From flowers to flowing verse: Macheng Road retains a unique character

Wu Huixin Zhang Yuxuan
Centuries ago, the road was popular with the literati, poets and scholars, for whom burning incense, drinking tea, arranging flower, painting and writing were popular pastimes.
Wu Huixin Zhang Yuxuan
From flowers to flowing verse: Macheng Road retains a unique character
Zhang Yuxuan / Ti Gong

A quiet winter afternoon on Macheng Road

Macheng Road connects Tianmushan Road to the south and Wen’er Road to the north. The road has a more residential character than other commercially prosperous thoroughfares in Hangzhou.

Dating from the Wuyue Kingdom period (AD 907-978) when Hangzhou was made the capital, the road was home to an imperial stable that raised over 30,000 horses at the peak. Therefore, ancient people named it Macheng (马城), which literally means “horses city.”

However, the original name gradually evolved into “马塍” over time, with the new meaning being “horses and footpaths between fields.”

In the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) when Hangzhou was still the capital, Macheng Road developed into a flower plantation and trading center, attracting streams of vendors and merchants every day.

Centuries ago, the road was a rendezvous for the literati, poets and scholars. For them, burning incense, drinking tea, arranging flower and painting were popular pastimes. In its prime, the vibrant flowers lured renowned scholars, including Li Qingzhao, Jiang Kui and Ye Shi, who wrote poems depicting the thriving scenes along the road.

Shanghai Daily recently paid a visit to Macheng Road and found some stores well worth a visit. Let’s check out how the road has changed over past eras.

From flowers to flowing verse: Macheng Road retains a unique character

A plaque on the wall tells the origin of Macheng Road.

Along the 1,370-meter-long road, the must-try restaurant is the Grandma’s Kitchen. As a famous bistro chain offering authentic Hangzhou cuisine, the brand has already opened many branches throughout the Yangtze Delta over decades.

The popularity of the Grandma’s Kitchen, attributed to its competitive prices, is also reflected in its first branch opening on Macheng Road around 2001.

Hangzhou cuisine is known for its refreshing flavors and mellow fragrances, and has a well-earned reputation in the culinary world. Most cuisine is made of everyday seasonings and ingredients, including freshly picked vegetables, local free-range poultry and freshwater fish and shrimps.

If you, like the Hangzhou natives, love noodles you can try a hearty meal at the Pine Field Noodle House.

In the Song Dynasty (960-1279), when the royal court retreated to Hangzhou, it brought the wheat food culture from north to south China. That’s why Hangzhou residents love noodles more than their other counterparts in the Yangtze Delta.

The noodle house is a delightfully decorated small restaurant serving typical Hangzhou noodles, including local specialty pian’erchuan, noodles topped with pork slices, bamboo shoots and preserved vegetables; and xiabaoshan, noodles garnished with shrimps and fried mud eel.

From flowers to flowing verse: Macheng Road retains a unique character

Roasted chestnuts from the Youpin Roasted Produce are a bestseller in winter.

The owners of the Youpin Roasted Produce are a young couple. The business opened when the husband was apprenticed to a nut-frying master. With support from their family and enriched experience, their business thrived. It prospers mainly in autumn and winter.

Street-roasted nuts are a favorite winter street-snack in Hangzhou. They are roasted or fired with a mixture of seasonings. Sometimes, vendors also coat them with sugar to make them shine.

The Old Tailor Shop, hidden in an old residential building, is rather simple, but has many loyal customers.

They say owner He Shifu can solve problems other tailors cannot. He inherited the store from his father and the store has run for more than 50 years. He has altered everything from jeans and suits to leather jackets, based on his rich experience.

From flowers to flowing verse: Macheng Road retains a unique character

Fayuan Bookstore sells law books.

Aside from the tailor’s, the Fayuan Bookstore is another evergreen in Macheng Road. Wang Shaoyun has operated the store for over 30 years. It sells law books and has a group of loyal customers.

Right opposite Wang’s bookstore is the Zhejiang Province People’s High Court. Wang said he opened the bookstore after his retirement as he found a large demand for law books among legal professionals.

“Zhejiang Province has around 100 courts. They all know me,” Wang said proudly to Shanghai Daily. “I won’t shut down the bookstore until I become unable to work.”

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