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The maritime Silk Road was a conduit for trade and cultural exchange between China’s south-eastern coastal areas and foreign countries. There were two major routes: the East China Sea Silk Route and the South China Sea Silk Route .

Starting from Quanzhou Fujian Province, the maritime Silk Road was the earliest voyage route that was formed in the Qin and Han dynasties, developed from the Three Kingdoms Period to the Sui Dynasty, flourished in the Tang and Song dynasties, and fell into decline in the Ming and Qing dynasties.

Through the maritime Silk Road, silk, china, tea, and brass and iron were the four main categories exported to foreign countries; while spices, flowers and plants, and rare treasures for the court were brought to China. Therefore, the maritime Silk Road was also known as “the maritime China road “or “the maritime spices road”.

East China Sea Silk Route

The East China Sea Silk Route mainly went to Japan and Korea. It dates back to the Zhou Dynasty (1112 BC) when the government sent some Chinese people to Korea to teach its people farming and sericulture, departing from the port of Bohai Bay, Shandong Peninsula.

From that time, the skills and techniques of raising silkworms, silk reeling and weaving were introduced into Korea slowly via the Yellow Sea.

When Emperor Qin Shi Huang united China (221 BC), many people from the States of Qi, Yan and Zhao fled to Korea and took with them silkworms and raising technology, which sped up the development of silk spinning in Korea.

During the Sui and Tang dynasties, Japanese envoys and monks travelled to China frequently. They brought back the blue damask silks that they got in Taizhou, Zhejiang Province, which served as samples. Since the Tang Dynasty, silk products from Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces were directly transported to Japan by sea, and the silk products formally became the commodities.  

In the Song Dynasty, lots of silk products were exported to Japan. In the Yuan Dynasty, the government set up Shi Bo Si (市舶司) in many ports, such as Ningbo, Quanzhou, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Ganpu, Wenzhou, and Hangzhou, in order to export the silk products to Japan.

Shi Bo Si’s Oceangoing and Marketing Department, was set up in each port to administrate foreign economy-related affairs by sea during the dynasties of Tang, Song and Yuan, and the early part of the Ming Dynasty.

The maritime Silk Road fell into decline because of the Haijin policy of the Qing Dynasty. The Haijin policy was a ban on maritime activities imposed during the Ming and Qing dynasties.

South China Sea Silk Route

The South China Sea Silk Route was an important conduit for China’s exchanges with the outside world. The South China Sea Silk Route got its name for being centered around the South China Sea, and its starting points at that time were mainly in Guangzhou, Quanzhou and Ningbo.

Like the East China Sea Silk Route, it was first used in the Qin and Han dynasties, increased its popularity from the Three Kingdoms Period to the Sui Dynasty, flourished in the Tang and Song dynasties, and began to wane in the Ming and Qing dynasties.

Before the Sui Dynasty, the maritime Silk Road was the most famous transportation route since the overland Silk Road run, and then the maritime Silk Road became a secondary alternative to it.

During the period of the Sui and Tang dynasties, the overland Silk Road was interrupted by wars in the western areas, giving place to the maritime Silk Road.

In the late Tang and Song dynasties, technological advances in shipbuilding and navigation led to the opening of new sea lanes to Southeast Asia, Malacca, the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea and the continent of Africa, which made the maritime Silk Road rise again.

Recommended Route

Fujian — Guangdong — Tianjin — Zhejiang — Liaoning — Shandong

Must-see Along The Route
01. Fujian Province

Fujian Province, with a warm and humid semi-tropical maritime climate, is situated along China’s southeastern coast. It is separated from Taiwan only by the narrow Taiwan Straits. With more than 3,300-meter coastlines, the province occupies a total land area of 121, 400 square kilometers and 136,300 square kilometers of sea area, one of the major windows and bases for China’s foreign communication. With a population of 35 million, Fujian is also the major hometown of overseas Chinese in China. Over the world, there are more than ten million overseas Chinese of Fujian origin. 

