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We Observe the World

WOW| Another look at Wuyi Road

APD | Mon,2016-06-13

When the sun quietly shines into the cracks of the Wuyi Road, the oldest road in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province, a new day begins.

Different from the old days, slogans like “Change the old and keep up with new era” and “Actively move with honor and expect a better future” now were hanging everywhere on the street.


Things are going to change here.

With another glance of the traffic coming and going, Wu Zhanmei, a Chinese barber, wearing her old Dacron khaki uniforms, sat on the iron casting armchairs which were bought in the 1950s and fell into silence.

Outside the window, most passersby hurried to work without noticing this antiquated barbershop. Occasionally, some curious young people pushed the door open and took photos of all the setting in the room.

They were surprised that this barbershop from the 1950s.

Stepping into the barbershop, above a long mirror, five fresh red Chinese  characters “ 为 人 民 服 务 ” (To  serve the people) were hung markedly. In front of the mirror,there were two lines of tattered iron casting armchairs.

Covered with types of hairdressing supplies, several wooden long tables stood peacefully. There were shampoos produced in Tianjin Household Chemical Plant and Diamond Hair Cream made in Shanghai Household Chemical Factory.

This is the last state-run barbershop in Taiyuan, with 55 years of history.

The owner Wu Zhanmei, who is 62 years old, began to work in Huayi, the old barbershop, from 1978. With another barber Li Shimin, they have been working here for more than twenty seven years.

Li still remembered continuous customers coming to the shop,and he hardly have time for rest in the 1980s. Nowadays, this out-of-style barbershop has gradually faded among fierce competition, but those old patrons never left and even bring their sons and grandsons.

“We opened at 8:00 am and closed at 8:00 pm. This is Huayi Barbershop’s years of tradition,” said Wu, “Now I go to work by bus but I rode a bike when I was young. I have never been late for work.”

In 1978, there were nine barbers. After these years, some of them has retired and returned to hometown. Until today, Only Wu and Li still stay and never plan to leave, with wrinkles climbing on their faces.

“These chairs are very durable and especially designed for hairdressing. We adjust their heights according to customers’ height,” looking at these “antiques”, Wu said proudly, “We only decorated this shop once, changing the floor and mirror, about 20 years ago.”

It was still early in the morning and Wu stared at those yellowed posters on the wall, worrying about Huayi’s future.

Wuyi Road, where Huayi is on, is going to be reconstructed in April, 2016. Wu didn’t know whether Huayi would also disappear or not.

They needs to make a living and Huayi also need a new location. They have picked a new place but the rent, which is about 130,000 yuan a year, is too much for them to afford.

It was already 8:40 am, an old patron with grey and white hair came in. Wu welcomed him enthusiastically and started to cut his hair proficiently. With a comb in one hand and a pair of scissors in the other, Wu was fully concentrated on her work.

Outside, the traffic is  busy as what it was twenty years ago.

Bustle in Xinghuo Club

Most eateries near the street were cold and cheerless at 10:00 in the morning. There was still a long time before noon and they barely saw customers.

With noise of the moving wheels of electric tricycles, Zhang pressed on the brake and stopped at a small noodles restaurant, which is in front of the gate of Xinghuo Club. His blue cotton jacket was rubbed by some dirt.

After a small talk with the owner of the restaurant, he began bending down and collecting the beer bottles in the box, which was put in front of the restaurant, with a pair of grimy gloves.

He has been doing this sort of work for many years.

Zhang recalled he moved to Taiyuan in the 1960s and started to collect

waste beer bottles since then.

Staring at the Xinghuo Club in the near distance, he squinted his eyes and remembered he used to see people watch performances at Xinghuo Club in the 1980s.

But now everything has changed greatly.


Decorated in a traditional Soviet-style, Xinghuo Club has its typical characteristics of showy spire and central symmetric structure. The name of Xinghuo Club, five golden Chinese characters, stood firmly on the roof, even if whose color has already faded.

The dirty glass door now was closely locked. The messy hall made people feel a little bit uneasy.

Xinghuo Club, built in the 1950s, was the best worker club at that time among other factories. It belonged to Shanxi Machine Tool Plant. During those years, Amateur drama groups and the chorus from Shanxi Machine Tool Plant often performed at its stage for its own workers. After the 1990s, it also began to show films and appealed to so many citizens.

At that time, Zhang said, his business was also well.

“I hardly watched programs there,” he stood up straight and smiled slightly, “now it only open in the afternoons and people can play badminton there.” 

