Dongshi Street: Past and Present
In The Ode of Mulan, it is written:
In the East Market, she buys a spirited horse,
In the West Market, she buys a saddle,
In the South Market, she buys a bridle,
In the North Market, she buys a long whip.1
Throughout Jinhua's history, there have been bustling streets with East, West, and South markets: Nanshi Street—the location of the South Market—was demolished and rebuilt as the Wubaitan complex, an attractive scenic spot; after renovations were completed, Xishi Street—the location of the West Market—remains the most prosperous commercial district in the river north district of Jinhua; Dongshi Street—the location of the East Market—was demolished in recent years, and overall renovation is underway. In time, it will become a symbol of Jinhua's history and an important economic area dominated by the cultural industry.
When speaking of Dongshi Street, it is also necessary to mention Jinhua's mountain range. Jinhua's Beishan (North Mountain), which faces south, seems to undulate like a dragon, branching off in multiple directions and boasting a great number of peaks. One of the branches leads to Furong Peak (aka Jianfeng Mountain), a towering peak.
The city of Jinhua is located twenty li (six miles) south of Beishan, at the junction of the Yiwu River, Wuyi River, and Jinhua River. Leaving Jinhua, the river is also known as Wujiang River, which flows from east to west to Lanxi and into the Qiantang River. In ancient times, the location seemed like a giant “sofa,” as the walled city was protected by the mountains to the north, accessible by water from the south, and easily guarded on both the east and the west. This location allowed Jinhua to become a walled city of a superior level.
The city consists of three major arteries: the main artery connects Furong Peak with Shangfu Bridge, going through what is known today as the PSB, the Meteorological Bureau, and King Shiwang's Residence of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom; the second goes from Heshang Bridge to Dongguan Bridge, running through the eastern part of the Railway Station; and the third starts at Fenghuan Mountain and finishes at the Old Train Station.
The market block of Dongshi Street is located on the eastern side of the main artery, situated squarely between Shengli South Street, Piaoping Road, New Dongshi Street, and Renmin East Road. When facing north, Beishan, “the ridge of the immortals,” can be seen towering above Tongyuan Creek, which flows into the Wujiang River and has been seen as a symbol of the waters of the north returning south, closing the circle and bringing about good fortune and prosperity.
Dongshi Street was once enshrouded by a profound historical atmosphere. In the Annals of Jinhua County (1823), it is recorded that to the “south of the ridge of the immortals was an east market (东市 dōngshì); thus, the street was named Dongshi Street.” Running north to south, the street was about 600 meters long and seven meters wide. On three sides, the area was surrounded by slopes, and one side had access to the river, making it one of the earliest ancient streets of Wucheng (Jinhua).
In the old days, the buildings along Dongshi Street were tall, and water wells could be found all over; both temples and guesthouses for civil service examinees stood in great numbers. There were rows upon rows of courtyard houses with whitewashed walls and grey roofs connected by simple and unsophisticated green slab-stone roads.
In the process of urbanization, a large number of ancient buildings and traditional houses of high value have been demolished, making both historical Xishi Street and Dongshi Street victims of modernity.
Since Jinhua became a provincial-level historical and cultural city in 1995, it began the long road to becoming recognized as a historical and cultural city of the national level. After 12 years of unremitting efforts, in 2007, Jinhua was finally listed as national-level historical and cultural city.
Today, the area around the Dongshi Street , New Dongshi Street connects to Huancheng South Road through Hongji Bridge, and the northern section of the block is connected to Huancheng North Road. New Dongshi Street has become one of the main traffic routes in Jinhua, making local transportation more convenient. As the municipal museum and the old city are also included in the block, as well as places of historical interest like Shiwang's Residence and the Sanqing Temple, Dongshi Street has already begun to restore its original cultural appeal. This appeal has been inspired by thematic sites of both cultural and historical value such as a dwelling, the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom complex; three streets: the Municipal Museum, the Southern Song Dynasty, and modern cultural personalities; three areas: the imperial civil-service examination exhibition, the Wu cultural industry and leisure area, and the Wanfo Pagoda cultural experience area; and four gates: Xichun Gate, Baoding Gate, Tongshu Gate, and Jinhua Gate. In this way, the richness of Dongshi Street has made Jinhua more attractive and strengthened the blend of antiquity and modernity within the city. (By Liu Jinfa, translated by Marco Lovisetto, edited by Xiamara Hohman)
1. The translation is from The Flowering Plum and the Palace Lady: Interpretations of Chinese Poetry, by Han H. Frankel (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976), 68-72. © 1976 Yale University Press. Reproduced with the permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.