CHINA HERITAGE QUARTERLY China Heritage Project, The Australian National University ISSN 1833-8461
No. 28, December 2011


Tourism and Spatial Change in Hangzhou, 1911-1927

Liping Wang 汪利平
University of Minnesota

The following essay expands our consideration of West Lake and Hangzhou since the time of the Song dynasty. The author offers important insights into the decline of Qing-era Hangzhou and the invented traditions of West Lake as a tourist site that date in particular from the early years of the Republic of China, the centenary of which was commemorated in 2011. The 'de-politicization' of West Lake in post-Mao China discussed elsewhere in this section reaches back to the Republic as the reinvented traditions of the Lake were re-affirmed for new generations, both of tourists and of pilgrims.

This essay originally appeared as a chapter in Remaking the Chinese city: Modernity and National Identity, 1900-1950, edited by Joseph W. Esherick (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 1999). My thanks to the author for her kind permission to reprint her work in this issue of China Heritage Quarterly. Minor stylistic changes have been made to the text, and Chinese characters have been added where relevant.—The Editor

For most visitors today, Hangzhou evokes sentimental feelings of a romantic past, where elegant temples, fine pagodas, and carved bridges frame the delicate landscape of rolling hills and are mirrored in the placid water of West Lake. Benefiting from this abundance of classic beauty, Hangzhou enjoys a status that many other cities are trying to establish for themselves—an ideal place for tourism. Like so many other popular tourist destinations in the world, Hangzhou's attraction rests upon a combination of the seeming purity of its natural beauty and its presumed timelessness. It seems natural to speak about Hangzhou in terms of its historicity, since records about the city begin from about 200 B.C., and it served as the capital of the Southern Song (1127-1279). In the tourist guidebooks of the republican period, every 'must see' site in Hangzhou was said to have a history of at least one millennium. Books that were published after 1949 understandably eulogized the People's Republic of China's effort to preserve the antiquities of Hangzhou. Crossing these recent political eras, the basic message remains consistent: Hangzhou's identity lies in the city's supposedly unaltered spatial arrangement, in which the city seems always to have turned its face in the direction of West Lake.

But when we look at the period before 1911, this image of an ancient Hangzhou, which seemed to exist because of West Lake, is cast into doubt. Yu Dafu 郁達夫, the writer who gained his middle school education in Hangzhou, remembered the city at the turn of this century very differently. The 'downtown' area where he often went for fun was called the City-God Hill (Chenghuang shan 城隍山), which is a hill in the southern part of the city, far away from West Lake.[1] On City-God Hill Yu Dafu often went to buy books, sip tea, savor tasty snacks, and enjoy the hustle and bustle of the city. Yu Dafu's description of the center of Hangzhou city life sounds similar to the one found in The Scholars (Rulin waishi 儒林外史), an early Qing novel. In the novel, a poor scholar visited Hangzhou and found his friend, who was a fortune-teller, at City-God Hill. It was a place crowded with temples, where the eating, tea drinking, buying and selling of books, and various kinds of fortune telling all made for a lively scene.[2]

This Qing portrait of Hangzhou certainly does not bear much resemblance to our contemporary image of the city that centers around the picturesque and history-laden West Lake. What happened in between the two pictures is a process entailing a reorganization of the urban hierarchy in Jiangnan, which found expression in Hangzhou's spatial arrangement. Starting in the mid-nineteenth century, imperialist aggression, foreign trade, and domestic rebellion contributed to the rapid ascendance of Shanghai in this region and the decline of some of the older urban centers. Hangzhou's role as a center of handicrafts and commerce was lost to the industrialized metropolis of Shanghai. In the 1910s, however, Hangzhou sprang from the ashes as one of the most famous tourist destinations in China, and its role as a 'culture garden' continues to this day. The present essay examines the creation of modern Hangzhou and the tourist trade that has enveloped the city in an aura of 'tradition.' In particular, I will focus on the spatial transformation of the city in the early twentieth century that allowed the modern-day tourist vision to develop.[3]

Looking at spatial transformation within cities like Hangzhou during the early republican period can help us to understand the changes that brought China into the modern era. Hangzhou's altered cityscape reveals important changes in the social and cultural relationships between the city and its surrounding countryside, as well as between the city and its metropolitan neighbor, Shanghai. As China itself was being transformed, Hangzhou had to reposition itself to provide new services in order to replace those that were rapidly moving elsewhere. This essay is about the process whereby changes in Hangzhou's physical layout both reflected and influenced this repositioning, ultimately resulting in the emergence of a new kind of tourism. Faced with a modern regional arrangement that severely constrained the possibility for further development, Hangzhou discovered that what it had to rely upon was precisely its 'antiquity'. Given that much of this antiquity was not as ancient as claimed, these spaces in Hangzhou also illustrate how 'tradition' and 'modernity' do not form a linear history, but were instead constructed, or 'invented', simultaneously.

Spatial Layout and City Life in Qing Hangzhou

Hangzhou during the Qing was one of the top cities for handicraft production and commerce in the empire. Due to its strategic position at the southern terminus of the Grand Canal, Hangzhou was an important commercial nodal point that connected Jiangnan and the mountainous southeast China.[4] The city's central role in silk production made it the location of one of the three imperial Bureaus of Silk Weaving.[5] Yet Hangzhou's economic importance was only part of the story. As the popular saying went, 'There is paradise above, and there are Suzhou and Hangzhou below' (Shang you tiantang, xia you Su Hang 上有天堂,下有蘇杭). Hangzhou's image of a 'paradise on earth' was also closely related to the city's role as a major center of elite culture and popular religious activity.

Long before the modern era, travel and sight-seeing had been part of a distinctive literati way of life, and travel writing was an important genre of elite cultural production.[6] Hangzhou had a special role in this elite cultural tradition because of its proximity to West Lake. The refined landscape of the lake area just outside the city was canonized by a host of poet-officials, among them two saints of poetry, Bo Juyi 白居易 (772-846) and Su Shi 蘇軾 (1037-1101).[7] Literature from the Tang (618-907) and Song (960-1279) periods created a reputation for West Lake, placing it among the most culturally significant sites that any well-educated member of the elite would be obligated to visit and appreciate. In fact, sightseeing around West Lake was such an important element in cultural politics that in the seventeenth and eighteenth century the Qing emperors Kangxi (r.1661-1722) and Qianlong (r.1736-1795) both patronized it for the purpose of co-opting the Han Chinese elite in Jiangnan. During their visits to Hangzhou, Kangxi and Qianlong blessed many scenic wonders with their calligraphy. Traveling palaces were built for them on Lone Mountain (Gu Shan 孤山), which had one of the choicest views of West Lake.[8]

Fig.1 Hangzhou during the Qing dynasty. Redrawn from Tong Longfu, ed., Hangzhou in the 1920, redrawn from a map in Yu Shouzhen, Ge Suicheng, Zhou Baidi, eds., Quanguo duhui shangbu lüxing zhinan 全國都會商部旅行指南, 1926.

