Changhe Old Street wins over Asiad crowds
During the 19th Asian Games, Binjiang's Guanshan Mountain, Xixing Town and Changhe Old Street were popular attractions to visitors looking for a soothing natural environment with a long history.
Among the attractions, the Changhe Old Street was more popular due to its enriched cultural activities, upgraded facilities and profound history. After years of renovation, the centuries-old street officially opened to the public this year as living proof of Binjiang District's efforts to protect and revive historic structures.
For years, Changhe looks like a secluded nook in Binjiang, which is now dwarfed by the towering new skyscrapers in the area. With black roofs and white walls, the ancient folk houses have witnessed the bygone eras of the city and watched history unfold.
In history, Changhe was formed in the Wuyue Kingdom period (AD 907-978) and peaked in the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) when Hangzhou was the capital. According to archives, Changhe was a trade hub and an education center. Since it was dotted with locust trees, people named it Jiangnan Huaishi (江南槐市), which literally means "the locust tree market in the south of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River."
In the Southern Song Dynasty, the Lai family started to establish the Lai Mansion, which kept expanding generation by generation. The entire mansion is believed to have 13 pavilions and nine patios.
Nonetheless, only a few buildings survived. Local departments have enlisted professionals to give a facelift to the houses with carved beams, painted rafters and sculptured eaves. They retained the surface sculptures but replaced the rotten parts in a bid to maintain the original design.
The beams and rafters, half-embedded into the walls, are reminiscent of the traditional building methods found in the Changhe area. One pavilion is shaped as the Chinese character ri (日, sun or day) with buildings and high walls enclosing patios. Rainwater flows along the roofs and is collected in pottery vats in the patios for daily use.
In addition to rainfall, well water was another source for ancient Changhe citizens, since the main Qiantang River was too muddy to drink. And wells, symbolizing endless fortune according to the fengshui treasure concept, were present in each patio to offer auspicious blessings.
In history, 24 members of the Lai family passed the jinshi degree exam. Jinshi, or the "presented scholar," was the highest degree in the imperial examination – a feat which paved the way for him to pursue a career in officialdom.
Now, parts of Lai Mansion have been renovated and transformed into a museum showing the history and historical documents of Changhe.
The street also features traditional two-story, black-and-white houses, cobblestone walkways and Oriental-style bridges and buildings that reflect the styles of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties.
Many residents in the area have opened small teahouses, noodle restaurants and mahjong rooms in their houses. They welcome visitors to experience authentic folk culture.
Formerly, Changhe was a prosperous town flanked with outlets selling local delicacies and handicrafts. But rapid urban development swallowed it up and encircled it with modern buildings.
Now, the rejuvenated Changhe Street reopened a pastry shop selling traditional snacks, including bean crunch candy, walnut slices, sesame cakes and loquat candy.
If you finish lingering over the ancient street, you can head to a modern venue not faraway. The China Cartoon and Animation Museum, the country's first museum in the industry, is in the south of the street.
The museum is designed in the shape of an auspicious cloud, covering an area of more than 30,000 square meters. It features four exhibition halls that serve as a drama stage, cinema, library and audio studio. Thousands of manuscripts, archives and anime models are on display, chronicling the development of cartoons and animation in China.
China Cartoon and Animation Museum
Opening hours: 9:30am-4:30pm (closed on Mondays and Tuesdays)
Admission: Free (Ticket reservation through museum's official WeChat account CCAMuseum is required.)
Address: 375 Baimahu Rd