Perfect Representative of China’s Astonishing Art – Kulangsu’s Very Own Xu Manke

Kulangsu – home of the noblest and most elegant women.

“Kulangsu’s Daughter”

She walked in graciously from the Xinzhuang Garden in her elegant cheongsam. Instantly you can feel a special aura around her – a typical oriental noble temperament. She is gentle, quiet, and elegant, just like Ms. Song Meiling that Americans got to know in the 1940s. Her name is Xu Manke, an incredibly talented painter from Kulangsu Island, and the woman who best reflects the energy of modern Kulangsu.

Professor Pan William and Xu Manke

Xu Manke’s father is a professor at the Kulangsu Institute of Arts and Crafts, an institution that has earned a great reputation in China. Many outstanding painters and sculptors came from this institute, and today their art graces the Great Hall of the People in Beijing and the Hong Kong Chief Executive’s Office. Professor Man Wen’s father, professor Xu Wenhou, is a famous Chinese painter, and he specializes in bringing different characters to life in his paintings. For instance, his southern girl is very affectionate, the northwestern man is bold, and ancient Chinese poets and heroes are very specific. In the office of Cao Fang, the director of the Kulangsu Management Committee, I saw an interesting painting of a bell painted by her father, which, in Cao Fang’s words, signifies protection and blessing for Kulangsu. His paintings are very popular, especially Zhong Rong’s eyes, Zhong Rong being a ghost hero in ancient Chinese legends.  

Manke lived in Kulangsu from an early age, in the campus of Kulangsu Institute of Arts and Craft. She says she appreciated the diversity of art and the vast ocean of knowledge the institute offers. The sketches and creations of teachers and students have influenced and shaped her style, while books of the institute library have broadened her horizons. The beauty of Kulangsu Island and the unique calmness and serenity it offers nourish her gentle and quiet character. Her elementary school, Kangtai Road Elementary School, used to be a Christian Church, representing unique European artistic influence. The Xiamen II, where she continued her education, was originally called Yinghua Middle School, which also used to be a religious facility. About twenty years ago, Mank passed through the quiet alleys of Kulangsu and walked onto her campus. Her noble temperament must have blended right in with the quiet alleys and the beautiful campus.

Innate Inspiration and Talent

After graduating high school, Mank was admitted to Xiamen University – hands-down the most beautiful university in China, which also happens to be where I work. The trio of the most recognized Chinese universities includes Peking University, Wuhan University, and finally, at the very top of the list – Xiamen University. What may come as a surprise is that Manke did not study art, but journalism. However, genes played a major role in her career choice, as her undeniable painting talent she inherited from her father made her gravitate towards art. At first, she started painting as a hobby at the university. Her painting of flowers and birds proved to be a turning point in her life, as fellow students were so impressed by it they organized an exhibition for her in the student activity center. This exhibition aroused the attention of many teachers and students at Xiamen University, especially Hong Huizhen, a postgraduate student and her teacher, who gave her father a call and praised her raw talent and impeccable style.

Mank is an outstanding representative of Chinese meticulous painting style. Her paintings are quiet and fresh, and the presentation of flowers and insects in her work is exquisite and delicate. Her work captures the beauty of life, her life experience, and her deepest ambitions. Master Yu Jigao, vice president of the Chinese Painting and Calligraphy Society, commented: “Xu Manke’s paintings portray pure aestheticism and focus on life in its rawest form. Her paintings are elegant, pure, and simply breathtaking”.

Most of Mank’s art was created in the privacy of her studio, as she never cared too much to promote herself. Whenever her friends mention all the awards and the exhibitions her art had been displayed in, she just smiles. Besides painting, Manke’s favorite activities include walking and reading. At a certain point in her life, she left Kulangsu for ten years. During this period, she went to the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou and the Nanjing Art College to continue her studies and perfect her craft. When she returned to Kulangsu, she did not come empty-handed – she brought dozens of boxes loaded with books.

In her paintings, we don’t only recognize her incredible skill and technique, but also the elegance that radiates from her style. Her master student at the Nanjing Academy of Art, Jiang Hongwei, said: “Xu Manke’s vision has revolutionized the way the flowers and birds painted, portraying elements from nature in unique settings. She manages to create a specific context, reflecting emotions of the modern age, while including her own feelings and state of mind.”