However, at the same time that West Lake was important to Hangzhou's spatial position, it was also separated from the city by a tall and thick wall. The city wall was eleven and half miles in length, thirty feet high, and thirty-five feet wide on top. This city wall effectively blocked the view of West Lake from most parts of the city. By closing off the line of sight, the wall imposed a clear boundary on the urban space, turning the city into a closed space vis-à-vis the surrounding scenery. Furthermore, these walls were used to control movement between the city and its surroundings. City dwellers' access to the lake was limited to the three city gates opening westward during daytime: the Qiantang Gate (Qiantang Men 錢塘門), the Yongjin Gate (Yongjin Men 湧金門), and the Qingbo Gate (Qingbo Men 清波門)[Fig.1]. The constraining effect of the city wall was very much highlighted during the turmoil of the mid-nineteenth century. When Hangzhou was attacked by Taiping rebels in 1861, the residents were trapped in the besieged city for over three months. Cut off completely from outside aid, about six hundred thousand people starved to death or committed suicide.[9]

The spatial layout of Qing Hangzhou was also shaped by conditions that were unique to the Qing dynasty. The city contained a second closed space. A sizable area in the west part of the city between the Qiantang Gate and the Yongjin Gate was surrounded by another wall that was about three miles in circumference. This was the Manchu banner garrison (qiying 旗营), one of the larger garrisons in the Qing empire.[10] The construction of this garrison dated to 1648, in the wake of the Manchu conquest of Jiangnan 江南 and the southeast coastal areas. Tenacious Ming loyalist resistance in these areas made the Manchu conquest a prolonged and particularly bloody process. It was in this con text that the Qing court emphasized the strategic importance of Hangzhou: 'This is a crucial location [which connects] river and sea. In order to secure order, a large military force must be stationed [in the city].'[11] Clearly intending the garrison to be a symbol of Manchu conquest, the victors encircled about 7,000 mu 畝 of land in the densely populated center of Hangzhou. The construction of this garrison subsequently caused a serious dislocation of local people and a severe housing shortage. All the previous residents of the enclosed area—about ten thousand families—were driven from their homes. Not only were the former property owners denied compensation for their loss, but for the next two decades they had to pay taxes on the land now occupied by Bannermen.[12]

The garrison, with a stone wall over twenty feet high and six gates, took the shape of a city within a city and imposed further spatial restrictions on access to West Lake from Hangzhou itself. One of the city gates opening to the lake, the Qiantang Gate, was incorporated as one of the garrison gates. If people wanted to reach West Lake through that gate, they had to pass through the garrison, where the Bannermen guards would routinely search passing sedan chairs. In order to avoid harassment, most people would reach the lake through the other two gates, Yongjin or Qingbo.[13]

Both the city wall and the banner garrison imposed physical barriers that effectively separated Hangzhou and West Lake into two spatially distinct units. As a result, sightseeing on West Lake was largely considered an activity that took place outside the city and was not the focus of Hangzhou's city life. In fact, the most important social space within the city was quite a distance from West Lake. The American council Fredrick D. Cloud, writing about Hangzhou in the early 1900s, identified Main Street (Dajie 大街) as the center of Hangzhou commercial activities. This street, about four miles in length, formed a key north–south axis in the city. Commercial space along the street was so valuable that the flagstone pavement had narrowed to five feet in many places as wooden buildings and shops encroached upon it from both sides.[14] The southern stretch of the street, especially the section near City-God Hill, was the most crowded commercial quarter. There, shops spread out from this thoroughfare onto the nearby side streets. The city's best scissors shops, cosmetic stores, medicine shops, dry-food stores, bookshops, and fortune-tellers were located there. Hangzhou's famous teahouses, wine shops, and restaurants also were concentrated in this area.[15]

The story of a medicine shop, Huqingyu Tang 胡慶余堂, owned by the powerful native banker Hu Guangyong (胡光墉, 1823-1885), reveals the high commercial value of the City-God Hill area. Hu Guangyong acted as General Zuo Zongtang's 左宗棠 financier during the campaigns to suppress the Taipings and thus gained imperial favor. By the 1870s, Hu Guangyong was at the height of his wealth and power, and he decided to engage in the Hangzhou medicine trade, which had long been very competitive. He considered the location of the new shop to be one of the key factors in determining its competitiveness and picked a location on a street that led up to City-God Hill. In 1878, a magnificent two-story business compound was built there. Hu Guangyong's success was instant. The new medicine shop surpassed all others of its kind in Hangzhou in volume of business and soon became one of the largest medicine shops in China.[16]

At first glance, the reason behind Hu Guangyong's choice appears simple: the area around City-God Hill was the city's commercial center. But why had this particular area developed as a commercial center? Part of the answer is found in the close relationship between urban space and religious activities in Hangzhou. The hills, originally named Wu Hills (Wushan 吳山), gained the popular name City-God Hill during the Qing because at that time all the city-gods in Hangzhou were enshrined there.[17] In addition to the city-god temples, there were some thirty Buddhist and Daoist temples on the hills. Haihui Monastery (Haihui Si 海會寺) was believed to be the 'natal home' (niangjia 娘家) of a famous Guanyin statue in a West Lake-area monastery, Upper Tianzhu Monastery (Shang Tianzhu si 上天竺寺). The bodhisattva was often evoked to protect Hangzhou from calamities, and Haihui Monastery had always hosted the Guanyin statue that was brought into the city for worship. The Daoist deities that were enshrined on the City-God Hill fell roughly into two groups. The first included Guandi 關帝, who was worshipped as a god of wealth, and the God of Letters (Wenchang 文昌). These deities, together with the city gods, were favored by the imperial government and could be found in most Chinese cities. Meanwhile, City-God Hill hosted a second group of deities that were particularly important to Hangzhou people. Among them were the God of Fire (Huode 火德) and the God of Water (Shuishen 水神) because the city, crowded with wooden buildings, was extremely susceptible to destruction by fire. Atop the hill was a temple that enshrined the God of Medicine (Shennong 神農) in which the guild of medicine trades held yearly meetings and made sacrifices.[18]

