Reminiscing About Old Hangzhou in Time-honored Lanes

Different from Beijing’s Hutong, lanes in Jiangnan are normally characterized by white walls, black tiles, wooden windows and attics, and large courtyards. These time-honored lanes, having survived rapid urban expansion, show their visitors not only the gentle architecture style shining in history, but also the root of the city which is cherished the most.

To find the root of Hangzhou, visiting any of the following three makes a nice start.

Shi Wu Kui Lane

Shi Wu Kui Lane (十五奎巷) is the most famous one among the Twenty-three Lanes at Imperial Street (These lanes line along Southern Song Imperial Street). The time-honored lane is 500 meters in length and 8 meters in width. Inside the lane are found typical Hangzhou style residential houses dating back to the late Qing Dynasty and early Republic of China era. Most of these houses are Siheyuan (a historical type of residence found in China) featuring a court yard (usually with a large well in the center) surrounded by houses on three or four sides.

Past the bustling Drum Tower and walk deeper and deepder into the lane, the original Hangzhou life style is uncovered before your very eyes: residents wash bed sheets by stamping on them, striking quilts with a stick while airing quilts in the sun and having their hair cut in an old-fashioned way … The lane is an extremely suitable place for a stroll especially in the afternoon when time seems to have stopped here.

Dajing Lane

Walk through Hefang Street which is teemed with tourists and then turn left, you will then be greeted by the serene Dajing Lane (大井巷).

Both the fame and the name of Dajing (which literally means a large well in Chinese) Lane come from a large well found in the lane – No. 1 Well of Qiantang (old Hangzhou) which supplies water for the daily life of residents living in the lane. The well was built by the official advisor of Wuyue Kingdom in the Five Dynasties (907 - 960) and is now a historical and cultural heritage of Zhejiang Province. 

The lane is home to many business giants in old Hangzhou - Zhu Yangxin Plaster Pharmacy, founded more than 400 years ago, the 101-year-old Baoda Ginseng Pharmacy, the renowned Hu Qing Yu Tang Pharmacy (all of which sell Traditional Chinese Medicine) and Zhang Xiaoquan Scissors.

Houses in Dajing Lane are mostly constructed against Wushan Hill, among which you will find a number of quality cafés, restaurants and youth hostels.

Wuliu Lane

Wuliu Lane (五柳巷) takes its name from an imperial garden named ‘Wuliu Garden’ inside the lane which is from the Southern Song Dynasty.

Standing in the north of Hefang Street, Wuliu Lane covers an area of 48 hectares. Highlight of the lane is the well-preserved Hangzhou traditional residential houses built in the late Qing and early Republic of China era, which is rarely seen in Hangzhou downtown.

Its association with Traditional Chinese Medicine also makes it stand out from the rest. Here, you can see vivid bronze statues of veteran TCM doctors, wall paintings featuring the history of TCM doctors and herbals in its green belts.