Gulangyu Island

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"Gulangyu" redirects here. For the administrative division, see Gulangyu Subdistrict.
Guland island in foreground looking Xiamen, Fujian, China.jpg
View from the peak on Kulangsu of Amoy
Simplified Chinese 屿
Traditional Chinese
Hokkien POJ Kó͘-lōng-sū
Postal Map Kulangsu
Literal meaning Drum Wave Islet
Colonial architecture on Gulangyu

Gulangyu is an island off the coast of Amoy/Xiamen city, Fujian province in southern China, about 2 km2 (0.77 sq mi) in area. It is home to about 20,000 people and is a domestic tourist destination. The only vehicles permitted are small electric buggies and electric government service vehicles.

Visitors can reach it by ferry from Amoy Island. Local residents are allowed to use a shorter 5 minute ferry to/from Heping Ferry Terminal. Tourists and non-locals must now take a longer 20 minute ferry ride from Dongdu International Terminal, as of October 20, 2014 with a fare increase from 8RMB to 35RMB. This has been in order to reduce tourist numbers accessing the island in an effort to conserve it.

Gulangyu Island is renowned for its beaches and winding lanes and its varied architecture. The island is on China's list of National Scenic Spots and also ranks at the top of the list of the ten most-scenic areas in the province.

Administratively, the island presently forms Gulangyu Subdistrict of Amoy's Siming District.


View of the International Settlement c. 1908

The International Settlement at Kulangsu (Gulangyu)[edit]

The Sikh police force

For a time, Gulangyu Island had the peculiarity of having constituted the only international settlement on Chinese soil apart from the more celebrated International Settlement at Shanghai.

Soon after Amoy/ Xiamen became a treaty port resulting from China's loss in the First Opium War and the Treaty of Nanking in 1842, foreign residents on the island established an informal organization that became formally organized several decades later when its Land Regulations were approved by the government of China in May 1902.[1] Eventually 13 countries, including Great Britain, France and Japan, were to enjoy extraterritorial privileges there and take part in the Kulangsu Municipal Council that administered the Settlement. As with the Shanghai International Settlement, the British played a predominant role in the administration and Sikh policemen from British India were charged with the policing of the Settlement. The consulates, churches, hospitals, schools, police stations, etc. built by those foreign communities explain the predominantly Victorian-era style architecture that can still be seen throughout Gulangyu. Japanese occupation of the island began in 1942, and lasted until the end of World War II. The Amoy dialect of Hokkien is spoken on the island.


Kulangsu Island Statue of Koxinga facing Xiamen
Kulangsu Island Walking Map

As a place of residence for Westerners during Amoy's colonial past, Gulangyu is famous for its architecture and for hosting China's only piano museum, giving it the nickname of "Piano Island" or "The Town of Pianos" (鋼琴之鄉) or "The Island of Music" (音樂之島).[2] There are over 200 pianos on this island.

The Chinese name also has musical roots, as gu lang which means drum waves so-called because of the sound generated by the ocean waves hitting the reefs. Yu means "islet".

In addition, there is a museum dedicated to Koxinga, Hai-toe Se-kai(海底世界) Marine World, a subtropical garden containing plants introduced by overseas Chinese, as well as Amoy Museum, formerly the Eight Diagrams Tower (八卦樓).

The island of Gulangyu is a pedestrian-only destination, where the only vehicles on the islands are several fire trucks and electric tourist buggies. The narrow streets on the island, together with the architecture of various styles around the world, give the island a unique appearance. The site is classified as a AAAAA scenic area by the China National Tourism Administration.[3]

Gulangyu Island fish and seafood restaurant street vendor
Mount Lit-kong-giam(日光岩Sunlight Rock) is the highest place on Gulangyu Island
View of urban area, Amoy City from Mount Lit-kong-giam
Beach on Kulangsu


Gulangyu is unique in China as a "traffic-free island". It is connected to the main island of Amoy only by ferry.

Neither cars nor bicycles are allowed, thus providing an alternative to the frenetic Amoy Island across the river, although the recent introduction of electric tourist buggies may be damaging the island's charm. Freight is pulled on wheeled wooden carts up the often steep lanes by strong teams of men.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ William C. Johnstone, International Relations: The Status of Foreign Concessions and Settlements in the Treaty Ports of China, The American Political Science Review, No. 5, October 1937, p. 943.
  2. ^ Bolsover, Gillian (1 February 2012). "Gulangyu: China's loveliest island". CNN GO. Retrieved 25 September 2012. 
  3. ^ "AAAAA Scenic Areas". China National Tourism Administration. 16 November 2008. Retrieved 9 April 2011. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 24°26′51″N 118°03′45″E / 24.447618°N 118.062451°E / 24.447618; 118.062451