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Sweet memories and pride as hometown's charms attract more people

By Li Yingxue | China Daily | Updated: 2024-02-24 12:49
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In my memory, my hometown, Shenyang, was never a touristy place; it's always been known as an "old industrial hub" and the capital of Liaoning province, once dubbed "the eldest son of the People's Republic of China".

But things started changing last year. Suddenly, Shenyang was all over social media. From bathhouses to different ways of cooking chicken, and barbecues — everywhere I used to hang out with friends became a hot spot for online check-ins.

It really hit me when the Xiaoheyan morning market, where I'd go with my parents to buy groceries since I was little, became the talk of the town this winter. And then, to top it off, Shenyang was chosen as one of the venues for CCTV's Spring Festival Gala. That's when I realized my hometown might be becoming a big deal.

This market is just a 10-minute walk from my place, across from Wanquan Park. It's busiest in the summer, with stalls selling everything from fresh produce to snacks. Every time I go there with my mom, we come back with bags full of goodies.

And the prices! It's so typical of Northeast China — 3 yuan (42 US cents) for one thing, 5 yuan for two — it's not just a pricing method; it reflects the warmth and generosity of the people here.

Besides the market, the Wanquan Park is also worth visiting. It's steeped in history, and over 100 years old. Back in the day, it was a private sanctuary filled with flowers, water pavilions, cozy teahouses and bustling taverns.

In my memory, though, where Wanquan Park stands now used to be Shenyang Zoo. It was just a quick 10-minute walk from home, and I'd see lions, tigers, pandas and elephants. But that all changed in 1999 when the zoo moved to the suburbs, and it was renamed Wanquan Park.

Nowadays, Wanquan Park has paved paths winding from the riverside into the heart of the park. My grandpa used to come here every day for his exercise routine when I was a kid. And now, it's where my parents go for their daily walks since they've retired.

Right across Wanquan Park, next to the morning market, there's another spot you shouldn't miss — Xiafang Yuan, the "summer fragrant garden". It's unlike the traditional northeastern gardens, with its pavilions, golden tiles and vibrant red lacquer trees. Every season brings a different charm, with various flowers and trees blossoming throughout the year.

About 300 meters from the morning market, there's a pie shop I absolutely love. It's actually a halal restaurant. After our morning market stroll, my mom and I always make sure to swing by for some pies, a bowl of wonton soup and side dishes. It's become a cherished tradition for us.

Over the past 20 years, I've seen the price of pies slowly go up, but what hasn't changed is their delicious taste and that satisfying sizzle as they cook.

Sadly, when I went home for Lunar New Year this time, the shop was closed for the holiday. I was really looking forward to that taste I'd been craving. It seems the tourists flocking to the small riverside spot haven't discovered my "hidden gem" yet.

I'm torn. On one hand, I want others to experience the unique flavor of Shenyang pies, but on the other hand, I hope they don't create long lines that might keep me from enjoying them next time I'm back.

Even though Shenyang isn't known as a tourist hot spot, it's packed with delicious food and beautiful sights. Places like the Shenyang Imperial Palace and the Zhang Family Mansion are mustsees, and you won't want to miss out on trying the authentic and wallet-friendly northeastern cuisine.

Before Lunar New Year, the Shenyang government sent a heartfelt letter to Shenyang locals, which touched me, as a person who has been away from home for over a decade.

The letter talked about how Shenyang has gained sudden popularity since last year's May Day holiday, and now, it's time to invite friends from across the country to experience the warmth of winter snow and sunshine. This season belongs to us, and it's our home.




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