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October 27, 2021

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Ancient Zhonglou Street returned to its glory days

After a year and a half of renovations and upgrades, Zhonglou Street, which brings back childhood memories for many in Taiyuan, capital of north China’s Shanxi Province, announced its comeback around mid-September.

Holding on to her cane tightly, a 76-year-old senior surnamed Su plodded along the old street through the rain. Passing by every old type of architecture gave Su flashbacks to her younger years.

“In 1979, I held a banquet for my parents at this restaurant on the street after I got married. It just stayed the way it was back then,” Su said. She pointed at a hotel, which has had some interior decor updates. Yet, the exterior facade remained the same.

“We will come to the restaurant to have a reunion dinner when it is your father and I’s 50th wedding anniversary,” Su told her daughter.

Zhonglou (Bell Tower) Street has a centuries-long history dating back to as early as the Song (960-1279) and Yuan (1271-1368) dynasties, and since then has transformed into one of the city’s busiest commercial strips.

Before the COVID-19 outbreak, the ancient street had more than 20 million annual visitors, according to Zhang Lufang from the culture and tourism bureau of the city’s Yingze District.

More than just a crib for the local business boom, Zhonglou is home to more than 20 cultural relics protection units and many time-honored Chinese brands. Many of the shops on the street may be unknown, but they have been there for nearly a century.

However, timeworn facilities and the frequent traffic jam put a drag on the street during Taiyuan’s rapid development over the decades.

Yang Dong, deputy director of the commerce bureau of Yingze District, a native of Taiyuan, recalls the former Zhonglou being a place with “thick wires in the sky, rife with pits and-pots on the ground, which burdened all the store staff with worries.” The thick overhead wires crisscrossed the street almost arbitrarily, making it more difficult to renovate and upgrade the aging roads.

In April 2020, the city launched an upgrade. Li Hui, Party secretary of Yingze District, where the street is located, said that 25 alleys and 32 historical buildings along the street had been renovated.

The overall planning and operation was conducted by local professionals.

Ancient Zhonglou has now turned into a 700-meter pedestrian street, spacious and clean, full of buildings with original and historical features.


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