French Consulate of Amoy

Xiamen/厦门, historically called “Amoy” after the local dialect pronunciation, had a long history of international trade before becoming one of the five “Treaty ports” in 1842 following the treaty of Tianjin. Foreign consuls moved from Amoy city to the island of Gulangyu (鼓浪屿), located opposite the city in 1902. The whole island became an international settlement, with land regulations and municipal council like in Shanghai and consulates from many nations. Gulangy (鼓浪屿) is one of my favorite places in China, and I have been to the island 5 times since 2005 (See posts “Night on Gulangyu“, “Rain on Gulangyu” and “The revival of Gulangyu” for more details). This new trip was an opportunity to search for the former Amoy French Consulate on the island.

Gulangyu’s main beach

The backwater island I first saw in 2005 has now transformed into a tourism Mecca since getting on of the UNESCO protected heritage list in 2017. Although tourists have come in number, it is still possible to avoid massive crowds by visiting the island in the low season, like in the winter apart from Chinese New Year. With a little sun, temperature gets easily to 15-20 degrees, perfect for walking around. Most crowded roads are the one going along the coast overviewing Xiamen city, as well as the one going through the island to the main beach. They are best avoided in the afternoon, when most people come over.

South of Gulangyu

As per the old maps, the former French Consulate of Amoy (or “Consulat Français de Amoy” in French), was located on a secluded beach on the South West side of the island. The whole area around “11” on the map is now the Gulangyu Piano museum. The former Chan Bay West road (today Tian Wei Road) is blocked, as part of a large estate that was probably military zone a few years ago. Fortunately, today’s Tianwei Road splits into two branches, one of each is open leading to the former Danish Telegraph Office and former Oeitjoe Garden.

Former Oeitjoe Garden and the jetty

As indicated on the map, the former French Consulate is the building on the other side of the jetty, on the Chan Bay Beach. Although the building itself cannot be accessed, I managed to catch a picture (see below). A large plot of land around the former consulate was surrounded by large tents, and 2 rickshaws (!) were parked in the front. My guess is that it is currently used as a film set.

Former French Consulate, Amoy

Although it has quite a vast plot of land, Amoy French Consulate was never really seen as important by the French administration. Very little information is available on the internet about it. After consulate closure in the late 1940s, the Consulate’s archives were kept at the French Embassy in Beijing until 1981, when they were brought back to France. As French historian Roger Pérennès explains, France had a presence in Amoy since 1901, with a vice-Consulate from 1906 to 1916. Below picture from the Australian University archives stating “Amoy, at the French Consulate” is dated from 1907.

A proper consulate was only open on 1st December 1925, with Fernand Roy (1885-1967) being the Consulate for most of the time until end 1939. With little activity during WW2, the consulate finally closed down in February 1946.

Since the consulate was actually open very much later than others, it could explain that the location is away from the main port, on a more secluded part of the island as better located ground were already taken. As a comparison, the American, British and Japanese Consulates were located on the other side of the island, overlooking Xiamen and the main port. I did not find any information about the construction of the French consulate building, but the building looks like it was “ruinovated” at some point later. Below is another picture I shot in 2009 in a previous visit that is mentioned in post “The revival of Gulangyu” when garden and the building was much better maintained.

Former French consulate in Amoy (2009)

The site of the French consulate is located near the former Northern telegraph office, which was built in 1918 in a somewhat similar style (see below).

Northern telegraph building

The next building on the road, shown on the map but with no mention, is also of similar style. It was probably built around the same time.

Hopefully more information will come up about the former French Consulate in Amoy as French archives and others are researched. I will definitely come back to my favorite Island Gulangyu. For more posts about this topic, see posts “Night on Gulangyu“, “Rain on Gulangyu” and “The revival of Gulangyu“.

For more information about French Consulates in Old China, see post “Former Shanghai French Consulate“.

Rain on Gulangyu

It took us ten years to come back to the wonderful island of Gulangu, off Xiamen in Fujian province. Since the Island was added on the UNESCO World heritage in 2017, even bigger crowds of tourists are coming to visit it. While it is surely packed on some days, being off season and with the help of the rain helped us find again the feeling we had in previous trips.

