In this second and last chapter of our exploration of Kunming Old Street, we are now entering Guanghua Street. It is obvious that Guanghua Street has been widened, and it is clear the traditional buildings have quite recently been newly renovated. When we take a good look, we find a narrow old alleyway hidden on the right side of the street – Hongchang Alley. There are red and blue paper lanterns hanging at the entrance to the alley, which gives it a charming and lively yet retro air. Entering the alley feels like visiting Kunming in a different era, where you can catch a flashback to a bustling old neighborhood.
On the left side of the street is a rice noodle shop called Three Bowls. Three rows of yellow lanterns swinging on the wall of this three-story renovated old building, give it the feeling of a movie scene. Opposite the rice noodle shop is the well-known Jiahua Cake House, located at 28 Guanghua Street. The bakery offers a glowing golden facade, with doors and windows engraved with flowers, and a golden wall upon which a row of exquisite polished copper bells are hung. The cake house sits at an intersection, a noble and imposing building.
The site of Fulintang stands at the opposite side of the intersection. Fulintang is the oldest existing Chinese medicine pharmacy in the city and has been located at its original location since 1857. The pharmacy is currently temporarily operating from Wenming Street, and will move back to the original place when renovation work on the original building is completed. The interior of the building has been cleared now, making the site look a bit bare and lonely.
Wenming Street - A street stuffed with delicacies
Turning left from Fulintang, we enter Wenming Street. The houses on the right are mainly empty and dilapidated. The roof eaves above the window tops are incomplete, so the thatching on the roof extends downward, as if waving a last goodbye. Gradually, the street has begun to bustle into life. The left side of the street is crowded with all kinds of millet noodle and bean curd shops.
Going further in, there are tea and coffee shops, as well as flower cake stores and snack bars, before we arrive at the locally famous Dongfang Bookstore. Above the door, a string of red and purple paper umbrellas flutters gracefully in the wind and rain, adding a touch of charm and vitality. This petite bookstore carefully guards the densely stacked books held inside.
Opposite the bookstore is a row of time-honored restaurants, including two of which their dishes are listed as intangible cultural heritage – Jingchen Yuan and Zhihui Yuan. In the doorway of Zhihui Yuan, there are two bronze statues of American soldiers carrying bowls, making the restaurant look prosperous. At the intersection, we find Jianxinyuan rice noodle shop. If you feel it's too crowded inside, you can still find a spot in the shade under a tree outside. Pick a sunny day, have a bowl of rice noodles, and enjoy the pleasant breeze under the tree.
Historical Passageway - Yongdao
Turning right at the intersection of Wenming Street, we arrive at the old Bird and Flower Market in Jingxing Street. Some of the old houses are in disrepair and on the verge of collapse, and they are crowded with jewelry, chimney, and silver stores, as well as some small tea shops.
There is a small alley on the right through which we enter Yongdao Street, which was the access way to the Yunnan Guizhou Governor's residence in the Qing Dynasty, so it has been called "Yongdao", meaning passageway. The street connects Guanghua Street, Yunrui Park and Shenglitang (Victory Hall) in the north – with Jingxing Bird and Flower Market in the south. Yongdao Street is significantly wider, and there are a row of small shops lining its center. Both sides are occupied with renovated two-story shops with red walls. Exquisite tables and chairs are arranged out front, and the must-see spot on Yongdao Street is Nie Er's former residence. Nie Er was a composer born in Yuxi and famous for "March of the Volunteers", the national anthem of China. The old wooden house has a black plaque in front of the door bearing its name and showing that the residence was built in 1884.
Walking through Yongdao Street, we return to Jingxing Street, which used to be a bustling place. Now, all the fish shops have moved indoors. In addition to the market, there is a smaller alley with stalls selling flowers. At the end of the alley is Yi Ke Yin, a Chinese restaurant which was built in the late Qing Dynasty. The western facade is perfectly combined with the traditional square courtyard, reflecting architectural characteristics with a combination of Chinese and Western styles which typifies the Republic of China period. The building bears the marks of history and time, as the outer wall has begun to peel off and the signboard being dilapidated. However, the old building still remains proudly standing the test of time.
Here we end our journey exploring the past and present of Kunming's largest collection of historical buildings, partly renovated and partly rebuilt. It still offers us a glimpse into a time more ancient, and a window into the different styles of architecture that has taken the Spring City into the 21st century. For both travelers as well as local residents, Old Street in the heart of Kunming is a great spot for a stroll, an afternoon coffee, tasting over the bridge rice noodles or as a starting point to further explore yunnan's capital city.