The Qing state played an active role in making City-God Hill a space of religious symbols and rituals. Many deities were on the official worship list, thus regular offerings and ritual ceremonies were dedicated to them. Temple buildings and statues were sometimes repaired or rebuilt at government expense. Official patronage was crucial to the revival of this area in the decades after the Taiping Rebellion, as Hangzhou had suffered great destruction during the Taiping occupation. At that time almost all the buildings on City-God Hill had been burned to ashes. In the rebellion's aftermath, the City-God Hill temples were gradually rebuilt with financial support from high officials and donations from wealthy families. In fact, all of the above-mentioned temples on City-God Hill were rebuilt during the 1870s and the 1890s with official encouragement.[19]

The concentration of temples on City-God Hill made it central to many annual religious festivals and related entertainment. Large crowds of festival participants patronized the shops and made the place a bustling commercial area. 'Have you been up to City-God Hill?' became the typical greeting among Hangzhou residents during the New Year holiday.[20] At New Year's time there were at least two celebrations that made City-God Hill worth visiting. First was the Lichun Festival 立春, celebrating the beginning of the spring season. In Hangzhou the ritual was customarily called 'The God of Soil goes to [City-God] Hill (Taisui shangshan 太歲上山).' On this occasion, the Hangzhou prefect and the magistrates of the two counties (Qiantang 钱塘 and Renhe 仁和) under which Hangzhou City was administrated went to the eastern suburb to welcome the spirits of spring. Dressed in ceremonial robes, riding in open sedan chairs, and accompanied by their staffs, the officials escorted the statues of the God of Soil and a paper ox into the city, symbolizing spring and a good harvest. When the parade entered the city, people filled the streets to shower grain on the paper ox. The statues were carried to City-God Hill and put in the temple for the God of Soil. A long procession was arranged with various kinds of lantern displays, performances, music bands, and burning incense. Shortly after this came the second celebration, the Lantern Festival, when all the dragon lanterns in Hangzhou City and its suburbs were taken to the Dragon King Temple (Longshen miao 龍神廟) on City-God Hill. The eyes of the dragons had to be painted at the temple, a ritual that marked the beginning of the festival.[21]

Although city people participated in such public activities at City-God Hill, the content of these activities was not distinctively urban. The festivals' timing and the type of gods honored, such as the God of Spring and the God of Soil, were closely related to the agricultural cycle.[22] The officials' activity in the Lichun Festival thus reminds us of one very important function of the Chinese imperial state: consciously basing itself on agriculture, the state played a significant role in fostering connections between urban and rural areas. One of the important duties of city-based officials was to offer sacrifices to gods on key dates in the calendar issued by the emperor-rituals that were thought to bring a good harvest to the countryside. City life in Hangzhou during the Qing was punctuated by this calendar, which was closely related to the agricultural cycle, and city dwellers shared many religious celebrations with people in the surrounding rural areas.

The close connection between Hangzhou and its rural hinterland lay also in its unique role as the destination of annual pilgrimages undertaken largely by peasants from Jiangnan. In other words, Hangzhou had the image of a 'paradise on earth' partly because of its importance in popular religious beliefs in Jiangnan. Hangzhou was a holy city with hundreds of temples and shrines located inside and in its vicinity. The above-mentioned Guanyin statue in Upper Tianzhu Monastery and the provincial city-god on City-God Hill were popularly thought to have especially great efficacy and miraculous origins.[23]

Every spring, as many as one hundred thousand pilgrims traveled to Hangzhou.[24] Most were peasants from Hangzhou, Jiaxing 嘉興, and Huzhou 湖州 prefectures in northern Zhejiang 浙江; some came from Suzhou, Songjiang 松江, and Changshu 常熟, the prefectures in southern Jiangsu 江蘇.[25] Moreover, many of the pilgrims were rural women. The peasants travelled on boats adorned with special yellow flags inscribed with the term 'pilgrimage to the mountains to burn incense' (chaoshan jinxiang 朝山進香), and most boats anchored at the canal bank outside the northern city wall. From there the men and women would either go westward to arrive at the large Buddhist monasteries near West Lake, especially the 'Indian Temples' (Tianzhu Si 天竺寺), or they would enter Hangzhou City and walk along Main Street to the temples on City-God Hill. They had to spend days in Hangzhou to complete incense burning at all the important temples, but they did not lodge in hotels. Some had special connections with certain monasteries and stayed there; others simply slept on their boats.[26] The purpose of these spring pilgrimages and prayers to the gods was to secure a good harvest in farming and especially in silkworm raising. Ever since the Ming dynasty, sericulture had become an indispensable part of the peasant household economy in the Lake Tai 太湖 area, especially in the three prefectures of northern Zhejiang. Silkworm raising was much more than a simple production process making use of rural women's labor; in Jiangnan it had given rise to a distinctive culture with elaborate rituals. The spring pilgrimages to Hangzhou were an integral part of this culture.[27]

The annual pilgrimage demonstrates that Qing Hangzhou was closely connected to its rural hinterland. The pilgrimages had a great impact on the urban economy. The needs of these pilgrims, the timing of their trips, and the volume of trade they generated in Hangzhou were very important in shaping handicraft production and urban commercial life. The items pilgrims required for religious purposes, such as candles, incense, and especially tin foil paper for making spirit money, constituted a major part of the city's handicraft business. More important, pilgrimages were also shopping trips for peasants. Local people observed that most pilgrims were well-off peasants who carried large quantities of cash and spent it generously.[28] The commercial aspect of the spring pilgrimage was so important that the entire event was popularly called 'incense trade' (xiangshi 香市). A popular saying held that for retailers, 'three months in the winter depended on one month in the spring'.[29] Commerce in Hangzhou was so dependent on the pilgrimage trade that it had a seasonal and festival character. Moreover, women's participation in the pilgrimages left its imprint on the typical shopping list: cosmetic powder, scissors, silk thread, and fans were some of Hangzhou's best-known products.

