Quánzhōu was once a great trading port and an important stop on the maritime silk route. Back in the 13th century, Marco Polo informed his readers that ‘…it is one of the two ports in the world with the biggest flow of merchandise’. The city reached its zenith as an international port during the Song and Yuan dynasties, drawing merchants from all over the world to its shores. By the Qing, however, it was starting to decline and droves of residents began fleeing to southeast Asia to escape the constant political turmoil.
Today, Quánzhōu is much smaller than Fúzhōu and Xiàmén, and has a small-town feel. Evidence of its Muslim population can still be detected among the city’s residents and buildings. It still has a few products of note, including the creamy-white déhuà (or ‘blanc-de-Chine’ as it is known in the West) porcelain figures, and locally crafted puppets.