China Matters’ Feature: A Modern Makeover of a 600-year City
Originally set up as a defense post against pirates and other foes during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Suochengli was later converted to a residential area for civilians to live. How has an ancient city survived in the middle of downtown Yantai? How are the oldest parts of the city changing to stay connected with modern times?
In the city of Yantai, there’s a saying: “First there was Suochengli, then came Yantai.” This city, with its 7 million current residents, came into being 600 years ago in Suochengli, a neighborhood spanning only 0.1 square kilometers.
In this video, American host Jack Klumpp visits Suochengli for the first time and finds all sorts of local food, art, and crafts that are unique to Yantai culture. He attempts learning Jiaodong (Eastern-Shandong) Clay Sculpting and tries to create a Baby Yoda from clay with sculptor Chen Yulu.
Jack also visits Zhang Chunjian who shows him the Zhang Family Ancestral Hall in Suochengli. Jack discovers that just behind the wall of the main hall lies a completely remodeled, brand new library and coffee shop. After marveling at the combination of modern, industrial design with the original, traditional architecture, Jack decides to grab a coffee with the founder of S&T Coffee He Zhenguo and get the scoop on how they transformed part of an ancestral hall into a space for reading and drinking coffee.
Finally, Jack heads over to Chaoyang Street where European architecture like Russian restaurants and old German businesses from the 1800s still remain today, giving Yantai its own unique western touch.
How are places like Suochengli and Chaoyang Street changing to stay relevant to people today while also staying true to their historical roots?