One crucial reason that City-God Hill existed as the center of commerce was that it was a holy site inside the city. Famous shops in the area used various strategies to attract peasants. For example, Hu Guangyong not only built his medicine shop right on the path leading from Main Street up to City-God Hill, he also held his grand opening during the pilgrimage season of 1878. On opening day Hu Guangyong put on his first-rank official robe to serve his pilgrim customers, and on one occasion he personally exchanged the medicine with which a peasant buyer was unhappy.[30] Meanwhile, Hangzhou's best cosmetic store, Kongfengchun 孔鳳春, promoted its products through exploiting peasant belief that auspicious words would bring luck in silkworm raising. The store advertised its powder with the slogan: 'Buy one chunk of the fragrant powder, get the best harvest for your silkworms.'[31]

The 1911 Revolution and the Spatial Transformation in Hangzhou

From the mid-nineteenth century, Hangzhou was adversely affected by factors that eventually resulted in a rearrangement of the hierarchy of urban centers in the Jiangnan area. First, Hangzhou was deprived of its strategic importance in the old commercial network, of which the Grand Canal was the main north-south artery. When the Taiping rebels occupied Jiangnan in 1853, they blocked transportation along the Grand Canal. The Qing court and merchants responded to this by developing sea shipments through Shanghai instead. Second, fighting between the Taiping and Qing armies accelerated Hangzhou's declining fortune. In the early 1860s, rebels destroyed the city, and its population was reduced from about one million to less than two hundred thousand. Significantly, Hangzhou's decline coincided with the rise of Shanghai. Benefiting from precisely the two factors that damaged Hangzhou's prosperity and from the stimulus of foreign trade, Shanghai rapidly developed from a market town to a metropolis.

Hangzhou was 'opened up' after the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895, but it never flourished as a treaty port. Unlike the foreign concessions in its more prominent neighbor, Shanghai, the Japanese Concession in the suburbs of Hangzhou failed to become a new center of modern industry and commerce; instead, it merely became a den for gambling and prostitution.[32] Influenced by the Qing court's reformist New Policies, some wealthy Zhejiang merchants invested in a few modern industrial enterprises in Hangzhou. In 1896, a cotton mill and a silk reeling factory were built in its northern suburb.[33] For the most part, however, these factories never became a prominent feature of the city. As it entered the twentieth century, Hangzhou was a stagnant, marginalized city, struggling to reposition itself in a drastically changed world. Not only was Hangzhou's role as an economic and cultural center taken over by Shanghai, but the city itself also became increasingly dependent upon that Westernized metropolis.

Modernity came to Hangzhou most dramatically with a new mode of transportation connecting the city to Shanghai: the Shanghai-Hangzhou railroad, completed in 1909. The struggle to protect Chinese control of this railway had the immediate political effect of feeding the growing anti-Qing sentiment in Zhejiang. The coming of the train also had a long-term social impact, putting Hangzhou within easy reach of Shanghai. The tracks shortened travel between the two cities from a three-day journey by junk to a three and a half-hour trip by train. The drastically reduced 'distance' between the two cities meant an increasing flow of people between them. Modern transportation worked to subject Hangzhou more and more to the direct influence of Shanghai, and it provided the necessary condition for Hangzhou to become a convenient playground for middle-class tourists from Shanghai.

Two years after the railway linked Hangzhou to Shanghai, the 1911 Revolution provided another crucial moment in Hangzhou's search for a modern identity. In the city, the 1911 Revolution was essentially a coup d'état. The conspirators were mostly military officers of Qing New Army units stationed in the suburbs, and in early November Hangzhou was taken over by these New Army units. The coup lasted less than two days, as there was no serious resistance from the banner garrison. The Bannermen gave up their weapons after a peace agreement was negotiated and signed by a garrison representative and the revolutionaries.[34] Despite the easy transfer of power, developments that occurred afterward force us to conclude that 1911 had a truly revolutionary impact on the city.

The existence of a banner garrison inside Hangzhou meant that the anti-Manchu revolution would be especially relevant to the city's subsequent spatial transformation. The revolutionaries took the Manchu and Mongol Bannermen inside the garrison as their main target in the military conspiracy. Having taken the city, the revolutionaries declared the 'liberation' of the garrison area and the elimination of this symbol of Manchu rule. The revolutionary government quickly confiscated the garrison land, and all Bannermen and their families were expelled from their homes.[35] Through such violent political action, the new republican authority in Hangzhou was able to put a huge space under its control. The manner in which the new government exploited this rare opportunity determined important aspects of Hangzhou's future. In accord with the spirit of the time and the emphasis on promoting commerce and industry, the new provincial government decided that 'except for the land that is reserved for streets and for public uses, the rest of the land will be sold to people for building a commercial quarter.'[36] In fact, 'New Business District' (Xin Shichang 新市場) became the new name for the former Bannerman garrison.

The man responsible for this decision was Zhu Fucheng 諸輔成 (1873-1948), head of the Provincial Department of Civil Administration from 1912 to 1913. Zhu Fucheng participated in the 1911 revolutionary conspiracy in Hangzhou as a Tongmeng Hui 同盟會 representative. He was fervently anti-Manchu and had schemed to murder several Bannerman leaders in the garrison after their surrender. It is hardly a surprise, then, that he used his power to erase all traces of the garrison. Zhu Fucheng's life prior to the 1911 Revolution is also representative of the new republican elite that embraced modernist ideas through Western-style education and experience abroad. Zhu Fucheng was a native of the neighboring county, Jiaxing, and was one of the radical youth who turned his back on classical education and went to study in Japan in the 1890s. While in Tokyo, he studied law and politics. In 1905, Zhu Fucheng joined the Tongmeng Hui and returned to his hometown in Jiaxing, where he spent some years doing business and managing new style schools. He became an important figure in late Qing provincial politics after he was elected a standing member of the provincial assembly.[37] Zhu Fucheng's personal experience in the newly modernized Tokyo, his interest in law and order, public education, and commerce all seemed to have informed his design for the New Business District.

