Today, we’ll continue with our series about famous streets in China. We’ll take you to the city of Fuzhou, and to the famous Sanfang Qixiang, or three lanes and seven alleys. This residential neighbourhood can trace its origins back to the end of the Tang Dynasty, over a thousand years ago. By the Song Dynasty, it was home to local officials, the city’s wealthy elite and scholars. Later, during the Ming and Qing Dynasties, it underwent rapid development. During this period, and in mid-to-late Qing in particular, many buildings that are today considered of great historical significance, were constructed in Sanfang Qixiang.
Small though it is, Sanfang Qixiang produced a remarkable number of people who contributed to social progress locally and nationally. Today, Sanfang Qixiang occupies an area of 40 hectares and has more than 200 buildings; and it still retains its traditional lane and alley layout.
The history of the Three Lanes and Seven Alleys continues to inspire people. With its rich and fascinating past and its rare architectural features, Sanfang Qixiang attracts visitors from far and wide. By the 1990s, however, with many large-scale construction projects being launched in Fuzhou, it occurred to people that Sanfang Qixiang might be under threat.
The original owners of the old houses in Sanfang Qixiang are long gone, of course. But their stories and the legends associated with them, are an important part of the local history. Fuzhou today is a thoroughly modern city. But its people are mindful of the need to protect its history and traditions. And so Sanfang Qixiang remains a centre of human activity, and is just as vibrant as at any time in its past. And in it, the traditional way of life goes on, even as modern lifestyles are developing around it.