The Old Yacheng Street
   2013-12-13 14:36:59      Web Editor: Luo Chun

Old Yacheng Street [Photo:]

Every city has an old street that carries the reminders of past glories, dreams and tells the stories passed down through generations. The streets may have declined or disappeared today, but the memories still remain fresh. But with whom can we share these memories?

When strolling on Yacheng Street, you can experience Sanya's rich and dignified past. Every street, every shop here has been engraved into the hearts of locals, while everything on the streets could ignite your imagination and take you back in time.

The street was built more than 400 years ago during the Ming Dynasty. In ancient times, Yacheng was a political, economic, cultural and educational center in southern Hainan; it also had military importance. It became a county during the period of the Southern and Northern Dynasties and had been the seat of the regional government since the Song Dynasty.

The town was once a destination for exiled officials and scholars, a place that offered refuge to Jianzhen (688ĘC763) and his Japan-bound fleet and was a stop on the Maritime Silk Road. It's also where Huang Daopo (1245-1330), China's textile founder, learnt weaving skills from the Li people.

In the Ming Dynasty, a mass immigration from Fujian and Guangdong boosted prosperity in Yacheng. In the same period, the Qilou (arcade building) sprouted up here. According to the Chronicle of Sanya, Dongguan Market and Xiguan Market existed in 1752, along with 30-plus shops on Yacheng Street, which sold cloth, wines, jewelry and books. It's easy to imagine how prosperous and busy the city was at the time.

Qilou buildings in Yacheng were modeled from those in Fujian and Guangdong, two trade hubs since the Tang Dynasty that were influenced by the architecture of Southeast Asia, where many of its natives ran businesses. And when settling back in Yacheng, they introduced Qilou here. So as an architectural form, Qilou has existed for a long time.

Today, the buildings are dilapidated - the walls have peeled and weeds have sprung up everywhere. But they still have use: the arcades can provide shelter from storm and sun. And with the downstairs unit used for business and the upstairs floor as a residence, a Qilou is actually of great commercial value.

More than 20 years ago, Shanghai Film Studio produced a documentary that focused on Qilou's history before 1949.

Beside the street stands a majestic, quaint Confucius Temple built during the Northern Song Dynasty. It used to be the seat of the prestigious Yazhou Palace of Studies, a leading local college once playing an unmatched role in the cultural history of the town. The sutras left by Jianzhen (688ĘC763) before his visit to Japan are still kept here and serve as a witness to that history.

When walking around the street on an autumn afternoon, you can easily recognize its historical charm. Sunshine blankets windowsills; an old wooden door was left ajar; naughty kids may dart out in front of you all of a sudden, smile, then run again out of sight. At the moment, you probably have no time to react, or to smile back.

Here, without worries about time passing or the annoyance of urban noise, you can enjoy peace and quiet when recalling the past. Even after a motorcycle roars onto the street and disturbs the tranquility, you would feel at ease and continue your tour, trying to follow those kids and your day dreams.

For everyone of us, change is really nothing to fear.

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