With plenty of renowned mountains, peaks, Fujian boasts a rich resource of green plants and biotic diversities. With an excellent ecological environment, forest coverage of the province reaches 62 percent, topping the first in China. With distinctive features of a coastal province, there are quite a lot of shores, sand beaches, and islands. At present, there are altogether 13 national key tourist attractions, nine state-level nature protection areas, 19 national forests parks, and five national geological parks in Fujian. Wuyi Mountain was inscribed into World Cultural and Natural Heritage List by UNESCO World Heritage Committee for its “rare, unique, and astonishing beauty, its magnificent geographical location for preserving biotic diversities, and its time- honored history and culture.” Moreover, the fames of other scenic spots such as Gulangyu Island, known as “Garden on the Sea”, earth buildings of Hakkas, Taining Golden Lake, Zhangzhou volcano national geologic park, Fading Taimu Mountain, and Hui’an women of Quanzhou City, marine Silk Road, Fuzhou shipping culture are widely spread. Mazu, goddess of the sea, has a lot of followers both in China and beyond.

Fujian’s time-honored history gives birth to a splendid culture. Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam, three world major religions, all have profound foundations in this province. Of all the 142 national key temples in China, 14 are in Fujian and Quanzhou City s Qingjing Mosque is one of the oldest Islam mosques in China. There are altogether four renowned historical and cultural cities and 45 major historical and cultural sites under state protection in the province. Besides the Han people, there are also such ethnic groups as She, Gaoshan, Hui, Meng, and Man, with their distinctive yet colorful features residing in this province. Fujian boasts convenient air, road, railway, and water transportations, a safe multi-dimensional transportation network to connect places at home and abroad. Fujian is an ideal tourist destination.

Fujian tulou consists of 46 buildings constructed between the 15th and 20th centuries over 120 kilometers in the south-west of Fujian province, inland from the Taiwan Strait. Set amongst rice, tea and tobacco fields the tulou are earthen houses. Several stories high, they were built along an inward-looking, circular or square floor plan as housing for up to 800 people each. They were built for defense purposes around a central open courtyard with only one entrance and windows to the outside only above the first floor. Housing a whole clan, the houses functioned as village units and were known as “a little kingdom for the family” or “bustling small city”. They feature tall fortified mud walls capped by tiled roofs with wide over-hanging eaves. The most elaborate structures date back to the 17th and 18th centuries. The buildings were divided vertically between families with each disposing of two or three rooms on each floor.

In contrast with their plain exterior, the inside of the tulou were built for comfort and were often well decorated. They are inscribed as exceptional examples of a building tradition and their function exemplifies a particular type of communal living and defensive organization. In terms of their harmonious relationship with their environment, they are an outstanding example of human settlement.

With a total area of 1.91 square kilometers, Gulangyu Island is the largest satellite island of Xiamen. With lofty and steep rocks on the island, there are plenty of dells, sand beaches, reefs, barrancas, and peaks on the island. Known as Musician’s Cradle, A Island of Piano, and Museum for Constructions, quite a lot of European-continental style structures exist on the island. With breath-taking views and magnificent constructions on the island, Gulangyu Island also enjoys the laudatory title “Garden on the Sea.” Major scenic spots on the island are Sun Light Cliff, Shuzhuang Garden, Haoyue Garden, Sea World, Gulangyu Rock, Shuyuan Garden and Sea World.

Situated at southern Wuyishan City, Fujian, at the southeast foot of north Wuyi Mountain range, Wuyi Mountain was listed in the first group of National Key Scenic Spots and inscribed into the List of World Cultural and Natural Heritage in 1999. Shaped as a strip and with a total area of 70 square kilometers, the width from east to west is about 5 kilometers and the length from south to north is about 14 kilometers. Belonging to Danxia physiognomy, Wuyi Mountain forms its unique geographic features because of crustal movement in the history and is known as “three by three,” “six by six,” “seventy-two” and “ninety-nine.” “Three by three” refers to the jade-like nine twist stream circling around the mountain. “Six by six” refers to the thirty six gorgeous peaks. “Seventy-two” and “ninety-nine” refer to 72 caves and 99 cliffs, respectively. With green water and red hills, Wuyi Mountain is famed as “Most Beautiful Under Heaven.

