Changhe Street to be restored and rejuvenated

Wu Huixin
Dating back to the Song Dynasty, Hangzhou's Changhe Street is a standing homage to history and culture. Now undergoing renewal, it's set to become a new landmark in the city.
Wu Huixin

Binjiang District might be the epitome of modern-day Hangzhou. It's invigorated, diversified and chic, alluring high-tech companies, startups, as well as young people.

On the contrary, Changhe Street looks like a secluded nook in Binjiang, as it's dwarfed by the huge new tower blocks. Its black-roofed and white-wall ancient folk houses have witnessed the city's bygone eras and watched history unfold.

Now the Binjiang government has invited professionals to restore the buildings and rejuvenate the old street. After its renewal, Changhe Street will offer people a getaway from the concrete jungles.

The street was listed as a protected unit in Hangzhou by virtue of preserved Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasty houses, featuring carved beams, painted rafters and sculptured eaves.

"The beams and rafters are half embedded into the walls. It's a type of traditional building method in Changhe," said Zhang Wei, an expert from the Zhejiang Province Institute of Architecture and Design and Research.

Changhe Street to be restored and rejuvenated
Ti Gong

Black-roofed and white-wall houses in Binjiang District's Changhe Street

"The restoration plans varied according to different houses. Some have rotten structures. We retained the surface sculptures but replaced the rotten parts in a bid to maintain the original design."

In the region's history, 24 members of the Lai family became jinshi, or "advanced scholars," meaning a graduate who passed the imperial exam from the Tang Dynasty (618-907) to Qing Dynasty.

In late Qing, the Meilin Academy was erected in Changhe, which broke from the patriarchal clan tradition. That was considered a breakthrough in local education.

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.

The living conditions worsened year by year, turning the area into an urban eyesore. In an effort to raise the well-being of residents and living standards, the government upgraded underground wires and tubes, added green areas and renovated houses.

In the future, the local government will establish a cultural space that integrates local crafts, intangible heritage and academic research. Visitors can experience craftsmanship, sip tea and learn about local culture.

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