Historically, Fujian has been one of the more prosperous and outward-looking provinces of China, an area of traders and seafarers. In the 1900s, two of China's five treaty ports - Xiamen and Fuzhou - were in Fujian. After the Second World war, however, Fujian's traditional trade with Japan was reduced and her other main customer, Taiwan, was the enemy. Recently, however, Fujian is recovering. Like other coastal provinces, it is now one of the more modern and prosperous areas of China.
Light industry, especially clothing and shoes, predominates but there is some heavier industry. Agriculture is also important; in particular, Fujian produces a great deal of tea notably some excellent Oolong teas. As a coastal province, Fujian is much involved with the sea. Fishing and fish farming are important industries and the local cuisine emphasizes seafood.
Fujian has a higher proportion of Muslims than most areas of Southern China due to the history of trade via the Maritime Silk Road, and quite a few Christians since it was a focus of 19th century missionary activity.
The terrain is quite mountainous, but these are not great mountains like the Himalayas or Rockies, more like the Appalachians or the Scottish highlands. There is a saying that Fujian is 80% mountain, 10% water, and 10% farmland.
Today, all educated people in Fujian speak Mandarin. It has been the language of education throughout China since the 1950s and is now the lingua franca in Fujian as everywhere else.
However, Fujian also has dozens of its own dialects. The terrain is mountainous; at one time nearly every valley had its own language. These dialects are usually described with the prefix "Min" (闽 Mǐn), where Min is another name for Fujian. These dialects are not mutually intelligible, though they do share certain common features. Generally speaking, the "Min" group of Chinese dialects is the most different from standard Mandarin of all the dialects in China. Min varieties have fewer similarities with Mandarin than English has with Dutch.
Among all the various Min dialects spoken in Fujian, the most well known and the biggest Min dialect group is Minnan Hua (闽南语/闽南话; Mǐnnán yu/Mǐnnán huà; Southern Min; Hokkien-Taiwanese) spoken in Southern Fujian as well as Taiwan. Southern Min also has its other variants that are spoken in other parts of Fujian, Guangdong Province and the Hainan island. Generally speaking, the Quanzhang (泉漳) variety spoken in Xiamen, Quanzhou, Zhangzhou and surrounding areas in Southern Fujian is the mainstream form of Southern Min.
There are slight dialectal variations of Minnan between the three cities; Strictly speaking, Quanzhou dialect remains to be the Traditional Standard Minnan till this present day. However, Xiamen dialect is adopted as the Modern Standard Minnan today. Many people in Taiwan speak the same language, though they may call it Taiwanese. In Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, the overseas chinese call it Hokkien (the Minnan word for Fujian).
The Chaoshan (潮汕） variant of Minnan, which is spoken in the neighbouring Eastern Guangdong located south of the Fujian border, commonly known as Teochew is only mutually intelligible with Minnan to a small degree. The Hainanese/Qiong Wen （海南/琼文） variant of Minnan which is spoken in the Hainan island, is also related to Minnan, but not mutually intelligible with it.
The second well known and the second largest Min dialect group in Fujian is the Mindong (闽东 Mǐn dōng; Eastern Min) or Fuzhou Hua (福州话 Fúzhōu huà; Fuzhou speech). Fuzhou dialect is spoken in Fuzhou and also has a large number of speakers in the northern coastal areas. It is also been used in some china town all around world such as New York. In Malaysia and Singapore, it is known as Hokchiu (the Mindong word for Fuzhou). There are dialectal variations; the Mindong dialects in Fuzhou and Fu'an, which are only about 4 hours apart by car, are not mutually intelligible, though the Fuzhou dialect is considered to be the prestige dialect of Mindong.
The Hakka (客家 Kèjiā) people in the West of Fujian, and in several other areas of Southern China, came as refugees from one of Northern China's wars some centuries back. Hakka means "guest people". They have their own Hakka language (客家话; Kèjiāhuà), related to Northern dialects rather than to any other Fujian language.
As with the rest of China, English is not widely spoken, though airline and high-end hotel staff in the larger cities will usually have a basic grasp of English.
Fujian is well connected via China's domestic airline, bus, highway and train networks.
The main airports are at Xiamen and Fuzhou; both have flights to Hong Kong as well as many mainland cities, as well as international flights to some other Asian cities. Xiamen also has cheap international connections to Manila, Singapore and Bangkok; see Discount airlines in Asia for details. The scenic Wu Yi Mountain area also has an airport with good domestic connections. Often package deals are available - flights and accommodation, and perhaps a guide, for a fixed price.
