Xiamen is one of the first five special economic zones (SEZ) in China and nowadays includes 6 districts: Siming, Huli, Jimei, Haicang, Tong'an and Xiang’an. South Fujian Dialect is the language which is predominantly spoken in Xiamen. It is said it was once an egret habitat, as a result it is also known as “Egret Island.”
The history of Xiamen dates back to the ancient times when it was part of Tong'an County, which was established in the 3rd year of Emperor Taikang's reign in the Jin Dynasty (282 A.D.). The County was first under Jin'an Prefecture but was later merged into Nan'an County. In the 19th year of Emperor Zhengyuan's reign in the Tang Dynasty (803 A.D), Datong Square was set up in Southwest Nan'an County and later became Tong'an County under the rule of the city of Quanzhou in the 4th year of Emperor Changxing's reign in the Late Tang Dynasty (933 A.D). During the Song Dynasty, the place was under the rule of Qingyuan Army and Pinghai Army of Quanzhou. Then it was under the government of Quanzhou Province in the Yuan Dynasty and later Quanzhou Borough in the Ming Dynasty. It was not until the 20th year of Emperor Hongwu's reign in the Ming Dynasty (1387) that Xiamen Town was built. Later in the Qing Dynasty in the 7th year of Emperor Sunzhi's reign (1650), Xiamen was the place where Zheng Chenggong, the national hero, stationed his troops. In the 12th year (1655) the Siming Prefecture was established but was abolished in the 19th year of Emperor Kangxi's reign (1680). In the 23rd year (1684) the Tai-Xia Dao (Taiwan-Xiamen Defense Region) was established, with the Chief Magistrate ruling from Taiwan. (In the 6th year of Emperor Yongzheng's reign, namely 1728, Taiwan Borough was changed into Taiwan Region.) In the 25th year (1686) departments were set up in Quanzhou Prefecture to rule over the area. In the 5th year of Emperor Yongzheng's reign (1727) the Xingquan Region, (which was changed into Xingquanyong Region) was established in Xiamen instead of in Quanzhou, its original settlement. In the 29th year of Emperor Guangxu's reign in the Qing Dynasty (1903), Gulangyu Islet fell into the hands of foreign invaders and became an International Settlement. In the first year of the Republic of China (1912), Siming County was established in April, encompassing Jiahe Neighborhood of Tong'an County (namely Xiamen), Jinmen Islet and the Dadeng/Xiaodeng Islets. In the same year Siming Borough was establishment. Later in 1915, Jinmen Islet and the Dadeng/Xiaodeng Islets were separated from the Siming County to form Jinmen County themselves. In the same year Nanlu Region, (which was changed to the name of Xiamen Region in 1914 but was abolished in 1925) was set up.
In 1933 Xiamen was established as a special municipality by the "People's Revolutionary Government of the Republic of China" (namely "Fujian People's Government"). In 1934, both Tong'an County and Siming County belonged to the Fifth Administrative Region (with Tong'an as the capital). In April 1935 the Xiamen Municipality was set up, encompassing seven islets including Xiamen and Gulangyu. The original Siming County was abolished and the Heshan Special Zone was set up instead. The Xiamen Municipality and the Heshan Special Zone together with Tong'an County were subject to the government of the Fourth Administrative Region (with Tong'an as the capital). During the period from May 1938 to September 1945, Xiamen was in the hands of Japanese invaders. In October 1945 Xiamen was re-established as a city, which comprised four districts: Zhongxin (later renamed as Siming), Kaiyuan, Gulangyu and Heshan. September and October of 1949 witnessed the liberation of Tong'an County and Xiamen City in succession. Tong'an became part of the Fifth Prefecture (later changed to the name of the Prefecture of Quanzhou and the Prefecture of Jinjiang) while Xiamen became a municipality under the government of the province. In October 1950 five districts were set up in Xiamen: Kaiyuan, Siming, Gulangyu, Xiagang (abolished later) and Heshan. In 1953, Jimei Town of Tong'an County came to be under the administration of Xiamen. In January 1958 Heshan District was changed into suburbs. In August of the same year Tong'an County was separated from the Jinjiang Prefecture to become an administrative district under Xiamen. In August 1966, Kaiyuan District and Siming District were renamed Dongfeng and Xiangyang respectively (but the original names were restored in October 1979). In February 1970, Tong'an County was again divided from Xiamen to be under the administration of Jinjiang Prefecture but was later returned back to Xiamen in June 1973. In September 1978 Xinglin District was established, and a new district, the Huli District, was further set up in 1987. In the same year, the suburbs of Xiamen became Jimei District. In 1997, Tong'an became a district attached to Xiamen instead of a county. Until then, under the jurisdiction of the municipality, there were seven districts Gulangyu Island, Siming, Kaiyuan, Xinglin, Huli, Jimei and Tong’an. Today, there are six districts under the administration of Xiamen: Siming, Huli, Jimei, Haicang, Tong'an and Xiang’an.