Ku­lang­su Is­land: a trop­i­cal beach par­adise beat­ing to the waves of its own drum­mer

Ku­lang­su is an is­land about 600 me­ters from south­west­ern coast of Xi­a­men, Fu­jian. Slight­ly long and nar­row, the 1.88-square-kilometer Ku­lang­su Is­land looks like a sail­ing ship an­chored in the bay. There are sev­en gran­ite hills as well as nu­mer­ous ravines and springs scat­tered on the is­land. An al­ter­nat­ing dis­tri­b­u­tion of white beach­es and odd­ly shaped rocks around the is­land adds to the beau­ty of the place. With a pleas­ant cli­mate, thou­sands of plants and wide­spread green trees, Ku­lang­su is a pic­turesque and liv­able is­land in the Xi­a­men Bay.

The name of Ku-lang-su is formed of 3 char­ac­ters: Ku refers to drum­beat; Lang refers to the tide; Su means is­land. Leg­end says that while the tides hits a huge rock on the south­west coast and the wa­ter goes through its hole, it gen­er­ates a sonorous sound like beat­ing sev­er­al drums. Thus the rock got its name as “Drum wave stone”, then this lit­tle is­land was named af­ter the rock, called “Ku­lang­su” (translit­er­at­ed as “Ku­lang­su” at that time).

From the mid-19th cen­tu­ry to the mid-20th cen­tu­ry, the unique his­to­ry and dy­nam­ic cul­tur­al land­scape of Ku­lang­su, an in­ter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty joint­ly ad­min­is­tered by Chi­nese and for­eign­ers, high­light­ed a world in­te­gra­tion of mul­ti cul­tures, a com­pre­hen­sive prac­tice of the emerg­ing mod­ern life style as well as a full blos­som of the ad­ven­tur­ous, open and in­clu­sive mi­grant cul­ture of south­ern Fu­jian, and brought a unique and promi­nent achieve­ment in the com­mu­nica­tive process of hu­man civ­i­liza­tion.

The for­ma­tion of Ku­lang­su was based up­on the scat­tered tra­di­tion­al set­tle­ments con­struct­ed by the ear­ly res­i­dents of south­ern Fu­jian. Then its de­vel­op­ment af­ter­wards can be di­vid­ed in­to 2 main stages by the Land Reg­u­la­tions for the Set­tle­ment of Ku­lang­su, Amoy, which was reached in 1902 and signed ef­fec­tive by the Chi­nese em­per­or in 1903. The first stage fea­tured by the for­eign cul­ture dis­sem­i­na­tion and then the sec­ond stage fea­tured by the fu­sion of mul­ti-cul­tures.

The first stage start­ed from the mid-19th cen­tu­ry. Since Xi­a­men was opened as a com­mer­cial port, Ku­lang­su, as an ide­al place of res­i­dence for the for­eign­ers work­ing in con­ces­sions ar­eas, be­came im­me­di­ate­ly the fron­tier of in­ter­na­tion­al cul­ture in­tro­duc­tion as well as a meet­ing place of var­i­ous na­tion­al forces. For­eign mis­sion­ar­ies, con­sular and diplo­mat­ic of­fi­cers, to­geth­er with busi­ness­men suc­ces­sive­ly came to live on the is­land and in­tro­duced west­ern ar­chi­tec­ture, mod­ern com­mu­ni­ty ameni­ties in­clud­ing schools, hos­pi­tals, clubs, and in­fra­struc­tures like roads and ceme­ter­ies. Ad­di­tion­al­ly, Ku­lang­su func­tioned as a base for mod­ern west­ern cul­ture, tech­nol­o­gy, and life style to be dis­sem­i­nat­ed to south­ern Fu­jian and even in­land Chi­na.

There are three dif­fer­ent views about how “Ku­lang­su” was named. Some peo­ple be­lieve that the name orig­i­nat­ed from the hear­ing. It is said that in the past there was a rock with a hole in it on the south­west­ern coast of the is­land, and every time the rock was lashed by waves, it would make a sound like drum­ming. There­fore, the rock was named “Ku­lang Stone” and the is­land was called “Ku­lang­su”. How­ev­er, some oth­er peo­ple be­lieve that the name orig­i­nat­ed from the vi­sion.

