They made a strategic move to the Jin Gang Mountains northwest of the city and ate these types of rice balls along the Long March. The rice balls were convenient since they didn’t need cooking, and the starch provided energy, while the filling provided some protein and the sticky consistency made you feel full. They were included in military rations because they were easy to carry and kept well-preserved for a long time.
The (often winding) route to Fuzhou traveled through some beautiful mountainous countryside. I now understand why China has so many dialects! We passed the area where oolong tea is grown. Wuyi Rock Tea is a general term for the category of Wuyi oolong tea produced in the north of Fujian Province, which we were entering. One of China’s finest teas, it is well-known for its unique aroma, and its rich and mellow finish and slightly sweet aftertaste.
As soon as we arrived in Fuzhou we were welcomed with clear skies and warmer weather. One of Fuzhou’s rivers was situated right in front of our hotel, and it was nice to walk and run along the esplanade bordering the waterfront.
Traveling around the city we noticed many banyan trees with their thick leaves and multiple roots. The local people believe that they are living in an auspicious place since the city meets the feng shui (wind and water) requirement of mountains behind and water in front.
There is water in the form of the Minjiang River and Wulong River traversing the city, and mountains in the background facing the ocean into which the rivers flow. Since ancient times, the rivers were an important link to trade with the rest of China and the world. In addition to the main rivers, there are a number of tributaries and streams flowing through the city, offering nice scenery. The city is also blessed with numerous hot springs which attract tourists.
Lots of famous people are depicted in statues and other memorials throughout the city, not only from recent history but also from the Qing Dynasty. Between 1405 and 1433, Admiral Zheng of the Ming Dynasty sailed a large flotilla of the Imperial Navy from Fuzhou to the Indian Ocean and beyond seven times— even reaching the east coast of Africa.
Fuzhou also was involved in trade in Southeast Asia when the Ming government gave approval for Fuzhou to trade with the Philippines. The Treaty of Nanjing of 1842, which ended the Opium War, resulted in Fuzhou becoming one of five Chinese treaty ports open to Western merchants and missionaries.
We visited the “White Pagoda,” a well-kept Buddhist shrine with a series of temple buildings. As we climbed toward the top on stone stairs, we found a temple honoring General Qi Jiguang, who was famous for defending China’s east coastal regions from raids by pirates.
On the outskirts of the city we also visited a huge housing development in the Cangshan District, which had beautifully landscaped gardens. We also visited the headquarters of a supermarket chain which began as a small convenience-store business.
They discussed with us the challenges they had in terms of doing business as well as their expansion plans. We inquired about competition from foreign firms, and they reported that foreign brands with business models that didn’t fit China well were facing operating pressures. Nevertheless, they said there was still much for domestic companies to learn from successful foreign companies in China—not only what they were doing well but also what wasn’t working. For example, companies which brought in foreign managers often created conflicts with local employees.
At a large property development we visited, executives told us that with Fuzhou’s population of seven million and better weather conditions and environment than in some other parts of China, sales of properties in the city have been good.
Residential property inventory in Fuzhou reportedly takes around 14 months to sell, which is considered relatively healthy. Like other developers we visited in China, the showroom was spectacular, with lavish decorations and a large-scale model of the project.
The Fuzhou port is a major port for trade with Taiwan, and during our stay in Fuzhou, we noticed there were lots of references to Taiwan and the Taiwan Straits. Advertising often used the Chinese code word of “Straits” to refer to Taiwan, so there were “Straits” restaurants and even an advertisement on a banner along the street for a surgery clinic in Taiwan which read: “Why go to Korea for plastic surgery when you can go to the Straits?”