De­vel­op­ment of lo­cal cul­ture

Ku­lang­su had been a des­o­late is­land named “Yuan­s­hazhou (Round Sand­bank)” or “Yuanzhouzi (Round Bank)” cov­ered by lush grass. It is said that, in late Song Dy­nasty and ear­ly Yuan dy­nasty, some fish­er­men, whose fam­i­ly name was Li, had built their hous­es and set­tled on the north­west of the is­land, giv­ing the name of this place as “Li Cuo Ao”. Since then, the is­land had ex­pe­ri­enced a com­par­a­tive­ly long de­vel­op­ment pe­ri­od un­til 1840, when Opi­um War broke out. A rich tra­di­tion­al lo­cal cul­ture was ac­cret­ed on the is­land, with the cul­ture of south­ern Fu­jian as its ma­jor el­e­ment. At the same time, thanks to its close ge­o­graph­i­cal prox­im­i­ty to the sea and the char­ac­ter­is­tics as an islet in the sea, Ku­lang­su was close­ly tied with for­eign coun­tries, es­pe­cial­ly South­east Asian re­gions and Japan through mar­itime trade at the ear­ly stage.

The his­tor­i­cal doc­u­ments Fangyu Jiyao made records of the ear­ly de­vel­op­ment of the Ku­lang­su Is­land, “there were dwellings in Ku­lang­su and ad­ja­cent islets for­mer­ly. In­hab­i­tants there moved to the main­land in the 20th year of the Hong­wu pe­ri­od (1387), and af­ter the Chenghua pe­ri­od (1465 to 1487), res­i­dents came back here.”

From the Jing­tai pe­ri­od to the Tian­qi pe­ri­od (1450 to 1627) of the Ming dy­nasty, Zhangzhou Yue­gang Por­tat the es­tu­ary of Ji­u­long Riv­er was very pros­per­ous with di­rect trade con­tacts with 47 coun­tries and re­gions in South­east Asia and In­dochi­na Penisu­la (North Ko­rea, Ryuku and Japan),and coun­tries in Eu­rope and Amer­i­ca through Lu­zon (the cur­rent Philip­pines). The ris­ing and pros­per­i­ty of Yue­gang pro­mot­ed the con­nec­tion of Ku­lang­su on the on­ly way to the sea from Yue­gang with for­eign coun­tries. In ear­ly 16th cen­tu­ry when Eu­ro­pean colonists be­gan to en­ter main­land of South­east Asia and ad­ja­cent is­land coun­tries, Xi­a­men grad­u­al­ly re­placed Yue­gang to be the sea trade gate­way in south­ern Fu­jian. In the 11th year of Zhengde pe­ri­od of the Ming dy­nasty (1516), Por­tuguese pri­vate­ly trad­ed with lo­cal ven­dors in Wuyu out­side Xi­a­men Port, mark­ing the be­gin­ning of mar­itime trade be­tween west­ern coun­tries and Xi­a­men. Un­til the 17th cen­tu­ry, is­lands of Xi­a­men and Ku­lang­su were specif­i­cal­ly marked on nau­ti­cal chart by west­ern­ers.

In 1878, an Eng­lish­man, Her­bert Allen Giles, said in the book “A Short His­to­ry of Koolang­su” that there was for­eign­ers’ ceme­tery with old tomb­stones at north­east­ern sea­side of Ku­lang­su, some of which were hard to read as the hand­writ­ing was fad­ed due to the age and weath­er­ing. The tomb­stones for Eu­ro­pean sea traders dur­ing the 18th cen­tu­ry in Tian­wei bear tes­ti­mo­ny to cul­tur­al ex­change be­tween the west­ern coun­tries and the south­east coastal area of Chi­na. In this way, Ku­lang­su Is­land, which was in the vor­tex of Sino-for­eign mar­itime ex­change for ages, was open to over­seas ex­change and for­eign cul­tures on top of lo­cal tra­di­tion­al cul­ture.

In late Ming and ear­ly Qing dy­nas­ties, it was said that Zheng Cheng­gong once gar­risoned in Ku­lang­su Is­land be­fore Taiwan’s re­cap­ture, built Long­tou Hill Vil­lage and prac­ticed naval forces, leav­ing many his­tor­i­cal sites and rel­e­vant leg­ends on the Ku­lang­su Is­land, such as Gate of Long­tou Hill Vil­lage and Koxinga’s Well. Many fa­mous de­scen­dants made cliff in­scrip­tions as eu­lo­gy, adding strong na­tion­al emo­tion­al col­or to the islet.

In the 23rd year un­der the reign of Em­per­or Kangxi (1684), the Qing gov­ern­ment set up the Fu­jian Cus­toms in Xi­a­men and its branch in Qing­dan on Ku­lang­su Is­land, which were gov­erned by front camp. Ao­jia was dis­patched to man­age mer­chant ships, fish­ing boats and fer­ries. The seclu­sion of Qing dy­nasty and poli­cies with re­stric­tions on mar­itime trade deal­ers and for­eign trade had neg­a­tive im­pact on the de­vel­op­ment of coastal re­gions. Un­der the reign of Em­per­or Qian­long, there was a small pop­u­la­tion on Ku­lang­su Is­land. Un­til the ear­ly 19th cen­tu­ry, three main tra­di­tion­al set­tle­ments were formed at Neicuo’ao, Lu’erjiao and Yan­za­i­jiao.

Al­though the Neicuo’ao Set­tle­ment was burnt down in mid-19th cen­tu­ry, Huang’s fam­i­ly moved to today’s Kang­tai Road, Jis­han Road and Neicuo’ao Road, bring­ing vi­tal­i­ty to the set­tle­ment. Lu’erjiao Re­gion un­der­went the con­struc­tion and ren­o­va­tion by west­ern­ers in sec­ond half of the 19th cen­tu­ry and Chi­nese and over­seas Chi­nese in the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry, so it is hard to find relics of na­tive res­i­den­tial hous­es. Yan­za­i­jiao dwellings pro­vid­ed us the op­por­tu­ni­ty to have a glimpse of the build­ings in the mid­dle and late pe­ri­od of the Qing dy­nasty (19th cen­tu­ry) kept in the north­east area at the foot of Sun­light Rock, the tra­di­tion­al south­ern Fu­jian red brick house yards and rit­u­al build­ings ( Four-Court­yard Man­sion, Da Fu Man­sion and Huang’s An­ces­tral Hall) are still well-pre­served till now. These dwelling re­mains show the ethics af­fect­ed by schol­ar-of­fi­cial cul­ture of Con­fu­cian schol­ars and lifestyle of part-time learn­ing in the an­cient Chi­nese so­ci­ety, as well as pro­found con­no­ta­tion of ear­ly south­ern Fu­jian tra­di­tion­al cul­ture of Ku­lang­su. Ac­cord­ing to the cliff in­scrip­tion about the San­he Palace’s Re­con­struc­tion, Zhongde Taoist Tem­ple, Sun­light Rock Tem­ple and oth­er ear­ly cul­tur­al relics in dif­fer­ent re­gions of the is­land, these re­li­gious relics, Bud­dhist tem­ples and Taoist tem­ples dat­ed from the Ming dy­nasty (15th cen­tu­ry) re­flect the liv­ing con­di­tions of is­landers at that time from the oth­er side.