The creation of the New Business District meant more than constructing a new commercial center. The planning triggered a spatial transformation in the city by opening the closed urban space. The section of the city wall from Qiantang Gate to Yongjin Gate was torn down with the rest of the garrison. A Lakeshore Boulevard (Hubin lu 湖濱路) took over the space on which the wall once stood.[38] With the physical barrier having been removed, West Lake was incorporated into the city. The lake was thus transformed from a suburban scene into an integral part of Hangzhou's cityscape. The magnitude of this change was not lost on the locals and is perhaps best described by their own saying: 'West Lake moved into the city'.[39]

Fig.2 A main street in the New Business District in the 1920s. Note the contrast between the Western-style buildings and the men walking in traditional long gowns. [Photograph: courtesy of Library of Congress.]

The actual work of topographic surveying, road design, and selling the land was entrusted to a planning office headed by Ruan Xingyi 阮性宜, who came from a prominent Hangzhou family and had studied in Japan. He returned to Hangzhou after graduation from a Japanese school of rail-road management and was hired as an engineer on the Shanghai-Hangzhou railway project.[40] Ruan Xingyi's group began planning the New Business District in 1913. The first step was road construction in the district. Working with the idea of creating a new commercial center as if it were built upon an empty space, the road design completely ignored the streets that had existed in the garrison. The New Business District was given the kind of rational grid system that is typically found in modern planning for new cities. The streets were all leveled and 'as straight as arrows', because the plan was not to be compromised by any pre-existing building. With most of the streets intersecting one another at ninety-degree angles, the entire district looked 'like a chess board'.[41] Each of the four main streets was 19.2 meters wide and had sidewalks 3.2 meters wide. There were twenty-three secondary streets, each 9.6 meters in width, plus 1.92 meters for sidewalks.[42][Fig.2]

In addition to the orderliness intended by such rationally designed streets, the plan of the New Business District required another necessary component of the modern urban landscape: parks. The design of the parks demonstrated the planners' tremendous emphasis on connecting the future commercial quarter with scenic West Lake and made it a crucial element of the New Business District. A chain of five garden-size parks (Hubin gongyuan 湖濱公園) occupied the lakeshore next to Lakeshore Boulevard. In the parks, a stone embankment protected the lakeshore, and railings made of stone and iron were set up for decoration. Lawns, plants, and benches invited sightseers. Moreover, docks that were built between the parks enhanced the link between the New Business District and West Lake. The docks had stone steps descending to the waterfront, providing easy access to tour boats on the lake.[43] Not only was the visual barrier between city and lake removed with the razing of the banner garrison, but the facilities at the New Business District now made it the starting point for tours on the lake itself.

Although the New Business District had the potential to serve sight-seeing, there is ample evidence that Zhu Fucheng and his colleagues intended it to be Hangzhou's civic center. Important public institutions, such as an athletic field, a library, an exhibition hall for promoting native products, were all located in this district. At the southern end of Lakeshore Boulevard, the Provincial Public Athletic Field (Zhejiang shengli gongzhong tiyu chang 浙江省理公眾體育場) and the public library (Tongsu tushu guan 通俗圖書館) were built next to each other.[44] The sports field was a particularly important public space because it allowed mass gatherings that were more often political in nature. A slot at the intersection of the two main streets, Yingzi 迎紫 and Yanling 延龄 Boulevards, was reserved for the Exhibition Hall for Zhejiang Products (Zhejiang shangpin chenlie guan 浙江商品陳列館), although actual construction of the hall was delayed until 1918. Once again, Ruan Xingyi was called upon to design it, and he travelled to Japan to study public buildings before he drew the blue prints. The finished exhibition hall was a compound of four two-story buildings, three of which were organized into a department store for domestic products while another exhibited Zhejiang's native products.[45] The provincial military governor's mansion, home to the most powerful government organ in the province, was also located in the New Business District.[46]

Except for the land used for streets and public buildings, all land in the New Business District was publicly advertised for sale, and the money was used to fund road construction in this area. An official announcement in 1913 declared that any individual with Chinese citizenship was entitled to bid for the land. An Office of Government Property (Guanchan chu 官產處) was in charge of dividing the land into two hundred lots and stipulated that the minimum land purchase would be one lot. The office ranked these lots in categories and assigned different prices for each according to their commercial value. First-class lots were located along Lakeshore Boulevard or at intersections of main streets and were sold at the highest price—l ,500 yuan per mu. Land along the main streets and at intersections of smaller streets fell in the next price category—1,000 yuan per mu. Lots along the smaller streets or by canals ranked third at 600 yuan per mu. Last, lots neither close to the lake nor to any street were given the lowest price of 300 yuan per mu.[47]

Although the entire plan treated the former garrison as an empty space, the land was actually crowded with temples, shrines, arches, gardens, and yamen buildings, all of which had been built after the Taiping Rebellion. To clear out the area, the government resolved to tear down the old buildings and sell the bamboo and timber taken from them. The government also used tax regulations to speed up the realization of the planned New Business District, urging bidders to start construction work immediately after they purchased the land. If a landowner failed to do so within a year, the government would raise his property tax.[48] Therefore, the creation of this modern commercial center was based on an effort to erase completely the architectural remains that preserved memories of the former garrison as a historical space. As property owners were given strong incentive to fill the New Business District with new buildings, the rapid change left few physical remnants to inspire nostalgic feelings. In the early 1920s, a man returning from Shanghai found that this area had nothing he recognized from the old banner garrison. All he found were some broken bricks from the garrison wall, and they were used to build a stove in a wine shop.[49]

By the early 1920s, all the land in the New Business District had been sold. But even before that, the district had emerged as the new 'downtown' of Hangzhou. The centrality of the New Business District is suggested by the continuous rise in its land values, and real estate in the district was priced the highest in Hangzhou. By 1926, land prices in the New Business District were generally eight to nine times higher than the original sales prices; sometimes they were more than ten times higher.[50] But this district was important in the city not because it functioned as the civic center the planners had initially envisioned, nor as a commercial center that focused on serving local people. In fact, the type of businesses that dominated the New Business District relied primarily on patrons from outside local communities.

As West Lake was incorporated into the city, a new type of visitor started to appear on the scene: tourists from other cities, a large number coming from Shanghai. The tourists of the early twentieth century belonged to a new urban middle class that was on the rise in China. The period from the beginning of World War I to the mid-1920s has been recognized as the golden age of Chinese industrial growth. Rapid development in industry, commerce, and Western-style education created a bourgeois class in coastal cities. Shanghai was at the center of this Western-inspired modernizing process, and it was during this period that its middle class became socially and culturally the most influential group in this metropolis.[51] It is not a coincidence that the tourist business developed in Hangzhou just as the new middle class was forming in its neighboring city, Shanghai.