Kaiyuan Temple
Zhangzhou Tulou
Tianyou Peak
Stone House
Fuzhou Sanfang Qixiang Night Street
02. Guangdong Province

Guangdong lies in the southern tip of the mainland of China, with Nanling Mountain behind, the South China Sea in front, and borders Hong Kong and Macao. It is a famous native place of overseas Chinese. Most parts of Guangdong have a subtropical, marine and monsoon climate. All plants are green year round. With a beautiful landscape, the province is suitable for tours year round. 

Guangdong has a favorable geographical position and a long history It has rich tourist resources with the customs and features of the area in the south of Five Ridges (covering Guangdong and Guangxi). The main tourists areas include the four famous mountains: the Danxia Mountain (a world natural heritage), Xiqiao Mountain next to the South China Sea, Luofu Mountain in Boluo and Dinghu Mountain in Zhaoqing, the Seven-Star Rock surrounded by mountains and waters, Yingxi Peaks and the North Guangdong Grand Canyon. In addition, the Pearl River Delta, waterside villages in Chaozhou-Shantou Delta, extensive coastline, numerous islands, quantities of golf courses and various kinds of hot springs are all attractive to tourists.

A world cultural heritage block houses and villages in Kaiping, Liangyuan Garden in Foshan, Keyuan Garden in Dongguan, Qinghui Garden in Shunde and Yuyin Mountain Houses in Panyu are reputable historical sites in Guangdong. Guangzhou, Chaozhou, Foshan, Meizhou, Zhaoqing and Haikang are six national historical and cultural cities and are famous for their own unique historical and cultural sites.

Recently Guangdong has developed new scenic areas such as Chimelong Iburist and Holiday Resort in Guangzhou, the Overseas Chinese City in east Shenzhen, Ligong International Iburist and Holiday Resort in Shaoguan, Jinghuayuan Tourism Area in Heyuan, Qingxin Hot Spring Holiday Resort in Qingyuan, New Yiianmingyuan Garden and International Racecourse in Zhuhai make tourists forget to return.

In addition, Guangdong is well known for its delicious food and snacks. The elegant restaurants, modern shopping streets, local and special products of great varieties, crafts and regional folk culture constitute a charming picture featuring the customs of the areas south of the Five Ridges for Chinese and foreign tourists.

Blockhouses spread in rural areas of Kaiping, Guangdong Province. These multi-storied tower-style blockhouses were first built in early Qing Dynasty integrating defense, residences and combination of Chinese and Western architectural arts. Also they show the history of overseas Chinese, social form and traditional culture. Most of them are scattered in Kaiping and extend in length and breadth for dozens of kilometers in large scale, great varieties and unique shapes. In 2007, they have been included into the list of world heritage sites by the UNESCO.

Baiyun Mountain in the northern part of Guangzhou is one of the most famous mountains in the southern part of Guangdong Province. It is an extension of the Nankun Mountains. Its three dozens of peaks stretch over 9.7 kilometers long and 4.5 kilometers wide at the widest place and occupy an area of 20.98 square kilometers. Its main peak, Moxingling, is 382 meters high. Many streams flow in its gullies. One can climb up it to have a panoramie view of the whole city of Guangzhou and the Pearl River in distance.

Danxia Mountain, Chinese Red Stone Park, stands in Renhua County and Zhenjiang District, Shaoguan City. It covers an area of 292 square kilometers and is the largest and most beautiful scenic area in Guangdong Province with Danxia landform as its core. It has been listed as world natural heritage, world geopark and a national AAAA scenic area. Also it is a national natural reserve and a national geopark.

Canton Tower
Ruyuan Grand Canyon
Shixing Red Land
Hakka Wedding Ceremony
Pingtian Town in Late Autumn
03. Tianjin

Situated in the northeast of the North China Plain, Tianjin adjoins Beijing and faces the Bohai Sea in the east. It covers an area of ]1,900 square kilometers and has a population of more than 10 million. The most famous river flowing through the city is the Haihe River. As one of the four municipalities directly under the central government, Tianjin serves as an economic center around the Bohai Sea area, an ancient town of historic and cultural significance and one of China’s Excellent Tourist Cities, as well as an important port for international trade. Literally meaning “ferry wharf of the emperor,” Tianjin developed into an prosperous metropolis and traffic hub, as well as an strategic place for marine defense during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1616-1911) dynasties. In 1860, when the Second Opium War came to an end, Tianjin was opened to foreign trade, and nine foreign countries consecutively built settlements in the city. Over the past 600 years, history has bestowed on the city a unique trait blending both Eastern and Western civilizations. Since the nation’s implementation of reform and opening-up policies, Tianjin has become the largest opened coastal city in North China and regarded as a “pearl around the Bohai Sea” both at home and abroad.

