Hangzhou’s Hefang Street (河坊街) is a vibrant old street that will keep you entertained. Shopping in stores that are more than 100 years old, discovering diminishing arts & crafts, drinking the famous Longjin tea and having fun playing dress up! Hefang Street had always been an important place for trade some 800 years ever since the Southern Song Dynasty. In 2000, the street has been made a pedestrian street and renovated to depict old Hangzhou.
At one end of Hefang Street is the happy laughing Buddha, welcoming you to explore a world of traditional Chinese arts and various kinds of unique trades. Some shops are original shops that withstood the test of time and remained for the past 100 + years, while some are more modern shops renovated to fit in with the whole “old-time-atmosphere”.
To start with, the Fang Hui Chun Tang (方回春堂) traditional Chinese medicine store is one of the oldest stores in the area that is more than 300 years old. You can go there for traditional Chinese medicine therapy, or you can check out some of the rarest herbs on display.
This one here is cordyceps (冬虫夏草),
and this one here is a piece of giant ginseng. Do you see the price tag? It is priced at RMB 680,000!! Equivalent to RM 340,00 or USD 110,000. That’s one piece of precious ginseng there! Click here for Fang Hui Chun Tang Official Website .
Another traditional Chinese medicine store that seems to be drawing everyone’s attention is Yi Yuan San Hao (益元参号). The word “San” literally means ginseng as the store originally had their bulk of business dealing with wild ginseng.
This is what all the people are looking at – snake wine ! Snake wine is thought to revitalize health in Chinese medicinal theory, and hence when there’s demand, there’s supply.
It’s not a pretty sight. Rather gruesome but eye catching. Click here for Yi Yuan San Hao’s Official Website.
This humble looking store is Hangzhou’s popular ham store – Wan Long (万隆), retailing the prestigious Jinhua ham (金华火腿) that would take a whole year of tiresome process in the making of this cured meat. Wan Long has also ventured out into other items like braised chicken feet, duck wings and beef jerky. I thought of coming back to the store to get some ham after dinner, but it was already closed by 8pm 🙁 Click here for Wan Long’s Official Website.
Hefang Street is also a nice place for you to sample different kinds of tea. When in Hangzhou, there is no way that you are going to leave Hangzhou without trying their tea, especially the local specialty, the Longjin Tea (龙井茶) .
We stopped by Taichi Cha Dou (太极茶道), another time-honored shop that serves tea Kung Fu style where tea is poured as a performance. The tea’s quite expensive – at around RMB 80 (RM 40, USD 27) per pax. The tea is taken at a separate place upstairs.
The tea menu is written on wooden panels. The names of the tea don’t mean much to me so I thought of trying the “whatever -tea” (随便茶), really, that’s the name of the tea! Good for people like me that can’t make their mind on what to order.
Apparently emperors came here to drink tea too.
Gary didn’t seem to be interested at the tea so in the end we just tried the dessert instead. There’s the West Lake Lotus paste, black sesame paste and water caltrop soup (aka buffalo nut).
I took the black sesame paste. It was gooey, starchy and nothing too special actually.
Despite the not-very-special dessert, I really like the ambiance. It’s one of the shops along Hefang Street that still maintains the worn and aged atmosphere while a lot of the shops despite being more than a 100 years old have lavish interior decoration. Now in retrospect, I should have just gone upstairs myself and watch the tea performance.
Freshly pan-fried Longjin tea is also for sale in a lot of shops.
For the sweet-toothed, there’s plenty of sweets and tidbits to accompany the tea. Some are freshly made like this peanut candy.
This guy loves the camera! He got to work quickly, happily pounding the peanut cake for me to take photos, chanting some working song to attract customers.
Some sweets are packed up upon order, whereas the others like the walnut cookies are wrapped up and stringed in traditional packing.
Along Hefang Street, the unique arts and crafts will keep you occupied. Some are specialty stores where the trade has been passed on for generations, like the Wang Xing Ji Traditional Fan Store (王星记) (Wang Xing Ji official website here), while others operate on a smaller scale in kiosks.
Some are simpler designs whereas others are intricate images like the old man with the wrinkles and beard.
Other arts & crafts stores include wood carving,
dough figurine making,
caricature drawing and plenty of other stores with intresting souvenirs.
traditional hair accessories,
super fast cement mold figures,
Chinese swords and much more you will have to be there to really explore. Enjoy more photos below 🙂
Hefang Street Map