Inventing a New Tourist Tradition

The popularity of sight-seeing in Hangzhou among the Shanghai middle class was tied to a fundamental change in the notion of time in urban China after the 1911 Revolution. The republican government replaced the lunar calendar with the Gregorian calendar and made great efforts to enforce the use of the Western-style calendar, even going so far as to abolish all festivals in the lunar calendar. Although people still held on to a few festivals, such as the Chinese New Year, the new calendar gradually became the measure of time by which people in major cities lived their lives. With the introduction of a weekly schedule came a clear differentiation between working hours and leisure time. While the work pace became more hectic in modern cities like Shanghai, middle-class people also learned through their Western-style education that they needed to fill weekends and holidays with leisure activities. An indication of how quickly and enthusiastically the middle class embraced the new schedule can be seen in their subscriptions to Saturday (Libailiu 礼拜六) as one of the most popular leisure-time periodicals in Shanghai.[52]

The desire to spend leisure time traveling was particularly acute in Shanghai, because living space was extremely crowded and the city had little space for public parks. The writer Mao Dun 茅盾 once tried to probe into the psychological reasons of Shanghai middle-class residents' need to 'get out', even if only to the overly crowded parks in the city. He reasoned that white-collar workers in foreign trade companies and their educated wives felt they would be betraying their beliefs in a progressive modern life if they stayed in their tiny apartments for the weekend, where their children could only play hide and seek under the dining table.[53]

Another factor that facilitated the emergence of tourism was the development of modern transportation. As mentioned above, the Shanghai–Hangzhou railway was of crucial importance in making Hangzhou easily accessible from Shanghai. Furthermore, it was also in the railway company's own interest to encourage tourism. Unable to compete with the low-cost shipment of cargo on the lower Yangzi region's many rivers and canals, the railway company pursued passenger transportation as its main source of profit. In the 1910s, over sevent percent of the railway company's annual income came from passenger transportation; only slightly over twenty percent came from cargo shipments.[54] The company printed its own guidebook for sight-seeing in Hangzhou and offered low fares for weekend round trips between Shanghai and Hangzhou. Not only were tourist groups given discount prices, but after the mid-1920s the railway company arranged 'tourist trains' each spring and fall to capitalize on tourist business.[55]

Business in Hangzhou responded quickly to the arrival of Shanghai tourists. After 1911, Hangzhou experienced constant growth in the number of hotels, restaurants, photography shops, teahouses and theaters. Before 1911, there had been only fifteen hotels in Hangzhou; by 1927, the number had reached ninety-one-a six-fold increase.[56] Quantitative growth was only one aspect of this particular kind of commercialization. The location of many of the new businesses reveals a close connection between commercial development and the spatial transformation of Hangzhou under the new city planning. These service businesses tended to concentrate in the New Business District. One guidebook printed in 1916 listed eight hotels, seven teahouses, nine restaurants, and one theater in the area.[57] A tourist who visited Hangzhou in 1917 observed that the main street in the New Business District, Yanling Boulevard, had few businesses besides hotels, teahouses, bookshops, and restaurants.[58]

Fig.3 The juxtaposition of tradition and modernity. A Western-style building sandwiched between a traditional-style bridge and the garden 'Curved Courtyard with Lotus Flowers in Wind' (Quyuan fenghe 麴院風荷, on Hangzhou's West Lake). [Photograph: courtesy of Library of Congress.]

The service businesses used carefully designed strategies to cater to the needs of the middle-class sightseers. One of the common marketing strategies was to juxtapose modernity and tradition and to suggest that they could offer the best of both worlds. Hotel advertisements promised the pleasure and beauty of classical landscape with modern comforts. One hotel in the New Business District boasted that 'our hotel faces West Lake and it is a great three-story mansion. The hotel has an elegant and clean environment with fresh air. The rent is low for rooms of large or small sizes. Our service is comprehensive and our cuisine exquisite. We have prepared tour boats, rattan sedan chairs, and cars and rickshaws for rent. If you stay at our hotel while visiting the famous historical scenery on West Lake, you will definitely be satisfied.'[59][Fig.3]

The modern comforts provided by service businesses also helped to sell tradition, as that was the heart of Hangzhou's attraction. Publishers in Shanghai and Hangzhou printed dozens of guidebooks, as well as stories of famous historical figures related to Hangzhou and collections of literati travel writings. This body of tourist literature presents Hangzhou as a contrast to Shanghai: whereas Shanghai was the symbol of modernity, Hangzhou was the embodiment of 'tradition'. In the guidebooks, the refined West Lake landscape and many scenic sites were traced back to their 'origins' many centuries earlier—especially the thirteenth century, when Hangzhou was the imperial capital of the Southern Song dynasty. A good example is a lyrical list of ten beautiful views (Xihu shijing 西湖十景), which were recommended by most guidebooks as 'must see' sites because they were established in the thirteenth century. Rarely was any physical alteration of the views mentioned, let alone their destruction and subsequent reconstruction. In fact, these views had disappeared at the end of the Southern Song. Although they were reinvented by local officials in the early eighteenth century for the pleasure of the touring Qing emperors, the successor sites were destroyed again by the Taipings in the mid-nineteenth century and were only partially recovered after the rebellion.

The image of West Lake as an unchanging beauty was not only created on paper; scenes were physically created according to historical records so they would match the tourists' expectations of antiquity. The local government's role in inventing a new tourist tradition is particularly worth noting. In a city where there was little industry, local officials found that the best way to maintain an adequate tax base was to promote tourism. Thus the provincial governors Yang Shande and Lu Yongxiang sponsored a project to 'repair' the Southern Song loyalist general Yue Fei's Tomb (Yuefen 岳墳). What this project actually accomplished was the total transformation of a simple tomb with one small sacrificial hall into a large courtyard with tall walls and several halls in the palace style.[60] Ironically, this imposing structure actually seemed better suited to the deified general, who was given the rank of prince in Southern Song, and remains to this day one of the most frequently visited sites around West Lake.

