Communication with foreign cultures

Communication with foreign cultures

In the middle of the 19th century, the global development entered the second stage, when the western industrial countries represented by the Britain and France showed fast increasing demand for expansion to global capital markets. With the enhanced transnational and transboundary flow of commodities, people and capitals all over the world, the cultures and civilizations of different countries and regions in the west and the east met, collided and integrated with each other. With the outbreak of the China and Britain Opium War in 1940, the ancient China entered a brand-new historical period and began the tottering process of modernization. Promoted by the trend of globalization, China was experiencing the social and institutional reform, for which the southeast coastal area served as a pioneer and became the field for collision, exchange and integration of diversified cultures.

In 1843, in accordance with the Treaty of Nanjing between China and Great Britain, Xiamen was opened as a commercial port. Therefore, it became one of the first foreign trade ports of the Qing dynasty. With the development of foreign trade in Xiamen, many foreign businessmen, officials and missionaries came to Xiamen. Because Kulangsu faces the Xiamen Port across the sea and features good conditions for ferry transportation and beautiful landscape, it attracted many westerners. Since then, Kulangsu has stepped into a new historical stage for modernization.

The foreigners with modern concepts and cultural mindset promoted the first-stage social and cultural changes of Kulangsu. They brought their cultures to the island through the construction of residential buildings, public buildings and infrastructure, spread of religions, establishment of cultural, education and medical institutions, organization of sports and Recreational activities as well as promotion of business and trade activities. The western missionaries based on the island to extend the Christianity and western culture to southern Fujian and even wider inland areas. The foreign businessmen based on the island to deal with foreign trade through the Xiamen Port.

Foreign consulates, along with foreign firms, warehouses, and residences for staff of the consulates and foreign firms, were built. The western missionaries also build many residential houses, churches and chapels and promoted the construction of missionary schools and public medical and health service facilities. Moreover, sports facilities, clubs and other cultural and recreational facilities were built, while road, cemetery, dock and other infrastructure construction had an initial development. Foreigners’ settlements the separated from the local residential areas were set up on the Kulangsu Island. The buildings and facilities constructed by foreigners greatly changed the appearance of Kulangsu and made the small island one of the most representative geographical units with the most concentrated residents and cultures from different countries and regions in the southeast coastal area of China at that time.

Foreigners gradually expanded their residential areas in Kulangsu, posing great demands on manpower and funds for construction of public utilities. In 1878, consuls of the Great Britain and Germany organized and established “Kulangsu Road and Cemetery Fund Committee” to raise funds through collection of poll tax, labor and vehicle tax, horse tax, other vehicle tax and cemetery tax for construction and maintenance of roads, cemeteries and ditches and planting trees, marking the beginning of operation and management mode under which representatives were elected each year to take charge of settlement’s public utilities on the Island.

Through coordination and management of the organization, an important road network covering the whole island was built up during this period, such as loop-line road encircling Sunlight Rock and Yanzaijiao, roads encircling Bijia Hill and Lu’erjiao as well as radial roads from these loop lines to eastern and southern coasts. Later, connection roads for dividing small blocks were added. Several main westerners’ settlements on Tianwei Road, Lujiao Road, Fujian Road and Sanming Road were built up, which coexisted with Chinese agglomerations at Neicuo’ao and Yanzaijiao. Most of the western buildings adopted the colony corridor style, which was the most common in colonies in Southeast Asia and Chinese costal port cities. These buildings were relatively independent and dispersed on rocks, cliffs and shoresides and other areas with good landscapes. There were often stretches of traditional residences and land of original residents among westerners’ dwelling districts. Chinese and foreign buildings showed striking contrast in spatial layout and style.

During this period, the foreigners in Kulangsu played a leading role in promoting the development of modern residential settlements on the island. It is worth mentioning that, after the Japanese occupied Chinese Taiwan district in 1895, some businessmen who used to migrate from southern Fujian to Taiwan returned to Kulangsu. Lin Erjia and his family were among them.