Quanzhou (Chinese: 泉州; pinyin: Quánzhōu; Wade–Giles: Ch’üan –chou ; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Chôan-chiu) is a prefecture-level city in Fujian province, People’s Republic of China. It borders all other prefecture-level cities in Fujian but two (Ningde and Nanping) and faces the Taiwan Strait. In older English works, its name may appear as Chinchew or Chinchu or Zayton.
Quanzhou was established in 718 during the Tang Dynasty (618–907). In those days, Guangzhou was China’s greatest seaport, but this status would be surpassed later by Quanzhou. During the Song Dynasty (960–1279) and Yuan Dynasty (1279–1368), Quanzhou was one of the world’s largest seaports, hosting a large community of foreign-born inhabitants from across the Eurasian world.
Due to its reputation, Quanzhou has been called the starting point of the Silk Road via the sea. From the Arabic name form of the city, Zayton, the word satin would be minted. In The Travels of Marco Polo, Quanzhou (called Zayton, T’swan-Chau or Chin-Cheu) was listed as the departure point for Marco Polo‘s expedition to escort the 17-year-old Mongol princess bride Kököchin to her new husband in the Persian Ilkhanate. In 1357 however a military revolt by the local Persian militia led to a ten-year rebellion that resulted in large civilian casualties in Quanzhou.
Of the Chinese Li family in Quanzhou, Li Nu, the son of Li Lu, visited Hormuz in Persia in 1376, converted to Islam, married a Persian girl and brought her back to Quanzhou. Li Nu was the ancestor of the Ming Dynasty reformer Li Chih.
Quanzhou Overseas Relations Museum preserves a number of relics related to the Quanzhou’s era as a major seaport. A particularly important exhibit is the so-called Quanzhou ship, a sea-going junk that sunk some time after 1272, and was recovered in 1973–74.