A portion of Zhongshan Road, traditionally one of Hangzhou’s main thoroughfares, has attracted a huge number of fancy stores after it was given a facelift in 2009. The renovated strip was renamed Southern Song Royal Street in commemoration of its use by the royals of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), who made Hangzhou their capital.
Some stores came and went, with high rents dictating that only distinctive businesses would survive.
Shanghai Daily strolled down the 4.3-kilometer street to find three unique stores along the section from Dajing Lane to Hefang Street.
Wuyue Family Silk and Cloth Store
Silk batting for such uses as quilts is produced differently than silk thread. While thread is made by boiling silkworm cocoons and reeling the thread, batting traditionally is made by submerging the cocoons in water overnight, when they swell and become layered. Workers split the wet layers and then expand them. The enlarged pieces are layered into one piece and dried.
Wuyue Family Silk and Cloth Store demonstrates the technique for visitors. The entrance of the store is divided into two areas, one for reeling silk, and one for making silk batting quilts.
“It is to show the local culture and to assure customers of high quality,” says Wu Ying, owner of the store, adding Hangzhou is one of the traditional birthplaces of China’s silk industry.
The store, though new on Southern Song Royal Street, is an old brand selling silk and cocoons that has been handed down for five generations. Its silk reeling skill is listed as a Zhejiang Province Intangible Culture Heritage. Silk batting quilts, silk scarves and silk bags are for sale at the store.
A signature produce for the store is blue-and-white calico, a traditional product of the Xiaoshan District of Hangzhou, naturally dyed with the leaves of radix isatidis, a Chinese herb that also is used traditionally for colds and nasal infections.
The water used for dyeing was applied to the neck as a treatment for mumps in ancient times.
The dyeing technique was written down as long as 2,000 years ago, explaining that workers used carved wooden blocks to make patterns.
Recent discoveries have advanced historical knowledge in the area — tools for dyeing blue-and-white cloth have been found at Kuahu Bridge Ruins in Xiaoshan, where some objects have been dated to some 7,000 years ago.
Wu says that before the 1950s, there were still many Xiaoshan people in the dyeing business at the area between the Qiantang River and Yangtze River. “They carried tools, and asked if people needed to dye their clothes,” she says.
In the store, calico is made into clothes, bags, cushions and crafts. Due to the old technique, color fastness is low, and the profit margin is not large since naturally dyed cloth costs much more to produce than chemically colored cloth, but Wu says she will continue to sell it because it is “eco-friendly and cultural.”
Address: 48 Zhongshan Road M.
Tel: (0571) 8780-1366
Tea Are More
Tea Are More, a close homonym of the Italian ti amo (I love you), is a store for tea and things related to tea. It is not a traditional-style tea store but a small, fashionable tea house.
The large, hand-written tea menu has not only Chinese green and black tea, but also English, Japanese, Indian, and even Arabic and South African teas.
Its exclusive products are tea-coffee and moteeto. Tea-coffee is a drink made from tea powder and coffee powder, with four flavors: Oolong, black tea, green tea and Pu’er tea. Moteeto, adapted from mojito, is a combination of tea, fruit and alcohol.
Milk tea and fruit tea, cookies and cakes are provided as well. None of the foods has additives. Also, the store designs and sells postcards.
Tea Are More is not located in a large space. It is situated in an unusual, three-story building designed by Wang Shu, winner of the world-recognized Pritzker Architecture Prize. On its first floor, it sells tea pots and cups. Tea is sold on its second floor, and its third floor has 11 tables for customers.
Address: 12 Zhongshan Road M.
Behind Tea Are More and off the main street, Fruit Mix is a fruit dessert store with a colorful and bright decor and facade. Despite the location, it attracts many customers because of its large variety of fresh fruit desserts.
It has fruit juice, fruit and sago desserts, fruit frappuccino, fruit pancakes, and also pasta and fried rice on its menu. The waning days of summer are a great time for its desserts since some fruit is in season, and cold and icy treats are perfect while some warm days remain.
Mango dessert is recommended with mango now sweet and juicy, and mango lasagna is a must order. It is in the form of a cake, with fresh, mellow mangoes embedded in lightly sweet lasagna, creating a delightful taste.
Also recommended by the store is the supreme fruit plate with 10 kinds of fruits, the three-color sago dessert and mango pancakes.
Address: 10 Zhongshan Road M.
Tel: (0571) 8704-7610