Building upon a similar fascination with the past, Hangzhou restaurants offered 'traditional' dishes to attract tourists. It seemed only natural that a tour on a beautiful lake should involve sampling local fish dishes. One delicacy was fresh-water fish cooked in sweet and sour sauce (cuyu 醋鱼), with the origin of recipe traced back to the Southern Song. With such a long history from the glorious past, this dish became the most famous 'Hangzhou dish'. But in reality, the recipe was created after the Taiping Rebellion by a restaurant owner from Shaoxing.[61]

These inventions reaching back to the past served to create a feeling that little had changed in the ways of sightseeing on West Lake and that modern tourists were emulating what the elegant literati had done centuries before. The major sightseeing points promoted by guidebooks and created by the government were mostly the remains of elite culture. Perhaps more important, these sites were designed not only as views to be seen, but as points where the act of seeing was to take place. The emphasis on the act of viewing had been a distinct element in the old literati way of appreciating West Lake. But literati sight-seeing was not merely a momentary action performed by the eyes, as the proper appreciation of a scene could be accomplished only through a recognition of its poetic, cultural precedents and through the contribution of one's own poetic commentary. Thus, sightseeing in imperial times was simultaneously a participation in and a reproduction of literati culture. What happened in the republican period was not a revitalization of the literati aesthetic taste, because the new tourist trade was not developed to encourage intellectual input from the sightseers. Instead, it invented traditional culture for display. The gaze of literati was replaced by the gaze of tourists, who came only as consumers of culture. In the end, the objectification of West Lake, making the place a 'thing' to be seen, was simultaneously traditional and modern.

The celebration of the literati aesthetic taste was only one aspect of an entire process of inventing tourist culture. Another aspect was the gradual disappearance of many of the older popular customs of Hangzhou city life. In contrast to the planned enrichment of the New Business District, City-God Hill lost the official patronage it enjoyed during the Qing. After the 1911 Revolution, the new Zhejiang government no longer performed the religious ceremonies that had been so central to the routines of Qing officials. The Lantern Festival was prohibited as part of the government's effort to enforce the Western calendar. The Dragon King Temple lay in ruins, and its building materials were stolen by soldiers.[62] The old commercial and entertainment quarter near City-God Hill declined alongside the old popular culture so crucial to it. All but one of the teahouses on the hill went out of business, as did most of the wine shops and restaurants.[63]

The decline of the old commercial center at City-God Hill also indicated the widening gap between urban and rural areas in the republican period. City people had adopted a schedule in accordance with the Western calendar, but in the countryside, peasants continued to live by the lunar calendar. While Hangzhou business increasingly focused on tourists from Shanghai who spent their leisure time around West Lake, the peasant pilgrims who continued to come to Hangzhou worshipped their gods in the deteriorating temple buildings of City-God Hill.


Hangzhou's story raises larger issues in both modern Chinese history and historiography. One point concerns our evaluation of the 1911 Revolution. Many people, after witnessing the political chaos that followed the revolution, found themselves greatly disappointed in its results. Indeed, there has been a debate on whether the 1911 Revolution can be considered a revolution at all. While it surely did not bring a stable parliamentary government to China, the revolution nonetheless changed city life in Hangzhou permanently. Just as the destruction of city boundaries had been crucial for creating a new kind of social space during the French Revolution,[64] the 1911 Revolution should be re-evaluated in terms of its impact on society, especially in urban areas. It is highly suggestive that this urban-based revolution in Hangzhou turned a symbol of Manchu military conquest into a commercial quarter. It is especially worth noting the speed with which the spatial change followed in the wake of political change. The present-day spatial arrangement of Hangzhou was determined in just a few months immediately following the 1911 Revolution.

Recent studies of the early period of the republican era have shown that despite the political chaos and military strife, this was a rather innovative period.[65] What the Hangzhou story can add here is another kind of innovation: the phenomenon of cultural creation in the name of tradition. The changes that took place in Hangzhou in the early republican period amounted to what Eric Hobsbawm and his colleagues have called 'the invention of tradition'. In that city, 'responses to novel situations' took the form of 'reference to old situations'.[66] A new tourist culture was created around scenic West Lake by celebrating and reinventing the sophisticated lifestyle and aesthetic tastes of the departed literati. Sightseeing without any practical purpose was itself the purpose. West Lake was thus objectified and made into a 'thing' to be seen. The essence of this invention of tradition was the commercialization of space. The city was repacked with all kinds of new modern comforts to sell its supposed antiquity. This rather smooth juxtaposition of 'modernity' and 'tradition' in Hangzhou was accomplished in part by suppressing truly distinctive local and popular cultural traditions. Old customs and religious ceremonies, many of them central to peasant culture, were either downplayed or eliminated. Whereas the new tourism was geared to attract middle-class people from Shanghai, the pilgrims were no longer the concern of the new urban elite of the Republic who viewed popular belief as superstition. This dual process of inventing and forgetting tradition was manifested in the concrete forms of the city's spatial arrangement.[67]

The development of Hangzhou's modern tourism in connection with the rise of Shanghai also points to China's multiple paths to modernity. In recent years Shanghai has been the focus of many Chinese urban studies.[68] This metropolis has been held up as a window on changes in China since the mid-nineteenth century. But the social and cultural significance of Shanghai in a regional context and an examined comparison of its fortune to the decline of older cities such as Hangzhou have yet to be addressed. The Hangzhou business world's vision of its customers underscored the need for a close relationship among the cities in the lower Yangzi area-especially Hangzhou's relationship with industrialized Shanghai.

Shanghai, the jewel of imperialism and colonialism in China, rose to become the center of modern industry and culture at the expense of older cities in the Jiangnan area. Hangzhou was one of the 'losers.' As the Qing military garrison has shown, Hangzhou was not at all a 'culture garden' before the rise of Shanghai; it was a regional center with great strategic and economic importance. However, it was bypassed by the mainstream of modernization in the twentieth century. The promotion of a prosperous tourist industry must be understood as the strategy of an old urban center that lost its previous economic power and needed to find a new role in the drastically changed regional arrangement. The new tourist business that was developed in Hangzhou signified an unbalanced relationship between the two cities—an imbalance that was an effect of imperialism and industrialization. The industrialized metropolis had a decisive impact on nearby secondary cities. After all, tourism is a business of leisure. The industrialized center created a class of people who needed leisure time and had the money to enjoy it. Places like modern Hangzhou presuppose the existence of places like Shanghai.


