|Kuan Xiangzi, Huangwa St.|
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Mark Hiew (more chengdu)|
Visitors to Chengdu, post-Pandas, will often make it to one of the city’s “new old” walking streets, such as Wenshu Temple or Jinli Street. Be sure to add China Lane to your list. It offers the same festive shopping and strolling, but with a level of redesign and restoration craftsmanship that is utterly breathtaking.
The planning process for the previously unknown alleys apparently reached national fame when, according to Hello Chengdu, a “huge batch of reports” by scholars argued over “to remove or not to remove, to reconstruct or not.” Judge for yourself, but we’d say they chose wisely. Facades and entryways from the original construction remain, scattered amongst the beautifully rendered historic streets, each store featuring immaculate wood and stonework.
A variety of upscale stores, restaurants, bars and teahouses have already moved in, and more are to come. The teahouses, each incredible in their traditional courtyard layout and design are all worth visiting, but one particularly floored us. It opened up onto a small lake, where two women in traditional costume played erhu and pipa, as if in a scene pulled from some sumptuous Zhang Yimou period piece. Back out on the alley, a silk-clad sugar painter crafted animals and a flashlight-wearing ear cleaner removed wax, while stalls hawked Sichuanese puppets, paintings and gourds. Only some of which were tacky.
It was all the activity and charm of Chengdu leisure, only cleaner, shinier, newer. In a time when modernity seems defined by skyscrapers and malls, China Lane is an exciting nod to a past hardly demolished, but celebrated.