Until 1840, Western ‘barbarians’ were allowed to trade only in Guangzhou, and only under strict controls. After China lost the First Opium War, Britain took Hong Kong and China was forced to open five ‘Treaty Ports’ – Guangzhou, Xiamen, Fuzhou, Ningbo and Shanghai. In Xiamen, the island Gulang Yu became a foreign enclave with consulates and luxurious homes.
Today it is a quiet area (no cars or motorcycles) and five minutes by ferry from downtown, and still quite scenic. It is not Shanghai or Hong Kong, but compared to many other cities in China, Xiamen is definitely a very vibrant, affluent and modern place.