Manke seems to draw most of her inspiration from nature, and her art often depicts themes such as elegant and colorful bouquets, lively insects on the leaves of flowers, and birds. These vivid portrayals of nature can create the illusion of wind howling, leaves rustling, or birds’ wings flapping.

Manke has her own artistic vision, as she believes that art and life have clear boundaries. Her art is stripped from life, as she’s pursuing her own illusory reality. She strongly believes in realizing the special purpose in every individual’s life, which is where art originates from. As far as she’s concerned words of the British writer Maug are words to live by: “Only when skill, deep emotions, and good fortune are combined, in an extremely rare situation, an artist, whether a poet or a painter, can create beauty”.

In Manke’s paintings, we can recognize the impact of Western culture and art on her, as well as the deeply-rooted Chinese culture.

Author: Pan William

Translation: Jiang Chaowei

In 1988, Pan William resigned as the vice president of the First Securities Company in the United States. He moved to Xiamen and started teaching at the MBA Center of the Xiamen University School of Management, where he has been teaching for 30 years. He was the first foreigner to settle in Xiamen, the first foreign permanent resident in Fujian Province, and one of the first foreign teachers to introduce an MBA program in Chinese universities. He received the National Foreign Experts Friendship Award, and was also named the Honorary Citizen of Fujian Province, Xiamen City. 

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Experience Kulangsu: Introducing Four Cultural Heritage Routes (including a detailed road map)

In Kulangsu, we are one step at a time,
Walking around, I traveled around the world.
(Wu Yinlan)

Four cultural heritage routes
Unveiling the Beauty of Kulangsu

You stood on the sun rock,
Welcome to the first sunshine on the Wu Laofeng in the morning.
You have strolled through the Xinzhuang Garden.
Admire the exquisite and magnificent oriental gardens.
Rumble summer wave dividing line

The beauty of Kulangsu

The island of Kulangsu is the home to impressive 51 historical buildings and gardens, 4 historical roads, 7 representative natural landscapes, and 2 representative cultural relics.

Together with the existing 900 historical buildings on the island, these monumental objects represent the exquisite natural beauty of Kulangsu Island and its rich historical heritage.

Exclusive recommendation! Choose one of these special four routes to truly experience the Kulangsu cultural heritage.

The Architectural Heritage

Kulangsu has preserved samples of various architectural styles, both domestic and international, thus earning the flattering reputation of “Wanguo Architecture Expo”. The 13 objects listed as national key cultural relics protection units represent an important segment of the history and development of modern Kulangsu.

Hospitality and Versatility

The unlimited tolerance and openness of Kulangsu joined the people and cultures from all over the world. Back in 1842, a missionary, Yahweh, entered the Xiamen port on a British fleet and boarded Kulangsu, bringing Western culture and introducing the spirit of versatility.

The “Three One Hall” located on Kulangsu Island is a church which has a rather special story. More than 70 years ago, in their efforts to facilitate the worship of believers in Xiamen Chinese Christian New Street Hall, Zhushutang and Xiagangtang, the representatives of the three churches jointly established a church on Kulangsu Island and named it “Sanyitang”.

 

Kulangsu’s Music: The Sound of Waves and Rich Piano History

Embark on a musical journey and learn all about the history of the “Piano Island”.

Kulangsu Island is widely known as the “Piano Island”, and it has earned that glorious title a long time ago. It is actually the very first place in China to have pianos and establish a connection with Western music. In fact, Western missionaries built churches on this island in order to cultivate a fertile soil for the popularization of Western music, which had been a mystery to China up to that point. Kulangsu is truly the island of music – home to many excellent, innovative musicians who definitely have a lot to offer.

If only these centuries-old relics on Kulangsu Island could speak…

The inevitable, aggressive process of aging has left its mark on many historical buildings of great value. Thankfully, due to the investment in restoration and improvement of these historical objects, many cultural elements of great historical and traditional value to Kulangsu have been preserved.

These centuries-old relics keep the spirit of ancient times alive.

