Old Street, New Look
With more than 1600 years of history, the Old Street in Xiaoshun Town once was the main road leading to downtown Jinhua. The street is not long. Several minutes is all it takes to walk down the entire street.
Now, it has a new look. The pavement has been reconstructed, the storefronts have been refurbished, and the shop door panels have been replaced.
All these proactive repairs of the street improve the overall environment of the previously old and messy condition, while keeping the nostalgic memories of the locals for generations. It now becomes clean and tidy, glowing with opportunities and vitality.
Its rich history and stories will continue on with its new look.
An Old Street with A Historical Charm
The Old Street consists of three parts: The upper, mid, and the lower part, with a total length of nearly 1000 meters. The shops and stores along the street were mostly established in the Ming and Qing Dynasties or the early years of the Republic of China. Their constructions are of a similar style with minor differences. Mostly, they are in a two-story wood structure, with the business in the front and the dwelling house at the back. On the ground floor, dismantlable door panels are arranged between the columns, which are connected with carved railings and based on the carved corbels. The second floor is usually low, designed mainly for storage.
The street features all sorts of different shops, such as barbers, grocery stores, funeral shops, lantern shops, tea houses, restaurants, wineries, and drug stores. Some of the time-honored brands, old signboards, and red slogans are still faintly recognizable, which is quite rare in other towns of Jinhua.
There is also a Temple to the City God on the street, now on the Jinhua cultural relics protection list.
Preserve the History
He Xingyao, project engineer responsible for the transformation, said that the team invited a painting master from Pujiang to decorate the storefronts. He explained that the facade decorated with white walls and gray tiles with thick black lines would make it appear just like old times as people walked along the street.
Yiji Bridge, Xiaoshun Icon
If one hasn’t eaten food on the bridge, he’s never been to Xiaoshun. Li Genxing, a 94-year-old famous local intellectual, pointed out that the bridge was not only busy with food stalls and people, it was itself very exquisitely beautiful. At both ends of the bridges, there once were two decorative archways with lovely carvings and an elegant appearance. However, these were all destroyed during WWII.
This year, when the street was under renovation, the project included the bridge as well, reconstructing the lounge bridge on the top to keep its original style as well as the history.
When walking down the lower part of the street, one could see a different scene. “The buildings down the street are relatively modern, so we changed it another way for the renovations,” said Mr. He. The pavement of the street was transformed from cement to asphalt. Some of the walls were painted with traditional ink paintings, among which there are 24 filial piety stories reflecting the culture in the town. In fact, the name of the town, Xiaoshun (in Chinese 孝顺, xiàoshùn) means filial piety.
At night, those lights in their old fashion would light up the street, complemented with the stream, making it appear like a different world from the daytime scene.
According to He, this renovation mainly follows the idea of using the same materials and same design as before, in order to bring back the historical charm combined with filial culture.
Old Shops Remain
Teahouses, barbershops, sewing shops, grocery stores, seniors drinking tea, old women stepping on sewing machines, craftsmen making wine. The charm of the Old Street lies not only in the original architecture, but more so in the peaceful and old-fashioned lifestyle.
The Most Senior Shopkeeper: Fang Aixian and Her Old Teahouse
Though called “teahouse,” it is actually a tea stall. Fang is already 90 years old and is the oldest shopkeeper on the street.
Every day from six in the morning, she starts working, and her tea stall becomes busy: the flames in the briquette stove, the sizzling kettle, and the greetings among guests. Her regular customers come every day to peacefully enjoy a sip of her tea, to start a new day as well as think of old days. Time flies, but the lovely scene always reminds people that old things can be this beautiful, just as the glory of the sunset.