Benefiting from its long history, Tianjin abounds in places of scenic and cultural interest. Roaming around the city nicknamed as “World Architectural Exposition,” visitors may be amazed at countless Western-style buildings with exotic flavor and old Chinese buildings with endless elegance, as well as picturesque landscapes along the zigzagging Haihe River. The streets, shops, buildings, residents and local food are irresistible attractions. Besides, forests and lakes in idyllic suburbs, ancient temples amidst deep mountains and dense woods and the world-renowned Huangyaguan Great Wall are also ideal places for sightseeing and recreation. An ancient city blending Eastern and Western cultures, Tianjin has become a modern metropolis that is witnessing an increasing prosperity. 

In 1986, Tianjin was nominated by the State Council as one of China’s Famous Cities of Historical and Cultural Significance. In 1998, it was cited as one of the first group of the Excellent Tourist Cities by the China National Tourism Administration. 

The Haihe Tower Commercial & Trade District on Tianjin Ancient Culture Street is adjacent to the city’s Sanchakou area, which had developed into a town before the city of Tianjin was established in December 1404. The area was the city’s oldest place integrating cultures, religious and commerce. The Haihe Tower Commercial & Trade District stretches southwards from Tongbei Road to Shuige Street, and spans eastwards from Dongma Road to Zhangzizhong Road. Totally covering architectural areas of 200,000 square meter, it is multipurpose commercial area integrating tourism, shopping, catering, hostelling, entertainment, recreation and bodybuilding.

Featuring over 2,000 garden-style foreign buildings built in the 1920’s and 1930’s, it includes over 300 varied buildings and residences of celebrities. It enjoys the title of Universal Buildings Expo.

Located at the west of Mingqing Street, it exhibits the history, representative works of each period and preparing processes, etc, of Yangliuqing New Year Paintings, as well as on-site hand painting. It is welcomed by visitors at home and abroad for its exquisite sculpture, fine painting, bright colors, vivid images and propitious meanings, ect.

Science and Technology Museum
Binhai Library
City Horizon
Porcelain House
Night View of Jinwan Square
04. Zhejiang Province

The east coastal Zhejiang Province is named after its largest river, the Qiantang River (it was known as the Zhejiang River in ancient times). The province has a population of 51.8 million and an area of 101,800 square kilometers, and is one of the smallest provinces in China. But it has rich tourism resources, and its capital city Hangzhou is one of the seven ancient capitals in Chinese history. 

Zhejiang has two world heritage sites, 18 national scenic and historic interest areas and 41 provincial ones. Among them, the most famous are the beautiful West Lake in Hangzhou, the great Yandang Mountain in Wenzhou, Putuo Mountain in Zhoushan and Tiantai Mountain in Taizhou.

History-rich Zhejiang has six state-level historic and cultural cities including Hangzhou, Shaoxing, Ningbo, Quzhou, Linhai and Jinhua. In addition, it has a number of key cultural sites under state protection, such as the vivid Buddhist stone sculptures on Feilai Peak in Hangzhou; the Tianyi Pavilion Library, China’s oldest library; and Guoqing Temple, the origin of the Tiantai sect of Buddhism.

Renowned as a land of rice and fish, silk and culture, Zhejiang appeals to domestic and overseas tourists with its beautiful natural landscape and cultural heritage. Welcome to the wonderland Zhejiang!

The area, taking up 12.93 square kilometers, is actually a small island among the Zhoushan Islands. It is one of the first batch of key national scenic and historic interest areas in China. Putuo Mountain is a holy land for Buddhist pilgrims and holds more than 70 temples, of which the three best known arc Puji Temple, Fayu Temple and Huiji Temple. The bathing beaches in the area — Baibusha and Qianbusha also attract a large number of tourists.

