The former treaty port offers a wealth of things to do, including shopping for antiques, handicrafts and jade The Americans, British, Dutch, French, Germans, Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish have all left their mark on Xiamen, one of the five original treaty ports opened to British trade following the opium war in 1842. Xiamen was also one of the four original special economic zones set up after Deng Xiaoping announced his historic reforms in the early 1980s. Formerly known in the west as Amoy, Xiamen - a city of more than 1.3 million people - dates back to the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279), when it was an isolated farming community. It was transformed into a front line of coastal defence against foreign invaders and pirates during the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644). It was officially established as a city in 1394. Zheng Chenggong (1624 - 1662), more popularly known locally and in the west as Koxinga, launched an attack on the Dutch, who had occupied Taiwan in 1624, from a base on Gulang Island . Now one of the city's seven districts, the island - which can only be reached by a 10-minute ferry ride - is the jewel in Xiamen's tourism crown. Cars are not allowed on its cobblestone streets, which are lined with row upon row of buildings. Many of the western-style churches, government buildings, mansions and warehouses built in the latter half of the 19th century have survived. A massive statue of Zheng has been erected on Sunlight Rock, the place from which the assault on Taiwan was launched with a fleet of 7,000 junks and 300,000 men in 1661. A cable car takes visitors to the summit, which affords spectacular views of the South China Sea and the Taiwanese-controlled island of Jinmen , also known as Quemoy. While there, stop at the aviary, which is open daily from 8am to 9pm during summer. To learn more about Zheng, visit the Zheng Chenggong Memorial Hall, which depicts the admiral's military exploits in fascinating detail. A bronze canon, his jade belt, stone inscriptions, swords and other military items are all on display. Admission is free. The museum is open from dawn to dusk. If you have not had enough history, another worthwhile stop while on the island is the Xiamen Museum (tel: +86 (0)592 206 3005), which documents the city's fascinating history, starting with its establishment during the Ming Dynasty, moving to the British and Japanese occupations in the late 1800s, to the tumultuous Cultural Revolution that swept through China from 1966 to 1976. More than 1,000 items pack the museum, including photographs, porcelain, printing presses, scrolls and wooden rifles. The museum is open daily from 8.30am to 5pm. Dragon's Head Road is the island's most important shopping district. It is lined with more than 130 businesses specialising in everything from antiques and calligraphy to china, handicrafts, jade, lacquerware and paintings - both local and from around the country. Foodstuffs such as dried meats and nuts are also sold here. If you are lucky, a concert will be scheduled at the Music Hall on Gulang Island (tel: +86 (0)592 206 6730) during your visit. With excellent acoustics, the hall - set among banyan and camphor trees - attracts musicians from all over the country. Chamber and classical music dominate the programme, with traditional Chinese music and the works of classical western composers also on offer. One of the best places to start a tour of the city proper is Zhongshan Road. The 1.2km artery is lined with buildings in a variety of architectural styles, reflecting various cultural and commercial influences, from Chinese to European. You will find everything from restaurants, teahouses and fast food outlets to shops selling books, clothing, local handicrafts, music and souvenirs. The Kaiyuan District is Xiamen's commercial hub. This is where you will find its best hotels and restaurants. The Lotus Court Restaurant (tel: +86 (0)592 509 1888), for example, offers a mostly Cantonese menu and wonderful views of Yuandang Lake. With one of China's most beautiful campuses, Xiamen University is in nearby Siming District , next to a sprawling Chinese temple. Both deserve a leisurely stroll. The district is also home to beaches and mountains with excellent hiking trails. Outside the city, Jimei - the first city across the causeway that links Xiamen with the mainland - is home to the scenic village of Jinmen. For nature lovers, nearby Yuewan Mountain offers excellent hiking trails that will take you through lush green forests scattered with ancient ruins. With 208 rooms, the Xiamen Mandarin (tel: +86 (0)592 602 3333), is the city's only five-star hotel. It is just minutes from the airport, with three golf courses nearby. The 30-storey Best Western Xiamen (tel: +86 (0)592 512 3333) is the largest four-star hotel in the province. In addition to the usual amenities, it offers an indoor archery range. On the shores of Yuandang Lake in the New Commercial District, the 350-room Marco Polo Xiamen (tel: +86 (0)592 509 1888) offers excellent views. The three-star Xiamen Plaza (tel: +86 (0) 592 505 8888) offers 287 rooms at a convenient downtown location. Attractions at the 13-storey hotel include an in-house bakery, a shopping arcade and a karaoke lounge. If you have been smitten by the charms of Gulang Island, you might want to consider the Gulangyu Guesthouse (tel: +86 (0)592 206 3856), where China's favourite United States president Richard Nixon stayed during his historic 1972 visit to the country.