Thanks to, I came with a historic map of the island from 1947 for historical orientation. Since last trip in 2012, the first big change was the harbor. Massive ferries now go to a redeveloped port in a less touristic part of the island, with the original and ferry harbor being reserved for inhabitants. The area around the new port has seen some new construction, matching the old style so it keeps some of the characters. The new port is close to the large tunnel, that it taking people on a quieter side of the island, where we stayed this time and did not know much about before. The new port has directed some tourists to a less developed part of the island, which is good for spreading crowds.

Tunnel entrance on the quiet side

Although historic houses are also found in this part of the island, they tend to be less grand and less numerous than the ones facing Xiamen on the other side. This area was the main fishing port, where the Amoy tinning Co was located, a major employer on the island (Amoy tinning company moved to Hong Kong in the early 50’s but the brand still exist). This whole surrounding area is now a park all along the Coast of the Island. No road or park was indicated on old maps and the harbor reduced quite a bit compared with the old time.

Gulangyu fishing harbour

Going around the island, we reached the (now) main port again, passing by the former American Consulate. I remember that it originally had great view over Xiamen, it is now partly obstructed by new constructions, but still visible.

Amoy former American consulat

With intermittent rain falling, we managed to reach the other side of the island where the largest villas are and we stayed several times (See post “The revival of Gulangyu“). This area has several churches including the beautiful catholic church. Some of the large mansion have been turned to museums, like the Hai Tian Tang Gou Mansion (海天堂构) that was under renovation during our first trip in 2007 trip. The new one is transformation of the beautiful Huang RongYuan mansion into the China Record museum. I think I came to look at this house and took the same picture every time I came Gulangyu. Finally being able to visit it was really enjoyable. I’ll write a post dedicated to the museum itself later.

Back side of the Hai Tian Tang Gou Mansion (海天堂构)

A nice addition to the area is a massive bookstore in a beautifully renovated old mansion and few steps away from the entrance of both museum, it is impossible to miss. Great place to stop for a coffee break in the pouring rain.

strolling in the night

Night on Gulangyu is always a magical time, so I took a stroll after dark. With very few people and very little noise, the island was once again just for me to stroll. Our last day was a Saturday and the weather was much better. Crowd was much larger but not enough to make it unpleasant. Coming to Gulangyu in off peak times is still the best way to enjoy it. We’ll be definitely back again.

For more post about Gulangyu, go to “The revival of Gulangyu“, “Night on Gulangyu” and “French Consulate of Amoy“.

Night on GuLangYu

GuLangYu island (鼓浪屿), off Xiamen in Fujian province, has always been one of my favorite place in China and I went there already 4 times. The yearly trips to the  island were mostly in the winter (see post “The revival of Gulangyu), an easy escape from Shanghai fog and humidity. This time I went in September, a different time with a different weather but the island is still magical.

Night picture on GuLanYu
A nice atmosphere

At our first trip to GuLangYu in 2007, not many people (at least from Shanghai) stayed overnight in the island. Accommodation was very limited and the only place open after 9pm was the Mc Donald’s at the ferry port, where we ended up one night. We found the one cafe on the hillside, enjoying  coffee and 20C in the sunshine with the only company of the owners. I think this coffee house has disappeared since. Winter in GuLanYu is the low season and we felt at that time that the island belonged to us.

The following year, we stayed at a small home hotel but the weather got so cold that we spent most time in Naya Cafe drinking hot chocolate and eating warm food. We even ended up escaping the cold and the island, spending the last night in a big hotel on the Xiamen side. As written in post “The revival on GuLangYu“, by the third time we went the island had already transformed and a few more hotels had opened.

Three years have passed since and many many more hotels have now opened. From the experience in Chinese mass tourism, I was afraid that the island atmosphere would not survive.

Gulangyu piano festival
Piano festival concert

Luckily, we arrived on the last night of the GuLangYu piano festival. Concerts are free and we could enjoy an unexpected but small and intimate concert from American/Uzbek piano master Stanislas Ioudenitch. The crowd attending the concert was really attentive and silent, a change from noisy and often uninterested crowds in Shanghai classical music concert. The festival attracted many people and I was really surprised of the crowd remaining on the island even after the concert. Not that many tourists used to stay on the island, this has definitely changed. It is now even possible to get a beer in a bar with music at 10:00pm, something unthinkable a few years ago. At the same time, the atmosphere has lost a bit from what I was used to. It’s only by walking around the small streets on the hills, away from the main street that I could find back the old tranquility of GuLangYu. Walking down the empty streets of the island, it felt again like being out of time, like being back again in the 1930’s when GuLangYu was a foreign concession off Xiamen.

