Text by Yun Yi Photographs by San Shitou
Visitors to Fujian Province’s Quanzhou and Meizhou bays find the rainbow of bright colors gracing China’s southeastern coastal beaches irresistible. The alluring hues, primarily provided by the women living in Hui’an, Xunpu, and Meizhou, have roots in the diverse Minnan (southern Fujian) marine culture.
Fujian’s arid mountainous terrain pushed the locals’ ancestors towards subsistence through utilizing oceanic resources. However, due to changing climates, tides, currents, and many islands and reefs, ocean fishing became an endeavor characterized by uncertainty and risk, requiring fishermen to be adventurous, enterprising, and tolerant of loneliness and hardship. With the men laboring out at sea, the women usually stayed home to handle daily chores, raise children, and care for aging parents. Combining their diligence with intelligence, the women gained a sterling reputation for their beautifully-tailored clothing, which continues to enrich their lives.
Hui’an, nestled between Quanzhou and Meizhou bays, has been a county since 981, during the Northern Song Dynasty. Along with enchanting coastal landscapes, majestic city walls of Chongwu Ancient Town, and breathtaking stone carvings, it is particularly famous for its unique tribe of Hui’an women, primarily residing in Dazuo, Xiaozuo, and Dongling areas on Chongwu Peninsula.
A stroll along Hui’an beaches often leads deep into an irresistible oceanic vista, in which the blue water stretches past the horizon, fluffy clouds roll like waves, and soft, silver sand greets clusters of dark rocks scattered in the sea. However, such appealing scenery is still overshadowed by the beauty of the charming Hui’an women. Typically donning yellow bamboo hats, colorful floral scarves, short and tight blouses, baggy pants, and silver waist chains, the women themselves compose a captivating landscape, with the oceanic views becoming a complementary backdrop.