Stumbling upon this Southern Song Imperial Street (南宋御街) in Hangzhou is a bit of a misadventure for me and Gary. The street is termed “imperial” because it was the main street traveled by the emperor in the Southern Song Dynasty, from his palace to the temple for him to make routine prayers.
After getting our noodles from Kui Yuan Guan, we asked the staff how to get to Hefang Street. She pointed expressionlessly towards one direction and told us it’s just there, as if the street is just a 10 minutes walk away. Well, we walked and walked and walked, passing through a good 2 km (?) length of Southern Imperial Street, before finally reaching Hefang Street. I didn’t mind the walking too much as I love exploring. We came across these brilliant statues of a family with 4 generations. Wow. That’s a big photogenic family there!
There is one section of the Imperial Street that has a mini museum that explains the history of the street (all in Chinese though) and you can also see the cobbled ruins of the ancient street that’s more than 1000 years old. The ruins were first uncovered in 2003 as an archaeological finding.
Surprisingly, the street doesn’t seem to be very prosperous despite its imperial status. There are a lot of shops along the way but I would say 70% of them are closed. The remaining 30% that are open mostly deal with jewelry, gold and other high end items – I guess the rental must be really high only these shops are able to afford the rent.
There aren’t a lot of people walking on the street either. Quite a contrast to Hefang Street that’s not too far away from it. I did manage to see the latest fashion here – the pyjamas fashion that originated from Shanghai. Read in the flight magazine from Malaysian Airlines that shopping and running errands in pyjamas seem to be the latest trend!
While the street may be scarce on shops and people, it has a different atmosphere to the more popular tourist places. Being a bit more desolate, it means that you can leisurely stroll through the street, enjoy the mix of new buildings and old buildings from the late Qing Dynasty without having to squeeze through a swarm of people.
The street also offers a few different kinds of Chinese crafts like child’s play fans, silk and swords selling in little kiosk. Not a bad place to explore if you have some extra time!
More Info on Southern Song Imperial Street
Map of Southern Song Imperial Street