A Tour of Colonial Architecture in Gulangyu, China

Come along for a whirlwind tour of 10 colonial buildings on Gulangyu, an island in southeastern China that was once a Western colony. By Cui Qun

Gulangyu, a vehicle-free island off the coast of Xiamen, Fujian Province in southeastern China, is a Unesco World Heritage site and probably best known for pianos. It’s estimated there’s one piano on the island for every 100 people.

But it has other accolades too, including being named China’s most beautiful district by National Geographic magazine in 2005. Despite having just 20,000 permanent inhabitants, the island attracts 10 million tourists every year, making it one of China’s most popular destinations.

Its colonial past has also left a legacy in its architecture, some of the best examples of which we’ve listed below.

Anxian Hall, Jishan Road

The only building on Gulangyu made of individually cut stone, with influences from Fujian and the United States.


Sea and Sky Mansion, Fujian Road

An imposing complex of five townhouses, with celebrated nanyin music performances.

Huang Rongyuan Mansion, Fujian Road

A magnificent home with beautiful Roman columns and an elegant Chinese garden.

Catholic Church, Lujiao Road

The whitewashed exterior of this Gothic monument with a bell tower has become a Gulangyu emblem.

Lin Mansion, Lujiao Road

This famed complex, which houses the Octagonal Building, is an example of baroque-style southern European architecture.

Liqing Quan Villa, Flag Hill Road

Drenched in greenery, this villa lives up to the name ‘Banyan Valley’ on its door.


Huang Family Gardens, Huangyan Road

Designed like an English concession house of Southeast Asia, this opulent home is dubbed ‘No. 1 villa in China’.

Scenic View Villa, Bishan Road

This building boasts a strong Dutch influence in its door columns and window arches.

Yizu Villa, Bishan Road

This villa is prized for its European-style gate, arguably the most beautiful of its kind in Gulangyu.


Foreign Lady Villa, Anhai Road

This resplendent Rococo-style building, with a lovely gate and verandas, was a gift from a devoted son to his mother.

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