (11° C) in January. There are three seasons in the year. November through February is the cool season; March through May, the warm season; and June through October, the hot season. The growing period lasts throughout the year. The northwestern mountains have a temperate climate but can become very cold in winter.

      Summer is dominated by a monsoonal (rain-bearing) tropical airflow from the sea. Rainfall increases from the coast to the western mountains and averages between 50 and 80 inches (1,270 and 2,030 millimetres) a year. Some precipitation occurs in winter, occasionally in the form of snow in the northwest. The coast is subject to typhoons during late summer and early autumn.

Plant and animal life
      The province has extremely varied vegetation, ranging from tropical species to forest and plant types associated with a cold temperate climate. Commercial forests are located upstream in the mountainous and rainier interior, away from rural settlements. The province has subtropical, laurel-leafed forests, as well as many kinds of conifers. In western Fukien the lower elevations support tropical mountain forests. The lianas are purely tropical. Tree ferns grow in the ravines. Higher up, where altitude modifies the climate, deciduous trees, conifers, and rhododendrons occur. Animal life in Fukien is of the subtropical forest variety and is characterized by great diversity, with many kinds of birds, amphibians, and reptiles.

Settlement patterns
      About one-fifth of Fukien's population lives in cities and towns, the rest in rural areas. Population densities are lowest in the mountain uplands, increase in the river valleys, and are highest on the coastal plains and estuaries near Amoy, Ch'üan-chou, and Fu-chou.

The people
      Han (Chinese) make up nearly all of the population. The largest ethnic minority group consists of She tribesmen (She Min). Those who live in Fukien are located in the hilly hinterland of the northern coast. Most of them are distributed in the four counties of Fu-an, Hsia-p'u, Fu-ting, and Ning-te; all are engaged in farming.

      Other minority groups include the Miao, Hui (Chinese Muslims), and Manchu. The Miao are distributed in the mountainous interior of northern Fukien; the Hui live in the cities of Fu-chou, Amoy, and Ch'üan-chou; and the Manchu live principally in Fu-chou, being descendants of Manchu soldiers who garrisoned Chinese cities during the Ch'ing (Manchu) dynasty. The She people, culturally affiliated with the Miao and the Yao, are not officially recognized as an ethnic group. They are distributed in the northern mountains, from the coast to the interior, and are even found beyond the Fukien border in Kiangsi and southern Chekiang. Nor are the “boat people” (Tanka or Tang-chia), who live on boats in the streams and estuaries, recognized as a separate group.

      There are four principal local dialects in Fukien. Hokchiu (the Fu-chou dialect) is spoken principally in Fu-chou and in the Min-hou area corresponding roughly to the area of the former Fu-chou Fu (prefecture). Hokkien, the Amoy dialect, is spoken in southern Fukien (thus, it is also known as the Min-nan, or south Fukien, dialect). The Hokchia, or Hakka (Hakka language), dialect of Fukien is spoken in the upper Han Valley of southwestern Fukien. Lastly, the Henghua dialect is spoken in the Henghua district between Fu-chou and Amoy. There are also literally hundreds of subdialects, making the province one of the most linguistically fragmented in China.

The economy
      Since the 1950s Fukien has largely been a net importer of food grains despite significant growth in output. Its major crops are sugarcane, peanuts (groundnuts), citrus fruit, rice, and tea. Fukien's sugarcane yields are among the highest in the nation. Much of the province's productivity comes from its use of chemical fertilizer. A growing proportion of agricultural output has also come from noncrop sources, particularly from fisheries, animal husbandry, and forest products. The most important woods are fir, pine, and rosewood, mostly floated in the form of big rafts down to Fu-chou, a great timber emporium. Plans emphasize the more intense exploitation of Fukien's hilly uplands as the key to its more rapid agricultural diversification.

      Two crops of rice are harvested each year, the first in June, the second in September. The export of tea from Fu-chou to the European market has become insignificant, but Fukien remains a great tea-growing province with a large domestic market. A special feature is its production of flower-scented teas, for the manufacture of which there are factories in Fu-chou. There are also factories for the manufacture of paper from bamboo pulp.

      Fukien also has considerable mineral wealth, including coal, iron, copper, gold, graphite, and kaolin (china clay) for making porcelain. Mines are widely scattered over the province.

      Before 1949 Fukien had little modern industry. The modern Fu-chou Shipyard was built in 1866, but it was largely destroyed in the 1880s. There was some Russian and Japanese investment in tea and textiles in the 1870s and a spurt of overseas Chinese investment in food-processing industries in the coastal areas in the early 1900s, but overall, the modern industrial base was negligible at the establishment of the People's Republic in 1949.

