Fuzhou Highlight: The Black and White Towers

South entrance to Wu Hill.

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Scramble over the hills Wu and Yu in the middle of one of China’s most underrated cities

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In the summer of 2013 I moved to Fuzhou to live permanently as an English teacher.  While my experience in this city wasn’t my first impression of China (that was Beijing) it was in this city that I think I fell in love with the country.  Fuzhou rarely appears on the itineraries of tourists in China and is mentioned in the Lonely Planet mainly as a pit-stop between Wuyi Shan and Xiamen.

But the city has a lot to offer on its own, including the Black Pagoda on Wu Hill and the White Tower on Yu Mountain, both nearly adjacent to each other.  I’d recommend starting with Wu (Black Stone) Hill and the Black Pagoda, first built in 799 A.D. and rebuilt in 936 A.D.  The Pagoda is legendary as a site of ancient human sacrifices and was originally built by an insecure King during the Five Dynasties period of disunity to ward off evil spirits.  The tower’s macabre function is reflected in its appearance, a looming dark pile of stone hulking out from the shade of Wu Hill.

You can start from the South Gate, maybe charging up for the march up the hill at the nearby Starbucks troublingly if beautifully constructed within the shell of a traditional building.  Behind the Starbucks is a museum dedicated to the Game of Go, popular in both China and Japan.  Many Go masters, including the subject of the Japanese film The Go Master, hail from Fuzhou.  Climbing over Wu Hill on the way to the North Gate, you can explore meandering paths through groves of Banyan and other flowering trees and a hillside Daoist temple.  Close to the Black Pagoda is Guan Ya Mall and food-street, where you can grab a dumpling lunch or relax over a Tsingtao in the beer garden.

Once you’ve finished exploring Wu Hill, head east on Wu Shan Road from the South Gate and cross Bayi Qi North Road.  Keep heading east on Gutian Road until you reach the entrance to the temple at the foot of the White Tower.  This monument was originally built in 905 AD but rebuilt in 1548 after collapsing.  It’s generally more striking and impressive than the black pagoda and the surrounding temple is beautiful, particularly the series of painted porcelain images of the life of the Sakyamuni Buddha.

Duck under one of the temple’s arched exits and head up Yu Mountain.  Here you’ll find numerous temples including the Longevity Temple – 万岁寺 wàn suì sì –  and the Daoist Temple of Nine Immortals -九仙观 jiǔ xiān guān – as well as the “Drunk Rock” where an ancient general allegedly got plastered with his troops.  There’s also the Dashi Hall – 大士殿 da shì diàn, which commemorates the local martyrs who participated in the Revolution of 1911.  From Yu Mountain you can catch views looking down at Wu Yi Square – follow the paths down to the square itself to reach Fuzhou’s Opera House across from an immense statue of Mao Zedong, lit up in ghoulish green at night.    

How to get here: The first line of Fuzhou’s Metro was completed in January 2017.  You can take the Metro to Nanmendou station to get fairly close to Wu and Yu Mountains.  Alternatively you can take the bus routes listed here to 乌山 Bus Station.

Prices: Everything is free

 

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Daoist temple on Wu Hill.

 

 

The South Gate of Wu Hill.

 

 

Wu Hill.

 

Traditional roofs near Wu Hill.

 

The base of the black pagoda.

 

The black pagoda.

 

Swanky Starbucks built within a traditional building.

 

Starbucks interior.

 

Game of Go museum.

 

The white pagoda.

 

 

Miniature stone pagoda on Yu Mountain.

 

This banyan tree is said to resemble a dragon and a phoenix. The dragon head is in the upper left.

 

Phoenix tail.

 

 

Rear of a hall on Yu Mountain.

 

 

 

Buddhist temple on Yu Mountain.

 

 

Statue of Mao at the base of Yu Mountain at Wuyi Square.

 

 

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