Located on west of Hangzhou, the national AAAAA scenic area covers an area of 59 square kilometers. It is surrounded by hills on three sides and has a lot of scenic spots. In addition to the Top 10 West Lake Surrounding Sceneries like the Spring Dawn at Su Causeway, Melting Snow at Broken Bridge and Three Pools Mirroring the Moon, there are 10 new sceneries around West Lake, such as Yellow Dragon Cave Dressed in Green, Flying Clouds Over Jade Emperor Hill and the Dream of the Tiger-Running Spring.

The town is located in the north of Tongxiang City and by the Beijing-Hangzhou Canal. Residents here live along the rivers. They have preserved the town’s old lifestyle and architectural features. The town is also the hometown of Mao Dun (1896-1981), a great writer in modern Chinese history. Visitors can see the Mao Dun memorial hall and his former residence.

National Ancient Track
Gongchen Bridge
Qiantang River Tide
Hangzhou Silk
Zhulaoda Rice Pudding Wrapped in Bamboo Leaf
05. Liaoning Province

Lying in the southern part of Northeast China and within Northeast Asia’s Bohai-Rim Econoic Circle, Liaoning Province has a temperate continental climate, with an annual average temperature at 16 degrees Celsius. It is coldest in January and hottest in July. Compared to inland cities, the coastal areas have a mild temperature change. Here, spring spans from March to May, summer from June to August, autumn in September and October, and winter from November through February. The province’s best season for travel ranges from May to October, and January and February are the optimal time for experiencing ice and snow delight and traditional festivals. 

Liaoning governs 14 prefecture-level cities, and Shenyang is the provincial capital. The province covers an area of 148,000 square kilometers and has a population of 42.03 million. While most of its population is the Han people, the province is also inhabited by people from 52 ethnic minorities, including the Manchu, Mongolian, Korean, and Xibe, accounting for 16 percent of its total population. Moreover, the number of its Manchus and Xibe people tops that of any other province in China.

Liaoning Province borders the Yellow Sea and the Bohai Sea in the south and faces the Korean Peninsula across a river. Enjoying an exceptional geographical location, it serves as the economic center and a transportation and communications hub in Northeast China. The convenient land, sea and air transportation links Liaoning to more than 50 large and medium-sized cities across China, the Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions, and Japan, South Korea, Russia, Thailand and other foreign countries, making the province an important tourist destination in Northeast Asia.

The Liaohe River drainage basin was one of the birthplaces of the splendid culture of China. From the Zhou Dynasty (C.1100B.C.-256B.C.) through the Qing Dynasty (1616- 1911), a large number of cultural relics and historical sites of legendary color were left behind across the province. Among them are worldwide-renowned Shenyang Imperial Palace and the Three Tombs before the Qing Dynasty in the middle part, the historical sites with respect to contemporary warfare in the south, and the historical sites of the Qin and Han (221B.C.-220A.D.) Dynasties, Song and Liao (907-1279) Dynasties, and Ming and Qing (1368-1911) Dynasties in the west. Liaoning has a coastline stretching over 2,100 kilometers from the estuary of the Yalu River in Dandong City to the Jieshi Seashore in Huludao City. Famous mountains, picturesque rivers, and fantastic landscapes are scattered on the Liaodong Peninsula and the Liaoxi Corridor. Liaoning is home to six World Cultural Heritages: the Imperial Palace, Qing-Dynasty Fuling Tomb, and Qing- Dynasty Zhaoling Tomb in Shenyang; Qing-Dynasty Yongling Tomb in Fushun; Wunushan Mountain Town in Benxi; and Jiumekou Great Wall in Huludao. In addition, there are also Hetuala City, constructed before the Qing Dynasty; Dongjing City and Dongjing Tomb in Liaoyang; an ancient meteorite in Shenyang, which is the largest of its kind ever found in the world dating back 1.9 billion years; and the Shuangtaizi Wetland Nature Reserve in Panjin, which is the second largest reedy swamp in the world. Other scenic attractions include the Weird Slope and Snake Island in Shenyang, Bijia Mountain in Jinzhou, Water Cave in Benxi, Red Beach in Panjin, Qianshan Mountain, Phoenix Mountain, Chessboard Mountain, Ice Valley, and Wunu (Five Maidens) Mountain. A colorful diversity of i cultural events, such as the Dalian International Fashion Festival, the Shenyang Inter- national Ice and Snow Festival, the Fushun Manchu Culture Tourist Festival the Benxi Maple Leaves Festival, the Dandong Yalu River International Tourist Festival the Yinakou Wang,er Mountain Mother’s Day, and the Tieling Folk Arts Festival, have attracted waves of domestic and international visitors.

