Situated just off the coast of the city of Xiamen, the tiny island of Gulangyu (or Kulangsu in Fujianese) is a destination with a rich history. Granted UNESCO World Heritage status in July 2017, the settlement is best known for its unique collection of colonial-style mansions – a legacy of its former life as a residence for Western traders and diplomats. But the island also has a strong musical heritage. Even its name is rooted in music: gu in Chinese means “drum”, while lang means “waves”. It is said that the waves hitting the reef sound like the beating of a drum.
Home to China’s only piano museum, Gulangyu boasts the highest piano ownership per capita in the country. It’s also a centre for other forms of classical music as well as the birthplace for some of China’s most famous musicians, including the pianist Yin Chengzong and the violinist Jing Yang. Wander through its atmospheric streets and you’ll likely hear the sweet strings of a violin or the plaintive tones of an erhu (Chinese violin) permeating the air.
This article was originally published in the March 2018 issue of Silkwinds magazine.