      During the 1950s investment in the province was hampered by Peking's decision to emphasize inland rather than coastal provinces and by conflict in the Taiwan Strait, which made the national government hesitant to invest in a potential war zone. Fukien's share of investment was smaller than that of any other province. Gradually, however, for strategic and developmental reasons, the economy began to grow, and regional centres, particularly in the Min Valley, developed. Nan-p'ing (Nanping) became a key forest-products centre, acquiring one of the country's advanced pulp and paper plants. San-ming (Sanming) became the site of a medium-sized iron and steel plant drawing on local coal and iron reserves. The development of a major cement plant at Shun-ch'ang laid the foundation for the local building materials industry.

      Provincial economic growth increased markedly with the shift in government policy toward favouring the development of coastal trading cities. Fukien and Kwangtung were given special powers in 1979 to attract foreign investment, particularly in export industries, and to establish special economic zones for that purpose. One such zone was set up in northwest Amoy (Xiamen) in the 1980s to develop industrial sites and support infrastructure for the zone. The effect was to double the harbour capacity of Amoy.

      A second reform was the creation of a south Fukien special economic zone, similar to the Shanghai and Pearl River Delta zones, designed to orient regional development in southernmost Fukien toward the production of light industrial goods for export. A similar pattern of development is also affecting Fu-chou (Fuzhou), which was designated one of China's “open” cities in 1984 and which has been working to establish an economic and technical development zone near the port city of Ma-wei.

      From the Korean War and the partial blockade of the Fukien coast by the United States and by Chinese Nationalist forces based on Taiwan, overseas trade was virtually halted. Fukien's trade patterns consequently turned inland, especially after the completion in 1955 of the Amoy–Ying-t'an railway, which crosses the Wu-i range to link the province with the Chinese national rail network. Fukien's traditional isolation has also been breached in recent years by the construction of modern highways, linking it to neighbouring Kiangsi and Chekiang provinces. Air services centre on the chief airport at Fu-chou.

      Fukien's rivers are still in use for transportation. The headwaters of the Chin River, a tributary of the Fu-t'un River, are navigable for small boats right up to the Wu-i Mountains, despite the river's rocky channel and many rapids; boats bring downstream the tea grown on the slopes of the mountains. Below Chien-ning, larger boats of special construction are employed for the tea trade.

Administration and social conditions
      The original leadership of the province was drawn from the ranks of the 1920s local guerrilla movement and from the soldiers of the 3rd Field Army, which took control in 1949. They were displaced in the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution, which badly affected the province. After the late 1970s a new leadership emerged with a more technocratic and development-oriented character. Within provincial jurisdiction are five prefectures (ti-ch'ü) and four prefecture-level municipalities (shih). Below that level are counties (hsien) and county-level municipalities (shih).

      One of the most notable institutions of higher learning in Fukien is Amoy University. Fu-chou, famous since the Sung dynasty as a cultural centre, is the site of Fu-chou University, Fukien Medical College, Fukien Agricultural Institute, Fukien Normal College, and the Fukien Institute of Epidemiology of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences. Illiteracy has generally been eliminated among those persons born since 1950.

Health and welfare
      Public health has improved considerably since the establishment of the People's Republic, and malnutrition has not been reported for decades.

Cultural life
      Traditional Chinese culture reached a high level in Fukien during the Sung period (960–1279). Certain unique traditional customs evolved that gave women a stronger social position than that of the women in North China. The province's long literary tradition centres about local history recorded during the last thousand years.

      At least two distinct provincial subcultures persist to this day, reflecting linguistic and historical differences among Fukien's regions. The Min-pei, or northern section of Fukien centred on Fu-chou, was an early centre of Buddhism and, because of close contact with Japanese culture through the Ryukyu Islands, still shows some of those influences in culture and cuisine. As the centre of administration, the Min-pei has a more conservative tradition and, with its seafaring history, has historically supplied many of China's greatest naval officers.

      In contrast, the Min-nan, or southern Fukien, centred on the Amoy–Chang-chou–Ch'uan-chou triangle, has the reputation of being more commercial, adventurous, and hardworking. With strong linguistic differentiation, it is home to a rich operatic and balladic tradition of its own. Much of the modern history of the region has been shaped by the close continuing contact between Min-nan peoples and their overseas relatives, who set down roots in Southeast Asia from the 16th century onward.

