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  • Chinese: 泉州 (Quánzhōu)

Quanzhou, a coastal city in Fujian province facing Taiwan across a stretch of the South China Sea, was traditionally a major commercial port, especially in the Song Dynasty.

In the late 10th to 11th centuries, the Song government established port offices called shibosi in Quanzhou, Canton (Guangzhou), and in the Yangzi Delta near what is today Shanghai. The shibosi were supported by local taxes, and oversaw the formal registration of cargoes, ships, and sailors & traders.

The local governor served also as the head of the port office, and all foreign traders in the port were officially regarded as his guests; the governor was also obliged to regularly perform rites summoning favorable winds for shipping and travel. Junks based in Quanzhou generally operated along routes which took them to Java or through the Straits of Malacca, with some continuing onwards to India.

Quanzhou was a very cosmopolitan and diverse city from an early period. Perhaps as many as 1,000 Muslims lived there at one time, and at least one Muslim mosque and Hindu temple from the Song Dynasty still stand today. The population of the city included Arabs, Jews, Persians, Tamils and Indians as well. The port rivaled Guangzhou in prominence and significance for a time, beginning in the late 11th century, and was the chief center where tribute missions from Srivijaya, Champa, Angkor, and various other Southeast Asian polities entered China. Quanzhou had a notable population of resident Southeast Asian merchants at this time, and Chinese merchants from Quanzhou were perhaps the dominant community of foreign traders in the Korean kingdom of Goryeo. By the 1220s, however, Quanzhou began to decline significantly, as Guangzhou and Ningbo continued to flourish.[1]

Quanzhou continued to decline in significance during the Ming Dynasty, and the port office there was moved to Fuzhou in 1470. The laiyuan yi (J: raien-eki, lit. "station for [those who] come from faraway") in Quanzhou, a rest station or inn for foreign travelers, also declined at that time and was replaced, for Ryukyuan sailors at least, by the Liuqiu guan (J: Ryûkyû-kan) in Fuzhou. Xiamen, meanwhile, eclipsed Quanzhou as the chief trading port in the region in the 17th century.[2]


  • Robert Tignor, Benjamin Elman, et al, Worlds Together, Worlds Apart, vol B, Fourth Edition, W.W. Norton & Co (2014), 362-363.
  1. Richard von Glahn, "The Ningbo-Hakata Merchant Network and the Reorientation of East Asian Maritime Trade, 1150-1350," Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 74:2 (2014), 263-264.
  2. Craig Lockard, “‘The Sea Common to All’: Maritime Frontiers, Port Cities, and Chinese Traders in the Southeast Asian Age of Commerce, Ca. 1400–1750.” Journal of World History 21, no. 2 (2010): 223.