Walking through congested Shangxiajiu(上下九) Street, we entered another world in the city –Enning Road(恩宁路). It is a peaceful road with an old history and is located in the region known as "Xiguan" (西关), which literally means the Western Gate of Old Guangzhou City.
Xiguan people living in Enning Road have retained their way of life.
Xiguan people living in Enning Road have retained their way of life. The evolution of the city has seemingly stopped here. Elderly with fans lying next to sliding timber doors, sleepy dogs on the stone-made streets, stalls selling steel pans, coal or repairing shoes, old-style shops for hair dressing and tailoring. Elements of Xiguan culture concentrated in this tiny historic road.
With over one hundred years of history, lots of relics are situated there, making the road a gateway to traditional Lingnan culture. Bage Huiguan Hall(八和会馆) is the home of Guangdong Yue Opera. Other buildings including Taihua Tower(泰华楼), which was a private schoolroom for scholar Li Wenhe(李文和) in Qing Dynasty. A former residence of Li Xiaolong (Bruce Lee, the world famous deceased Kung Fu artist), is also situated here. [Relics in Enning Road]
Parts of Enning Road have been under renovation.
After the announcement of old town renovation released by the government, dwellers in the region have bittersweet feelings concerning the development of the community. As a part of governmental city planning, the environment will undoubtedly become more beautiful and improved, which locals have been looking forward to for a long time. But will this lead to cultural disintegration? [Renovation News of Enning Road]
A Long time ago, branches of Lizhi Bay(荔枝湾) sprawled over the region. Water from the Pearl River connected streets and houses in the region which had bred many scholars and scientists over the past one hundred years.
Cui, 45, is the 5th of 7 children of a local family. When recalling his childhood in the Enning Road, he was excited by the memories. "Life was hard, but my childhood was very happy and worthy of remembering. When water flooded the whole street and adults were busy draining water, it was our water splashing festival. Children played with each other in the water with wooden buckets. Sometimes we played bumper boats made from converted wooden basins for fun."
At the end of the 1980s, concrete was put on the rivers along the Enning Road ending the water playing experiences of the locals.
Xiguan Delicacy and Regimen
Stepping inside food-famed Guangzhou, you'll find eastern and western foods. In spite of exploding restaurants and flourishing economy, Xiguan's pleasures are intended mainly for the Xiguan locals, who are experts at regimen.
From an old house located on Enning Road, the aromas of medicinal materials filter through the air. Uncle Leung, owner of the house, is cooking herbal tea for a father and daughter. Uncle Leung, 75, has been running his herbal tea business for over 40 years.
There is no ready-made herbal tea here but uncle Leung will make a diagnosis for anyone and make some herbal tea to suit his prescription.
"Hearing the renovation news, so many old friends called me that it crashed the telephone. They are afraid of not finding me and my unique herbal tea", smiled Uncle Leung.
Xiguan used to be a collection of rich residences and now has stalls displaying excellent crafts. Ordinary people born and living here rely on crafts to make a successful career.
Su has a 10-square-meter bronze ware stall on Enning Road. Bronze ware like kettles, bowls, chopsticks and basins are a traditional craft in Guangzhou.
Su and his bronze ware
"Bronze helps kids absorb zinc into their bodies and prevent leucoderma," claimed Su, who began his business in Xiguan 40 years ago. Now he is believed to be the only bronze ware craftsman of Xiguan, maybe even Guangzhou.
Guo in his barbers shop
Guo, another craftsman in Xiguan, is famed for his hairdressing skills. Disabled when very young, Guo was sent to a barbers shop to learn hairdressing. Later he opened a barbers shop in a street in the Enning Road area and ran the business for over 38 years. After the shop was closed in 1998, Guo returned his ancestral house to another street in the area, keeping his business alive.
Xiguan was once the center of Yue Opera. The 100 year old Bahe Huiguan Hall used to be a school and social hall for the Yue Opera, concentrating Yue Opera celebrities sharing their passion and skills for this art. It is recorded that at the end of 1970s, Yue Opera was so popular that music was always echoing in the alleys.
However as time passed the music disappeared. Will those with their roots in this area retain their culture and continue to develop and retell their story?
(By Jessie Hwang and Alan Devey)