      Fukien cuisine is considered to be one of China's five main regional cooking styles, though it is not well known outside China. Fukien is also known for its strong educational tradition. During the Ming and Ch'ing dynasties many of China's great statesmen and scholars came from the province.

History
      The area now called Fukien was first referred to in the Chou li (Zhouli), a classic that may date to the 12th century BC, although modern scholars believe it to have been written at a much later date. In this classic the seven Min tribes are mentioned together with “eight barbarian peoples” in the south.

      During the latter part of the Ch'un-ch'iu (Spring and Autumn period; (Spring and Autumn Period) 770–476 BC) one of the feudal states within the China area was the kingdom of Yüeh, located south of Hang-chou Bay; it included what is now Fukien Province. The lord of Yüeh was nominally a vassal (viscount) of the Chinese king. The Yüeh and their culture are considered by some to have constituted one of the principal elements that merged to form the contemporary Chinese ethnic and cultural complex.

      During the last quarter of the 5th century BC, Yüeh became a powerful kingdom after its conquest of the state of Wu (473 BC) to its north. During the era known as the Chan-kuo (Warring States) (“Warring States”) period, Yüeh was, in turn, conquered by the kingdom of Ch'u (c. 334 BC) to the northwest. Wu-chu, one of the sons of the vanquished Yüeh king, fled by sea and landed near Fu-chou to establish himself as the king of Min-yüeh. When the first emperor of the Ch'in dynasty (Qin dynasty) conquered the kingdom of Ch'u in 223 BC, the Chinese domain was finally unified within the bounds of a monolithic state. Li Ssu (Li Si), the famous prime minister of Ch'in, deposed the king of Min-yüeh, establishing instead a paramilitary province there called Min-chung Chün. The collapse of the Ch'in dynasty (206 BC) was followed by the war between the famous general Hsiang Yü and the crafty Kao-tsu (Gaozu), the founder of the Han dynasty. Wu-chu, the deposed king of Min-yüeh, sided with Kao-tsu, who defeated his rival and became emperor of China; he reestablished Wu-chu as the king of Min-yüeh, which consisted roughly of the present area of Fukien. During the reign of the emperor Wu-ti (Wudi) (141/140–87/86 BC) a rebellion by the Min-yüeh tribes was put down, and the tribes were resettled in the inland region far to the north between the Huai and Yangtze rivers.

      During the Six Dynasties period (AD 220–589) the region remained in the Chinese domain, but true Sinicization did not come about until the T'ang dynasty (Tang dynasty) (618–907), when intermarriage between the T'ang settlers from the north and the local people became common.

      After the fall of the T'ang, the territory of Fukien reemerged as the kingdom of Min, with its capital in Fu-chou. In the mid-10th century it was subdivided into the state of Yin, controlling the Min-pei, and the state of Min, controlling southern Fukien from Chang-chou. The province grew rapidly in importance as the economic hinterland of the Nan (Southern) Sung capital, Lin-an (modern Hang-chou). The province became a key supplier of rice to the region following the introduction of a fast-ripening variety called Champa rice from Southeast Asia. It also became the major producer of sugar, fruit, and tea. Because of the importance of trade to the Nan Sung, the province also was important as a shipbuilding and commercial centre for both overseas and coastal trade. The port of Ch'üan-chou, known to Marco Polo (Polo, Marco) as Zaitun (Quanzhou), was one of the world's great ports in this period, with more than 100,000 Arab traders living in the area.

      The province's decline began with the Ming dynasty ban on maritime commerce in 1433 and was reinforced by the Ch'ing dynasty's (Qing dynasty) policy of isolation, which particularly affected the province in the late 17th century, when Ming dynasty loyalists occupied Taiwan and the islands off Fukien. There was some revival of the economy in the mid-19th century with the opening of Fu-chou and Amoy as treaty port cities, but the modern shipbuilding industry established at Ma-wei by the Ch'ing was destroyed by a French fleet during the Sino-French War of 1883–85.

      In the aftermath of the revolution of 1911–12, Fukien was a pawn in local warlord struggles and was divided into political and military fiefdoms. In the early 1930s part of western Fukien was incorporated into the Communist-controlled territory of the Kiangsi Soviet. In 1933 a revolt of government troops stationed in the province against the Nanking government led to assertion of Nanking government control over the province and to the expulsion of Communist forces. After 1938 the Japanese occupied the coastal centres of the province, while the provincial government retreated inland to Yung-an in central Fukien, where it administered the interior of the province for the remainder of the war. In 1949 the Communist-led 3rd Field Army took control of the province.

Frederick Fu Hung Victor C. Falkenheim

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Universalium. 2010.

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