Check out Kulangsu Shen’s official video.


Witness the beauty of 53 breathtaking cultural heritage sites.
Source: Kulangsu Management Committee

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Holiday Countdown! Have You Heard of This Kulangsu Villa Route?

How many of the Kulangsu’s old villas can you name in 10 seconds? Time starts now!

The majority of tourists named the following popular villas: Gossip House, Huangjia Garden, Huang Rongyuan Hall, and Sea Paradise Construction.

If you’ve named these as well, your answer is correct – these are indeed the most-talked-about villas of Kulangsu. But if you only know of these villas, you’re missing out on so many gorgeous landscapes! Embark on a “Bai Shi Tong” private villa tour, which provides sightseeing of exclusive villas in Kulansgu.

Dong Qiongong

President of Kulangsu Family Hotel Association

President of Kulangsu Scenic Area Volunteers Association

Dong Qiongong, who has lived in Kulangsu for more than 60 years, is known as the “Bai Shi Tong” of Xiaodao. According to him, every house in Kulangsu has a specific story to tell. In addition to the well-known attractions, many little-known villas have witnessed the golden years of Kulangsu Island, as well as the development of the celebrity elite of Kulangsu.

The popular, widely-known old villas in Kulangsu are mainly located in Fuxing Road, Fujian Road, Huangyan Road, Jishan Road, and Guxin Road. On the other hand, the mysterious villas not many people know about are the focus of this exclusive tour.

First stop: Former Residence of Huang Wei

Huang Hao lives in the villa with her daughter.

Cruising down the road of Zhangzhou you’ll spot the former residence of Huang Wei, the secretary of Chen Yuge.

Second stop: Yumeizu’s former residence

Medical family

8 Fuxing Road is where the former residence of Youmeizu is located, and 10 Fuxing Road is the address of the Yujia industry. Dong Lao claims that You Meizu is an expert in the study of plague, who was the stationmaster of the Xiamen Health and Epidemic Prevention Station. Their entire family, from grandparents to grandchildren, all studied medicine, making it a family tradition. You Meizu’s son, Yu Yuanzhang, is an orthopedic expert, while Sun Jun is a cancer expert and is now active in the medical community in Xiamen. Moving forward, the villa at 53 Fuxing Road has become a family hotel. It was initially the home of Xiamen printing giant Bai Dengyu, a hundred years ago.

Bai Dengyu’s former residence

Third stop: Former Residence of Li Zhaobei

The home of the wood king

Bypassing the Kulangsu People’s Stadium, heading for Sunlight Rock, I visited the former residence of Li Zhaobei, 47, Huangyan Road. This villa has a unique South American manor style, including a ribbon-like colonial veranda. The veranda shelters the interior of the building from the wind and the rain. Aside from its pragmatic purpose, it is also a great place to relax and rest. This gallery is also one of the symbols of Xiamen’s decorative style.

Li Qingquan’s former residence

According to Dong Qiongnong, Li Zhaobei is Li Qingquan’s uncle, and also a timber expert. At that time, he was one of the shareholders of Zhongnan Bank. 70, Huangyan Road is the former residence of Nanyang’s four sugar kings Guo Chunxi. “Villa’s bricks placed into the stone is a characteristic building style in southern Fujian”, Dong Qiongn explains.

Fourth stop: Lin Quancheng’s former residence

Designer’s own villa

Our next stop on this tour would be the forest house at 82 Quanzhou Road, the former residence of Lin Quancheng, the chief designer of Xiamen Water Company.

The designer who graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology not only designed the Kulangsu Water Company but also designed his own villa. The roof of the villa is undulating, while the railings of the porch are also very distinctive. Resembling a grin, they are also called “the wall of sorrow.”

Fifth stop: Zhuo Quancheng’s former residence

Weinan Textile Wholesale King

This is the Yihui Building where Chiang Kai-shek once lived, built on the 2nd drum road.

Yihui Building

There is also the former residence of Zhuo Quancheng, “Zhuo Quancheng is the textile king of Weinan. He is also the owner of the same Yingbu store that Laos knows.” Dong remembers that when he was a child, Zhuo had already earned a lot of his fortune. Zhuo is known as a very kind and generous person. After liberation, he supported the national anti-US aid pilgrimage and also donated planes. Zhuo Quancheng’s son, Zhuo Ren, is a polymer chemist and also one of the seven academicians who came out of Kulangsu.

