By Haidian River, you can see a poetic scene where coconut trees wave in the wind and fishermen sing in the sunset. During the past century, the Bell Tower in Haikou, a building that seems increasingly dwarfed over time, stands here quietly and witnesses different people’s destinies at different times.
According to historical record, in the 8th year of Xianfeng (1858) in the Qing Dynasty, when Haikou was opened as a port for foreign trade, the traveling traders increased rapidly. In 1920s, Haikou has grown into a traffic hub with prosperous shipping industry, bustling harbors, booming commerce, and a fully-developed transportation network with mainland and abroad. Haikou was then a flourishing commercial city. Over 400 companies were registered in Haikou Commerce Chamber at that time. However, despite its growth, Haikou did not have a public facility for timing, which was very inconvenient for urban transportation, business, and people’s daily life.
In 1928, Zhou Chengmei, a patriotic businessman, proposed a fund-rising plan for the construction of a bell tower in Haikou in order to unite timing. The plan was approved by Haikou Commerce Chamber, who called for the support of local business society and Hainan businessmen in Hong Kong and abroad. The building project soon got sufficient money the same year, and the construction of the Bell Tower started in 1929. Situated to the north of Houmiao Square at Haikou Avenue, the five-story tower was walled by black bricks with eight pointed spires at the top, a typical Gothic feature. Undoubtedly, the Bell Tower adds something different to Haikou. Looking up to it and listening to its music-like tolling, people who pass by not only get to know precise time, but also find a new landmark of the city.
The Bell Tower we see today in Haikou was reconstructed in 1987. In order to improve the traffic of Changdi Road and expand three other roads, the tower was once turned down. Later, the municipal government of Haikou launched 237,000 RMB to rebuild it nearby the former site according to its original appearance.
Today, although worn and old, the bell tower is commonly recognized as a landmark of Haikou by many both at home and abroad. It is a symbol of hometown Hainan, and an object of affection for people away from home. Those who stay abroad for long usually picture Haikou in this way: several fishing boats anchoring by the harbor and a bell tower standing high within coconut trees. After going through a long journey, people who set foot on Haikou and see the tower always acclaim in excitement: “Here I am home again!”
As a landmark of the city, the Bell Tower is no longer needed for timing. Now it even looks a bit inconsistent with the new buildings around. However, due to its classical beauty, the tower surpasses any other modern buildings and becomes the most gorgeous view of Haikou.
Address: No. 20 Changdi Road, Meilan District, Haikou City, Hainan, China. (inside the Haikou Children’s Park, and nearby the Renmin Bridge)
After visiting the Bell Tower, you can go to the Qilou Old Street, which is located nearby. The Qilou Old Street in Haikou, featuring a stylish integration of European and Asian architectures, is one of the 10 Historical and Cultural Streets of China.