Introducing the location
Nanjing County – not to be confused with the city of Nanjing – is located in Fujian province, about 2.5 to 3 hours by car from the city of Xiamen. The area is home to many exceptional attractions, such as the iconic Hakka roundhouses: Out of the ten Hakka roundhouses recognized as UNESCO World Heritage four are located here.
Nanjing County’s perfect air quality, weather conditions, unspoiled landscape and century-old folk traditions, make it an ideal location for a marathon, as well as a unique weekend-getaway for runners who want to exchange the hustle and bustle of the city for the cozy life of the countryside with its rice paddies, tea plantations and water buffalos.
Xiamen is a major city and traffic hub on the southeast coast of China facing the Taiwan Strait, with a population of 3.67 million. The city was an international treaty port in the 19th century hence the predominantly Victorian-era style architecture throughout Gulangyu Island, where 13 countries including Great Britain, France and Japan established consulates, churches, and hospitals.
In the early 1980s, Xiamen became one of the four original Special Economic Zones opened to foreign investment and trade. In 2006 the city was ranked 2nd place amongst ‘China’s most livable cities’ and it was also voted China’s ‘most romantic leisure city’ in 2011. Different to China’s well known hubs, Xiamen offers visitors a more unique and personal ‘off the beaten track’ experience.
Fujian province is located on the southeast coast of mainland China between Zhejiang to the north, Jiangxi to the west, Guangdong to the south and Taiwan to the east. It has approx. 37m inhabitants, is mostly mountainous, and is traditionally described in China as ‘8 parts mountain, 1 part water and 1 part farmland’. The climate is subtropical with mild winters.
The Hakka Houses
After the Great Wall of China, the roundhouses built by the Hakka people spread all over Fujian province, are amongst the most famous and precious architectural treasures of China, and regarded as one of the most iconic tourist attractions for visitors to the country.
The Hakka roundhouses – called ‘Tulou’ in Chinese, literally meaning earthen buildings – are large, enclosed and fortified earth and stone structures of rectangular or circular shape with walls up to 1 meter thick, which are often three to five stories high and can house communities of up to 100 families.
The unique structures resemble small fortified villages and offered their inhabitants protection from plundering and war for centuries. Today, there are still more than 20,000 Hakka roundhouses of varying size and condition that can to be found among the lush, subtropical mountain landscapes of Fujian and Jiangxi.
In 2008, a total of 46 Fujian’s roundhouse sites – of which some of the finest examples are located along the race track of this marathon – were recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage sites, and described as ‘exceptional examples of a building tradition and function exemplifying a particular type of communal living and defensive organization in a harmonious relationship with their environment’.
The Hakka roundhouses are a must-see even for experienced China-travelers, and the Great Hakka Marathon offers the opportunity not only to visit and experience them, but also to enjoy a great run in this unique scenery and atmosphere.
Sightseeing in Nanjing County
All three race tracks have been planned and designed to allow runners a close experience of the local culture, architecture and nature during the race. Nanjing County is rich in attractions and sights, and it certainly deserves a closer look.
By integrating many of the most the remarkable local sights and attractions into the three tracks, we wanted to make sure the Great Hakka Marathon is not only a ‘perfect run’but also ‘a lot of fun’, and that runners can get a lot of impressions of the sights while participating in the race.
Having said that, the Nanjing County area is rich in attractions natural, cultural and historical, and is certainly worth a closer look and a longer stay. Here is a selection of sights that you should not miss while in the area.
A remote cluster of Tulou buildings located in Shangban Village. It is composed primarily of four round and one rectangular earthen houses, although some less prominent houses are oval-shaped.
While many Tulou come in clusters, Heguilou is an individual building, built more than 200 hundred years ago. It is the tallest square Hakka building in the area, and impresses today’s visitors just as much as it did robbers and enemies in the past.
A drum-shaped Tulou that is very impressive not only due to its sheer size but also thanks to its historical value and architectural features. It represents the essence of the so called board-frame constructing technique in ancient Central China.
A five-storey building from Yuan dynastry, it is one of the oldest and tallest tulou in China. It is nicknamed the ‘zigzag building’because of the vertical wooden post structure which is not straight but zigzags left and right.
There are 14 large tulous concentrated in an area less than one square kilometer, which fully embodies the development and history of the Hakks Houses through their construction in different periods such as Ming and Qing dynasty
Among the most renowned historic villages of Fujian, Taxia is a must-see in Nanjing county. The village is located along a mountain river that meanders through the village centre for about 1 kilometre with a total of 13 stone bridges connecting both river banks.
The beautiful natural scenery and the carefully preserved architecture give Taxia a dreamlike atmosphere, and with quaint tea houses, restaurants and shops along the river bank waiting to be explored, it makes for a wonderful half-day visit.
Guanyang village is the shooting location of one of China’s most romantic love stories – a movie called Yunshuiyao, meaning ‘song of cloud and water’. Ask any Chinese friend – they will know it for sure. But even if you have never seen it, you will very likely feel like you are in a movie in Guanyang village due to its unique flair and sheer beauty.
Think of ancient buildings in a cute little village brimming with historic flair, imagine walking along quaint alleys and cobblestoned streets, then add to that a beautiful mountain scenery, a meandering brook, and banyan trees hundreds of years old. Needless to say that you will find tea-houses, restaurants and shops here where you can sit back and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere.
Nanjing county has countless historic and architectural treasures of unique value, but the beauty of the area also has a lot to do with the landscape. The beautiful, lush mountain scenery features soft hills, green forests and meadows, crystal clear rivers and brooks, as well as a rich and diversified flora and fauna. Combined with the clean air and very favourable climate, this simply makes it an ideal leisure travel destination, and a great place for any outdoor activity.
Nanjing County has beautiful nature, but also rich folk-traditions and culture, translating into excellent tea specialities, fresh and green produce, distinct local cuisine and authentic handicrafts. Even as a seasoned traveller and ‘Old China Hand’you will enjoy the rice paddies, the tea plantations and the water buffaloes.
How to get to the City of Xiamen
The city of Xiamen is very well connected to all major cities in China and can be reached conveniently from any part of the country. For your orientation, below you will find an overview of flight and train connections. Since these are subject to change, please always double-check in your travel planning.