A row of white modern cars were parked in front of the gate of the Xinghuo Club, with the body reflecting the sparkling morning sunshine. Xinghuo’s front door was closed with a rusty chain lock, as if it was deserted there for many years.

After finishing collecting bottles, Zhang left for the next restaurant. He didn’t worry about whether he would lose this small noodles restaurant as his client.

“Eleven meters. The new road will just reach the front door and stop at where I stand,” Zhang said cheerfully, using his eyes measuring the distance to the roadside, then started his electronic tricycle. In his mind, both his simple life and Xinghuo Club wouldn’t be disturbed by the road reconstruction。

Even with no one’s serious attention, the restaurants and cards rooms surrounding Xinghuo Club silently declared its bustle and excitement of the past.

The forgotten dwellings

“What a pity to see these old buildings being dismantled,” sighed Li Dongge constantly, who is 88 years old and lives in the northeast corner of Xinmin middle street, Wuyi Road.“ There are few old buildings left now and maybe fewer in the future.”

Sitting on the roadside, Li couldn’t move his sight away from the road in front of his eyes. About ten years ago, he had formed a habit of chatting with his friends every afternoon at this place. Their conversations were about old Tofu, Youtiao and the old buildings against the street, imaging what new Wuyi Road would be like.

Li will have lived here for 57 years until May of this year. His main concern now is how many old buildings could finally be reserved.

Not far from where Li sat are a row of old dwellings, most of them were built in the 1950s or even earlier. Starting from the intersection of Jingying South Street and Wuyi Road, there are more than twenty of them.


The dwellings’ small wooden gates face west, directly reaching the outside street. Some houses’ doors are closely locked but some are widely open.

Many of these dwellings are of the traditional Chinese building style, with hill-shape roof and grey roof tiles covering on it.

Some dwellers use their house for various types of business. There are boards painted white on the door or at the entrance of the gate, with handwritten-words as advertisements on it like “inn”, “fruits”, “laundry”, “lady’s clothes” and “eatery”.

Some dwellings, though widely open their doors, also have notice board: “Private place. Do not come in unless invited”.

Entering the gate, the inside structures of these dwellings include two types. One is like a hutong, where people live next to each other in the two sides of the 1-meter road in the middle. The other is the form of a courtyard with an empty space in the middle and other small houses around it.

On the roadside, there is a peddler selling porcelain bowls, plates and jars. The china was displayed on a red corduroy cloth on the ground.

Inside an ancient yard gate, collapsing walls and broken windows were everywhere. The yard seemed already in ruin for a couple of months.

The old dwellings that Li concerned about are doomed to be taken away from the ordinary life and in the end become an eternal history of Wuyi Road.

Demolition Scheme


Wuyi Road, starting from Wuyi Squre to Shengli Street, was the first main road built in Taiyuan. Its name symbolizes laboring people’s independence and reminds people of the early years of new China.

Unfortunately, in recent years, this old road has suffered from some complaints from citizens. Like an aged person, Wuyi Road’s problems have hampered its traffic-carrying ability.

A few cracks have appeared on a number of parts of the road; pipelines of the drainage system were not properly arranged thus affecting the drainage efficiency; traffic congestion often occurs when people drive near Liuxiang, a busy shopping district.

The government said Wuyi Road must be reconstructed in order not to drag down the pace of city’s economic development.

The new road will be 40 or 50 meters wider than the current one and will have two-way six or two-way eight lanes. Besides, underpasses will be built in the future to relieve the traffic pressure. Wuyi Road will also extend north and pass through some old factories in order to connect with other roads, forming a complete city road network.

At present, along Wuyi Road, walls of the stores has already been marked and measured by construction workers. There are walls that has been marked with red words: “K2+820+3.9M”. It means at this place, the road needs to be enlarged horizontally by 3.9 meters and the distance from this place to Wuyi Square, which is a famous square in Taiyuan, is 2820 meters. That is to say, buildings within the distance of 3.9 meters will  all be demolished during the reconstruction.

It’s cold outside but there are still people using cameras take photos of the houses and trees on the road in memory of this road, which is about to disappear.

Big shopping mall or cinema have never existed on Wuyi Road. There is only small and dark stores hanging discount notices and using speakers play its advertisements “real clearance sale” in the wind again and again.

Since the autumn of 2016, along the side of the road, people will never have had chances to see Wuyi Road covered with thick golden leaves of the tall maidenhair trees any more.


GUO Xiaoqiong

I am a postgraduate student of BFSU and major in international communication. I hope I can always write from the bottom of my heart.