Quanzhou urban area consists of four districts:
Quanzhou Prefecture also administers eight counties:
The city was once the eastern terminus of the Maritime Silk Road and home to a large (100,000 by some estimates!) international community, mostly Arabs but also including Persians, Indians and others. The English word "satin" comes from "Zaiton", the Arabic name for Quanzhou, the port from which that fabric first reached the West.
Marco Polo sailed home from Quanzhou. He described it as the world's busiest port, with Alexandria second. At about that time, Kublai Khan's fleet for the invasion of Japan sailed from Quanzhou. It was wiped out by a storm, the kami kaze or "spirit wind". This is the origin of the name for kamikaze plots, it was hoped they would save Japan in a similar way.
After the emperor cut off foreign expeditions, destroyed the records and let the great ships rot in the 1420s, Quanzhou declined considerably. Today, it is less well-known than the provincial capital Fuzhou or Special Economic Zone Xiamen, and certainly gets fewer tourists than either. However, it definitely has its own attractions, notably interesting architecture and good shopping.
Like most Chinese cities, Quanzhou has some of the standard ugly 8-storey concrete apartment blocks. However, there are far fewer of those than elsewhere and whole districts are much prettier. The city government has policies that require new buildings to follow certain architectural conventions. Downtown, there are many new 4 to 6 floor buildings with the traditional Chinese tile roofs with points on the corners. Near the old mosque there are new buildings with Islamic themes in the architecture. The rebuilding of the Zhongshan Road shopping area got a UNESCO award for heritage preservation, and Quanzhou got an international award in a contest for most livable cities in 2003, neighboring Xiamen had won the previous year.
As with elsewhere in mainland China, standard Mandarin is the main language taught in schools and the main language in the official broadcast media so expect all educated people to be fluent in Mandarin.
The mainstream Minnan (Southern Min 闽南语 ; 闽台泉漳片闽南语 Hokkien-Taiwanese) is the local dialect in Quanzhou. The local dialect is fairly influential due to the influence of the neighbouring Taiwan that uses Taiwanese Minnan (台灣閩南語/台語) as the second most common spoken language across the Taiwan strait.
The locals in Quanzhou are proud of their Minnan language despite the central government attempts at promoting Mandarin as the common language. The locals in Quanzhou speak the local dialect and Mandarin in their daily lives. The locals speak a Quanzhou accented form of Minnan, which is slightly different from the standard Xiamen dialect accent and the Taiwanese Minnan (Tainan prestige accent). There is also a slight variation in the Quanzhou Minnan dialect as well. Nevertheless, the locals understand Xiamen dialect or Taiwanese Minnan due to the influence of Taiwanese Minnan language entertainment media. Any attempts to speak mainstream Minnan (闽南话) will be met with encouragement, and may even get you preferential treatment in shops and restaurants. If you are a Mandarin-speaking foreigner, you will be able to communicate with locals and get around as most services have staff who speak Mandarin.
Minnan is not mutually intelligible with Mandarin, Cantonese or any of the other Min dialects except for Teochew (潮汕话) which has a limited mutual intelligibility with it.
If you are a Mandarin-speaking foreigner, you will be able to communicate with locals and get around as most services have staff who speak Mandarin. English is not widely spoken, though staff in higher end hotels will usually be able to communicate in English.
Quanzhou, or rather Jinjiang across the river, has an airport with flights to various mainland cities. Nearby Xiamen has a more important airport with good domestic connections, including flights to Hong Kong and Macau and quite a few international flights.
Jinjiang International Airport is fairly close to central Quanzhou by car. However, it handles a limited number of international flights a day (low loads outside of peak season, like Golden Week), and the controlled area (where check-in, passport control and security screening are conducted) is only open to ticketed travelers 90 minutes ahead of the scheduled flight time. There's not much beyond security screening and passport control, so leave the dreams of duty-free shopping aside. Note other rules may apply for domestic departures.
Quanzhou has two kinds of rail service. The "conventional" rail line from the interior China terminates at Quanzhou East Station, located on the north-eastern outskirs of the city, off Chenghua South Rd (Hwy G324). At some 6 km from downtown, it is walkable if you are staying on the north-east side, but a bus or taxi is recommended. It is the terminal station for many (fairly slow) trains connecting Quanzhou with the interior of Fujian Province (Sanming, Wuyishan) and with major cities throughout China's hinterland, such as Nanchang, Wuhan (Wuchang Station), and Beijing.
The new high-speed rail line running along Fujian's sea coast, serves the new Quanzhou Station, located some 12 km northwest of the city proper, off Hwy S307. It is served by frequent high-speed trains running between Fuzhou and Xiamen. Some trains continue north to Wenzhou, Hangzhou, and Shanghai, and in the future (after 2012), one will be able to travel all the way south to Shenzhen; see High-speed rail in China for details.
There are two main bus stations, a fairly large one in a new building toward the east of town and one that is much more central and looks more run down. The latter is the "new bus station". A small bus station next to the Overseas Chinese Hotel has busses to Fuzhou and Shenzhen.