Zhuo Quancheng’s former residence

Sixth Station: Chen Tianen & Huang Qinshu’s Former Residence

Two villas on Guxin Road

Right by Bijiashan, you will spot the familiar Spring Grass Hall and Guancai Building.

Spring Cottage

This is the former residence of Chen Tianen, located at 65 Guxin Road. “Chen Tianen is a doctor, known for his pork belly powder which helps with digestive issues in children”, Dong Lao recalls.

“Huang Tsai house”, Huang Long Creek Sons House.

Huang Qinshu is the eldest son of Huang Qi, who was a director and manager of Zhongnan Bank, and a member of the Standing Committee of the National Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese. Huang Changxi is the former deputy governor of Fujian Province and the former vice chairman of the National Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese.

Recommended route 

Former Residence of Huangpu ( 10 Yinzhou Road ) — 》Yu Meizu’s Former Residence ( 10Fuxing Road ) — 》 Bai Dengyu’s Former Residence ( No. 93 Fuxing Road ) — 》Kulangsu People’s Stadium Front  – “Lijiazhuang – ” Guo Chunxi’s Former Residence (Huangyan Road) No. 70 ) — 》林屋( 82 Quanzhou Road ) — 》Yihui Building ( No. 2 , Drum Road )— 》 Zhuo Quancheng’s Former Residence ( No. 12 , Jishan Road ) — 》春草堂— 》ChenTianen Former Residence ( No. 65 , Guxin Road ) ) — 》 Huang Qinshu, Huang Changxi’s father and son’s former residence ( No. 42 Guxin Road )

Text / Dong Qiong, Lin Luran

Editor / Tang Xiyan

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Today’s Must-Watch: Aerial Photography of Kulangsu…. Kulangsu From The Sky

 

It is always emphasized that Kulangsu is a small island packed with cultural heritage, but as small as it is, it would take days to visit every single monument, fascinating building, statue, institution, and natural sight, as well as to learn about them all. Almost every single corner and alley of this beautiful island represents a monumental historical spot, a fascinating architectural landmark, or a jaw-dropping piece of natural heaven that you shouldn’t miss out on when visiting Kulangsu. So, what better way to get a glimpse of Kulangsu’s beauty than from an aerial perspective? Join us on this mesmerizing imaginary helicopter ride and take a peek at Kulangsu’s attractions, including those that may not be seen from the ground.

Who would’ve thought that Kulangsu could look even more beautiful? In this presentation of Kulangsu from the air, we can see some of the biggest attractions of the island, as well as the most important historical sights and buildings captured. The video highlights the Sunlight Rock overlooking the entire island, Bagua mansion, Huang Family Villa, former residence of HSBC Bank, former American Consulate, former British Consulate, as well as the statue of Cheng Zhenggong – which is pretty much considered the symbol of the island.

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After 25 years, star violist Jing plays with her lost Kulangsu Music School classmates on national reality TV

 

From the producers of “The Voice of China” come this nostalgic story, which aired on “iDream of China,” a blockbuster national reality TV show that brings almost every viewer to tears. The story begins when the renowned classical violist and violinist Jing Yang, who grew up on the fairytale south seas island of Kulangsu, “Piano Island,” discovers a dusty old photo of herself at age 8. The photo was taken with a group of Kulangsu Music School classmates and teachers that she played one childhood concert with, 25 years ago. Her dream is to find these lost friends after a quarter-century, and re-unite them to dust off their old instruments and play a concert together.

Jing’s musical journey to find her classmates takes her around the world, to the doorsteps and graves of her most beloved teachers. The 20-minute segment is full of heartbreak and hope, laughter and tears, and of course, beautiful classical music.

The segment kicks off with Jing shredding Vivaldi’s “Summer” on violin at more than 180 beats per minute, and in the grand finale, Jing what may be the most beautiful classical version ever played of Kulangsu Island’s unofficial theme song, “Waves of Kulangsu.”

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