On the beautiful Liaodong Peninsula and along the colorful Liaoxi Corridor, the people of Liaoning sincerely await friends both at home and abroad.

Covering an area of 1.18 million square meters along a 4,000m-long coastline in southern Dalian City, the park features an enchanting blending of mountain and sea views and offers a wide range of recreational amenities, such as the LHT Pole Aquarium, a sea beasts hall, a coral hall, a pirate village, a bird paradise, a cross-sea cable, sightseeing boats, flume ride, bungee, and speed downhill. It is a modern, ocean- themed destination combining sightseeing, recreation, culture, shopping, and science education.

Outside the coastal dyke in southwestern Panjin City, there is an intertidal zone, 26 kilometers in length and nearly a kilometer in width. Growing on the intertidal zone are luxuriant suaeda, which become reddish in May and June, then pink in July and August, and dark red from September to November. For the magnificent view, it has won the reputation as the Red Beach. Here, amidst reedy swamps live 236 species of birds, of which the most famous are the red-crowned crane and the Saunders’s gull. Tourist activities with strong natural charm, such as observing cranes in reeds and exploring rare birds, have been carried out here. There are crane watching terraces built on the zone.

Located west of Benxi County, the Benxi Water Cave is a large water-eroded cave that was formed about five million years ago. Stretching from northwest to southeast, it consists of three sections: water cave, dry cave, and drainage,ve. Nearly 3,000 meters of an underground river here have been developed for sightseeing, making the cave the longest of its kind that can be visited by tourists on a boat in China. Here, the nature has created a fairyland-like view composed of grotesque stalagmites and stalactites. Clear and transparent, the river in the cave runs all year around.

Xingcheng Seaside Three Reef Range Rover
Tieling's Last Steam Locomotive
The Great Water Wall at Jiumenkou, Huludao
Yingkou Liaohe Bridge
Maifan Stone Roasted Food
06. Shandong Province

Abbreviated as “Lu”, Shandong (literally “east of the mountain”) Province is so named because it is located to the east of the Taihang Mountains. Situated on the coastland of East China in the lower reaches of the Yellow River, it includes the peninsula and the mainland territory.

Shandong’s terrain is complicated, with hills being the principal landform. The eastern part of the province is the peninsula with its fascinating coastline views. Its central and southern regions are composed of hills, while its southwestern region is made up of hills. 

The province has a monsoon climate, with concentrated rainfall during the hot season. It is hot and rainy in the summer, and dry and cold in winter.

Shandong enjoys a long history and is a land that has bred generations of talents. As early as the Pre-Qin era, Qilu Culture was cultivated here, with its core being Confucian Culture.

Over a long course of history, a distinctive cultural system was established here. Shandong Cuisine is the leading style among the four Chinese Cuisines. There are more than 30 varieties of popular operas in Shandong.

Penglai has long been recognized as “the fairyland of the mortal world”. Legend has it that Penglai, Fangzhang and Yingzhou are the three fairy mountains in the sea. It is the location where the first emperor of Qin and Emperor Wu in the Han Dynasty sought elixirs of immortality. It is also the source of the Chinese legend of “the Eight Immortals Crossing the Sea”.

Mount Lao is an important mountain for Taoism. The ancients referred to it as “the abode of immortals and spirits”. The peak of the Mountain stands 1,133 meters above sea level on the coast of the Yellow Sea. It has long been known as “the Greatest Mountain near the Sea”.

The pretties kite in the sky is to be found in Weifang. Once in Weifang, you must see the world-famous kites and New Year paintings, and when you see people painting kites, making woodcut pictures and other folk customs in Yangjiabu, you’ll know what is real heritage.

Olympic Sailing Center
Kong Family Mansions
Long Island Sister Peak
Taierzhuang Intangible Culture Expo Park