There is regular ferry service from Taiwan-controlled Kinmen Island to the port of Shijing (石井), some 50 km south of downtown Quanzhou. (CNY150, or NT750). In 2012, only PRC and ROC (Taiwan) citizens can use it. However, in 2015, the Chinese government opened up the port to foreign nationals as well.
Taxis start at ¥7 and you can go almost anywhere in town for under ¥20.
Be warned about local traffic! If you think traffic in typical Chinese cities is chaotic, you haven't seen Quanzhou. According to many travel blogs in China, Quanzhou traffic is so bad even Chinese are complaining about motorbikes riding on footpaths, cars stopped in the middle of traffic, expensive taxis, and so on.
The town has an assortment of religious buildings, some quite old. It has been called a museum of world religions. There are Taoist, Buddhist, and Confucian temples, as anywhere in China, plus Christian churches and one mosque. There are also Hindu and Zoroastrian temples.
The ancient residential buildings by Cai Qichang and his son, Cai senior in the Qing Tongzhi years (1862) to Xuantong three years (1911) built. The existing more complete house in all 16, and are arranged in parallel are orderly distribution to approximately 3hectares (40 acres ) of a rectangular block, thing long200 meters, North and south100 meters wide, covering an area of 15300square meters.
Souvenirs. There is large area of antique and curio shops on the north side of the mosque. They sell mainly to locals. Quality, variety and price are all better than most tourist areas. You do have to bargain fiercely, though.
White pottery from the village of Dehua outside Quanzhou has been a export item for centuries, known in Europe as "Blanc de Chine". Other ceramics are also made in the area. There are kilns going back a millennium or more.
Tea. Anxi outside Quanzhou produces one of China's most famous teas, Tieguanyin Oolong. Guan Yin is Goddess of Mercy; "tie" means iron. Tieguanyin tea is available in countless shops throughout Quanzhou, in most you can sit and try a variety of grades of tea to decide which you want. Prices for a jin (half kilo) of tea in a typical shop start at about ¥40 and there are some very nice teas under ¥200. However, tea in Chinese culture is priced like wine in the West, the really rare and excellent varieties fetch staggering prices. It is not uncommon to see teas at ¥600-2,000 a jin. These shops also sell the miniature tea sets that are most commonly used in this area, making and drinking tea this way is somewhat labor-intensive (each cup is smaller than a shot glass and a 'pot' is about as big as a coffee cup) but an enjoyable social experience. Making and serving tea in this way is not really a tea 'ceremony' in the sense of a Japanese tea ceremony, but it is still a ritualized and celebrated process.
North of the mosque, across the arched bridge over the small creek (Baguagou), is a traditional courtyard house that has been converted into a teahouse. This is a good place to get an introduction to the local tea service, your server can show you how to prepare the tea. Most tea shops will also be happy to give you an impromptu lesson in brewing tea.
Books and maps. The labirynthine Quanzhou Book City (泉州书城), located underground in Zhongshan Park (Zhongshan North Road, just south of Quanshan Gate)， is pretty good for books and maps of all kinds (mostly in Chinese, of course). This is the only book shop in China where I simultaneously saw many provincial atlases from from StarMaps "军民双用" ("Military and civil use") series, which are superior to most other publishers' products.
Bicycles. Quanzhou's bike shops of all kinds are concentrated in Zhongshan Nan Lu (Zhongshan South Road). The more southern section, from Tianhou Lu to Yiquan Lu, has primarily electric bike shops. More to the north, from Yiquan Lu to Tumen Lu, regular (pedal) bicycles are found as well, in a at least a dozen shops. There are a few high-end places for various brands, as well as several shops for Chinese mass-market bikes, in the CNY200-500 range. The small family-owned Triace shop at 376 Zhongshan South Road (山南路376号) can be recommended for its friendly and knowledgeable staff. They speak good Mandarin and a bit of English, and can provide local advice and help you get in touch with local bicycle enthusiasts.
ELectronics. Need a new iPad? A Chinese cell phone. Some spare parts for your laptop? Computer, cell phone, and electronics shops can be found in Jiuyi St (九一街), west of Wenling Rd. There are also many cell phone shops farther east, as Jiuyi St becomes Fengce Rd (丰泽路)。
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, at the foot of Qingyuanshan, and in nearby Putian. Both of these were burned down during other conflicts, but are being rebuilt. The Quanzhou temple  takes foreign students at rates around $500 a month including room and board.
There are several vegetarian restaurants near Chengtien Temple on Nanjun Road
Zhuangyuan Street (Bar Street) is to the east of Zhongshan Road north of the center of town. The street is parallel and slightly south of East Street. It has many bars.
Quanzhou is not a common tourist city and there are relatively few hotels.
Inconveniently located on Wenling Road or Chongfu Road are several cheap business hotels, for ¥50-100. There is a hotel in the main bus station (turn right as you come out, look for the London/Moscow/Beijing/... row of clocks in the reception area) and several more along the (fairly long) street between it and the more central bus station. But there are also other budget options in town.
Several hotels exist on the high end, alongside Baiyuan Road and the surroundings, they look like palaces and are easy to spot.
The area code for Quanzhou is 595.