The next day saw one of the best weather I have ever seen on the Island. We climbed up the rock, giving a splendid view up to Xiamen Bund. Just like in some parts of Shanghai, the contrast between the old houses from the concessions and the skyscrapers on the other side of the straight is stunning. As the piano festival was already finished, there was already less crowd on the island, but still quite many. Nights on GuLanYu are still magical and quite, but the days are now the one of main tourist attraction. Best go there in the winter, as there will should be much less people. This trip took place just before the October holidays, I later heard than one week later (during the actual holidays), the number of visitors increased tremendously, way over the existing records. I’m not sure how quiet the nights on GuLangYu were then, but fortunately I had already left.

For more information about Gulangyu (鼓浪屿), please go to post “Rain on Gulangyu” and “French Consulate of Amoy“.

The revival of Gulangyu

Our third trip to the Gulangyu Island near Xiamen is making it a bit of a yearly pilgrimage.  Xiamen is about 800 km south from Shanghai and the 1 hour flight is enough to transport from Shanghai winter to Xiamen spring. Just like Shanghai,  Xiamen was one of the treaty port open by the Treaty of Nanjing from 1842, although maritime trade in the area was taking place centuries before that. Although it did not turn into a metropolis, it became an important trade city in particular thanks to South-East Asia Chinese returning to Fujian in the 1920s and 1930s. A number of old buildings are still visible on the shore front, including the Art Deco “Lujian Harbour View Hotel” (that was completed in the early 50s). As our taxi driver proudly pointed out, “these buildings are as old as the ones on the Bund in Shanghai”. Like in Shanghai, they are being rediscovered and transformed into tourist attractions.

Gulangyu beach

We have walked the streets of GuLanYu many times before, but this year’s visit was a little bit of a surprise. Since the closure of our beloved Night Lilly guest house in 2006, accommodation on the island was quite limited. Choice was basically between a few state owned hotels (with the delights of the Karaokes and low quality Chinese breakfast) and small chinese hostels that can be really friendly, but not that comfortable like the Boat House hotel where we stayed last year.

Leeming hotel

We were really excited to find out that a real private hotel has opened on the island. Lee Garden hotel ( is located in an old mansion on 38 Zhangzhou lu.  The building has been ruinovated, meaning that only the walls were kept and all original fixtures have been removed. The interior is very modern with fancy bathrooms and LCD TV screens in each room. Like in many Chinese hotels, the beds are hard and the noise insulation is not the greatest point but it makes a comfortable stay. The hotel also has a coffee bar and restaurant, a great place to sit and relax with a glass of wine. It is located in side street off Zong Hua lu, the main walk through the island, making it quiet but of short distance away from many interesting places to visit like the Catholic church, the Huai Jiu Gulangyu museum, High Heaven complex and the beach.

Glass window in Gulanyu
Glass window in Gulanyu

The other interesting place we discovered was the Reminiscence hotel, behind the Huai Jiu Gulangyu Museum on 38 Huangyan lu (tel: 0592-2065000). It is probably less comfortable and modern than the Leeinn, but all furniture are antics and the renovation has left most of the inside fixtures in place creating a really nice atmosphere. This is a great place for history lovers like us and we will surely try it next year.

The most visible change from last year was the opening of many coffee shops on the island. Until last year, the only places to get descent coffee on a terrace after walking around the island was Naya hotel and Cafe, in the former German consulate (12 Lujiao Road, near the harbor), and slowly Cafe (An Hai lu 36). Coffee shops have sprung up around the island, particularly around Zhong Hua lu. Gulanyu is quickly transforming into a new version of Yangshuo or LiJiang with backpackers hotels and small “western restaurants” everywhere. Quite a number of houses are under renovation, showing that more of these places will open soon. Tourists were also in a much higher number than the year before. The quite little island is transforming to become a mass tourism destination. It definitely makes a stay there more comfortable… but a little less private and exclusive. It’s probably best to enjoy it as soon as possible, before the nice and quiet feeling disappears under the coming wave of KTV and tourist masses.

Next post about Gulangyu is “Night on Gulangyu“.