The formatting of the Notes follows the original text and does not conform to China Heritage Quarterly style.—Ed.

[1] Yu Dafu 1982, vol.3, 402-403.

[2] Wu Jingzi 1986, 138-139.

[3] The concept of space has been receiving much attention lately, as scholars in a wide range of disciplines have begun to recognize the complex and intimate relationship between people and the social space they inhabit. Social space connects the abstract spaces of history, culture, economics, geography, and politics, and it also ties them together conceptually to the concreteness of buildings, roads, parks, and walls. Thus changes in the layout of physical locations not only indicate, but also are part of, changes in the larger social space. In fact, Lefebvre would even go so far as to say that revolutionary social change could not occur without a simultaneous change in the space of society. Lefebvre 1991; Harvey 1985.

[4] Fu Chonglan 1985, 98-101, 109-115.

[5] Fan Jinmin and Jin Wen 1993, 138-187.

[6] Richard E. Strassberg 1994, 25-27.

[7] Su Shi's contribution to the traditional image of Hangzhou was especially significant. For Su Shi's life, see Egan 1994.

[8] Liping Wang 1997, 63-82.

[9] Ding Bing, ed. (1896) 1972.

[10] For the Qing banner garrison system, see Kaye Soon Im 1993.

[11] Zhang Dachang 1972, 474. For the Qing conquest of Jiangnan area, see Wakeman 1985; Crossley 1990, 58-62. During the Three Feudatories rebellion in the seventeenth century, the Hangzhou garrison was the focal point for transferring troops from the north and west to the southeast coastal area.

[12] Ding Bing (1896) 1990, vol. 8, 430-431; Zhong Yulong 1983, 188-189.

[13] Ruan Yicheng 1974, 36; Jianshe weiyuanhui diaocha Zhejiang jingji suo (1932) 1971, Vol. 1, 157.

[14] Cloud. (1906) 1971, 13-14.

[15] Zhou Feng, ed. 1990, 173, 211; Gong Jiajun and Li Rong (1922) 1974, 1510-1513; Zhong Yulong 1983, 208.

[16] Huqingyu tang zhiyao chang, Zhongguo minzhu jianguo hui Hangzhoushi weiyuanhui, and Hangzhoushi gongshangye lianhehui 1990, no. 14, 171.

[17] For the importance of the cult of the city-god in popular religion during the late imperial period and its connection to the local administrative institutions, see Hamashima, Atsutoshi 1992.

[18] Gong Jiajun and Li Rong (1922) 1974, 358.

[19] Ibid., no. 76, 1530.

[20] Zhong Yulong 1983, 310.

[21] Fan Zushu (1928) 1989, 1-3.

[22] Xiao Bing 1992, 687-701.

[23] Yu Chun-fang 1992, 1-38; Chen Jingzhong and Mo Shi (1881) 1974, no. 11, 6843.

[24] Bird 1948, 22.

[25] Regarding pilgrimage in Ming and Qing periods, see Naquin and Yu 1992. The annual pilgrimage to Hangzhou originated from the cult of Guanyin in Jiangnan and dated back to the Southern Song period. Yu Chun-fang 1994, 334-335.

[26] Zhong Yulong 1983, 316-318.

[27] Broadwin. 1993.

[28] Fan Zushu (1928) 1989,9.

[29] Zhong Yulong 1983, 317. Zhou Feng, ed. 1990, 523.

[30] Zhou Feng, ed. 1990, 138-139.

[31] Lou Jixin 1990, 93.

[32] Zhou Feng, ed. 1992, 58-65.

[33] Yan Qiang 1990, 264-265.

[34] Schoppa 1982, 145-149; Xu Heyong, Zheng Yunshan, and Zhao Shipei 1983, 260-261.

[35] When the livelihoods of thousands of homeless bannermen became too much of a social problem to be ignored, the new government agreed to build a poor house of two hundred rooms for them at a corner near the former garrison area. Huang Yuanxiu 1981, 521-522; Ruan Yicheng 1974, 39-40. Many Bannerman in Hangzhou experienced hardship during the republican period, and in the early 1930s many of them worked as food vendors on the streets. Jianshe weiyuanhui diaocha Zhejiang jingji suo (1932) 1971, 930-931.

[36] "Toupiao Qiying dimu zhe zhuyi" Zhejiang ribao (November 7, 1913).

[37] Zhejiang sheng sheke yanjiusuo, ed. 1984, 54-55.

[38] The government limited itself to tearing down the walls and barracks of the garrison; the rest of the city wall remained until after 1949.

[39] Zhong Yulong 1983, 191.

[40] Ruan Yicheng 1974, 77.

[41] Ibid., 40.

[42] Zhou Feng, ed. 1992, 241.

[43] Chi Changyao 1985, 22; Ruan Yicheng 1974, 40.

[44] Xu Ke 1923, 159-160.

[45] Ruan Yicheng 1974, 76-77.

[46] Xu Ke 1923, 150.

[47] 'Toupiao Qiying dimu zhe zhuyi' (November 7, 1913).

[48] Ibid.

[49] Rou Bing 1924, 2.

[50] Shiyebu guoji maoyiju ed. 1933, 14-15.

[51] Liu Huiwu, ed. 1985, 2; Luo Suwen 1991.

[52] Luo Suwen 1991, 167.

[53] Mao Dun 1986, Vol. 11, 152.

[54] Hu Ning Hu Hang Yong lianglu bianchake 1918, 8.

[55] Zhongguo luxingshe 1963, 5.

[56] Jianshe weiyuanhui diaocha Zhejiang jingji suo (1932) 1971, no. 2, 785-786.

[57] Fuji tushushe 1916, 1.

[58] Fang Shaozhu n.d., Vol. 25, 3.

[59] Shi Keshi 1934, advertisement.

[60] Zhou Shoujuan, ed. 1929, 56-60.

[61] Lin Zhengqiu and Shen Guanzhong 1993, 2-3.

[62] Fan Zushu (1928) 1989, 3.

[63] Ibid.

[64] Ozouf 1988.

[65] Strand 1989.

[66] Hobsbawm and Ranger, eds. 1992, 1.

[67] I am currently working on a book on urban space and the social transformation of Hangzhou, which will explore more fully the idea of the contemporaneity of modernity and tradition.

[68] Wakeman and Yeh, eds. 1992; Johnson 1995.


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