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An ancient hutong with a modern twist

By Xinhua | China Daily | Updated: 2017-03-23 07:19

An ancient hutong with a modern twist

Pedestrians walk along Yangmeizhuxie street in the Dashilan subdistrict, which recently received a face-lift as part of a plan to renovate the older parts of Beijing.Wang Zhuangfei / China Daily

Unlike the typical bustling, crowded hutong found elsewhere in Beijing, the streets of the Dashilan subdistrict are quieter and more laid back.

Xiao Yuchen, a 25-year-old illustrator from Taiwan, was drawn to the area for its unique atmosphere.

She chose Yangmeizhuxie street to set up her design studio, because "there are no tourist crowds or bustling commercial activity".

"Art and design studios neighbor old siheyuan courtyard houses, which makes it comfortable to work and live here," she said.

Yangmeizhuxie street is less than 500 meters long and recently received a face-lift as part of a plan to renovate the older parts of the city.

More than 710 of the 1,711 families that lived there were moved out of the street, making space for cultural innovation companies, whose studios must fit in with the surrounding architecture.

"Dashilan is promoting cultural innovation to attract more artists and help revitalize the area," said Jia Rong, director of the update plan.

Wang Xiuren was born on Yangmeizhuxie street, where her ancestors have lived for 400 years.

Her family used to run a drugstore, before it was bought by a traditional Chinese medicine company.

The 72-year-old was one of the street's residents who chose not to leave Dashilan, opting instead to stay and run the two-story bookshop that she opened in 2004.

"The business was not so good before, but I was not willing to leave this hutong," she said.

As renovations began on the street outside, Wang decided to redesign her shop as well.

On the ground floor, she opened a cafe, while on the second floor, she built a museum displaying items related to her family's old drugstore.

"We can be creative while preserving our cultural tradition," she said.

Yangmeizhuxie street's renovation plan is part of Beijing's moves to clear the capital of nonessential businesses and upgrade through cultural innovation.

The central government has ordered Beijing, Tianjin and neighboring Hebei province to pursue coordinated development.

According to a guideline released in April 2015, the political, cultural, international communication and technical innovation sectors will be prioritized, while others will be moved out of the capital.

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