It is al­so said that if look­ing down from a high place, one could see waves, like beat­ing drums, surged to­wards the shore­side rocks. An­oth­er view is that the name orig­i­nat­ed from ge­o­man­cy. Ac­cord­ing to the ge­o­man­tic omen, the five hills on the Ku­lang­su Is­land sprawl­ing from the north­west to the south­east were con­sid­ered to be the gath­er­ing of five drag­ons, there­fore al­so called “Five Drag­on Is­land”, and in Amoy, “Five Drag­on” is sim­i­lar to “Ku­lang”, which fi­nal­ly de­vel­oped to be “Ku­lang­su”.

South­ern Fu­jian, where Ku­lang­su is lo­cat­ed, has seen the for­ma­tion of south­ern Fu­jian cul­ture, the unique re­gion­al sub-cul­ture, dur­ing the long his­tor­i­cal de­vel­op­ment. South­ern Fu­jian cul­ture in­her­its the farm­ing cul­ture of the Han peo­ple in Cen­tral Plains, and in­te­grates mar­itime com­merce cul­ture dur­ing trade and pop­u­la­tion ex­changes with over­seas ar­eas. Af­ter the mid-19th cen­tu­ry, a large num­ber of res­i­dents in south­ern Fu­jian moved over­seas and formed the mi­grant so­ci­ety in lo­cal places. Decades lat­er, they took part in con­struc­tion of south­ern Fu­jian as over­seas Chi­nese or re­turned over­seas Chi­nese, in­ject­ing vig­or to lo­cal econ­o­my, mak­ing south­ern Fu­jian more in­flu­enced by in­ter­na­tion­al­iza­tion and de­vel­op­ing the re­gion­al sub­cul­ture, char­ac­ter­ized by mer­can­til­ism, prag­mati­cism, ag­gres­sive­ness, open­ness, in­no­va­tion, flex­i­bil­i­ty and in­clu­sive­ness.

Cul­tures start­ed to col­lide and ex­change in Ku­lang­su, then blend­ed and ma­tured through long his­toric process. The sec­ond stage was from 1903, when the Land Reg­u­la­tions for the Set­tle­ment of Ku­lang­su, Amoy took ef­fect and a large num­ber of over­seas Chi­nese re­turn­ing from South­east Asia be­gan to join in the po­lit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic con­struc­tion of Ku­lang­su, to 1941 when the Pa­cif­ic War broke out and forced res­i­dents to leave amid so­cial tur­moil. Thanks to its unique ge­o­graph­ic lo­ca­tion, loose po­lit­i­cal at­mos­phere, mul­ti­cul­tur­al en­vi­ron­ment and good qual­i­ty of life, Ku­lang­su be­came a safe is­land rare on Chi­na’s south­east coast at its time and thus at­tract­ed a great num­ber of for­eign­ers, over­seas Chi­nese and lo­cal Chi­nese to set­tle down.

In par­tic­u­lar, the in­creas­ing num­ber of re­turned over­seas Chi­nese grad­u­al­ly be­came the lead­ing force fa­cil­i­tat­ing the con­struc­tion of hous­es and pub­lic ameni­ties and the de­vel­op­ment of in­dus­try and com­merce on Ku­lang­su, and cre­at­ed new ar­chi­tec­tur­al and dec­o­ra­tive styles with lo­cal fea­tures in­clud­ing Amoy De­co. In this pe­ri­od, sup­port­ed by the sound com­mu­ni­ty en­vi­ron­ment and mod­ern ed­u­ca­tion, Ku­lang­su nur­tured a great many Chi­nese and for­eign elites whose achieve­ments in lin­guis­tics, lit­er­a­ture and ed­u­ca­tion in­flu­enced the pop­u­lar­iza­tion of ed­u­ca­tion and the spread of Chris­tian­i­ty in South­east Asia and south­ern Fu­jian.

De­vel­oped to this point, un­der the com­bined in­flu­ence of mul­ti­cul­tur­al pow­ers, Ku­lang­su es­tab­lished a se­ries of mod­ern spaces and fa­cil­i­ties for cul­ture and ed­u­ca­tion, med­ical treat­ment, in­fra­struc­ture, sports, en­ter­tain­ment, and fi­nance, which fur­ther im­proved the com­mu­ni­ty func­tion and ser­vice of Ku­lang­su and showed the pros­per­i­ty at the cul­mi­na­tion of its de­vel­op­ment.