There are good highway connections around the province and out of it into neighboring provinces. There are regular buses from any of the main Fujian cities to any of the major cities in nearby provinces. Many of the roads are through mountainous (or at least very hilly) terrain and are feats of engineering involving a lot of bridges and tunnels. During World War II, the Japanese controlled most of Fujian but did not reach Sanming because of the mountains. Today, it is a few hours' drive on good roads from Fuzhou.
There is a high-speed rail line in service which connects Xiamen and Fuzhou to Ningbo, Hangzhou and Shanghai, running mostly along the coast. Speeds are over 200 km/hour (125 mph) and the Fuzhou-Shanghai trip takes about six hours. Extensions South to Shenzhen and inland to Nanchang in Jiangxi are planned. As of early 2011, construction on those is visible, but does not look near completion. Older rail lines which wind inland through the mountains carry passengers as well and are cheaper, but much less convenient. For example, Fuzhou-Shanghai takes 17 hours instead of six.
There are boats to Taiwan-controlled islands that are located near the Fujian coast — from Mawei, a suburb of Fuzhou, to Matsu and from Xiamen to Kinmen. From those islands, it is possible to continue to the main island of Taiwan.
The main mode of intercity travel is by bus. There are trains, but some routes are not convenient because of mountainous terrain. Flying within the province is relatively expensive.
New lines for high speed trains, on a more direct route along the coast, are now in service. For anywhere they go — Zhangzhou, Xiamen, Quanzhou, Putian, Fuzhou, Ningde and off toward Zhejiang and Shanghai — they are now the most convenient way to travel.
Parks and landscapes
Wuyishan: Climb up this mountain and enjoy the view from the top. It is worth it! It takes about an hour to reach the top and half an hour to come down. Enjoy the scenic bamboo raft ride down the river. You get to see huge rocks of different shapes and sizes - some of which resemble people or animals. You will also get to see some "hanging coffins" - coffins, believed to be more than 2000 years old, placed inside large cracks in some of the gigantic rocks. These cracks are about 20-40 metres above the river. Nobody knows how the coffins got there. The ride takes about one-and-the-half hours. Each raft comes with two rowers and can take six passengers.
Gulangyu is southwest of Xiamen Island, with an area of 1.87 square kilometers, and a population of 1.6 million, across the 500-meter-wide Lujiang from Xiamen. Gulangyu was originally named round sandbar (Yuen Chau Tsai) during the Ming Dynasty because of a grotto created by the action of the waves. Gulangyu is known as “Sea Garden” since the island climate is warm in the winter and cool in the summer, as if it experiences spring all year around. All kinds of flowers bloom, and the grass and leaves are always green.
One could plan a tour of Fujian devoted to exploring its amazing variety of religious structures. Quanzhou has Qingyuan Mountain, a major Taoist site that attracts visitors from all over China, one of China's oldest mosques, and the world's last Manichean temple. Putian has the Mazu temple. Xiamen, Fuzhou and Quanzhou all have major Buddhist temples, and dozens of smaller temples are scattered around the countryside. Fujian was also a major area of missionary activity in the 19th century and Christian churches abound, mainland China's oldest church is in Xiamen. The original Shaolin Temple, one of China's greatest centers of kung fu, is in Henan, but during one of China's many wars a lot of the monks fled South and founded Southern Shaolin with temples in Quanzhou and Putian.
Fujian has its own cuisine, largely based on seafood.
Fujian is famous for tea (in the 19th century, Fuzhou was China's busiest tea port) and you can get good tea almost anywhere. In fact, the English word "tea" was derived from its Minnan name. Try the tea eggs (茶葉蛋 cháyèdàn), hard boiled eggs cooked in tea, available on streets everywhere.
Like most of China, Fujian has quite a few locations for several large coffee chains, including UBC Coffee (上岛咖啡 shàngdǎo kāfēi), Ming Tien and SPR. It also has some good smaller chains, Blenz, Dawin and King Buck; these are usually cheaper.
As anywhere in China, beer is widely available. Hui Quan is a Fujian brand, a light palatable lager.
Like other areas on the Southern coastal, Fujian is prone to typhoons, which occur mostly from July to September. The province is also located on several small fault lines, and so is occasionally hit by earthquakes, though these tend to be minor.
I would add, watch out for pickpockets in Fuzhou. I have traveled all over the world and lived in New York City for over 25 years, and the only place I have ever been pickpocketed is in Fuzhou. They are super pros. Never felt a thing. I know other people with similar experiences.