Visitors stroll through Nanluoguxiang, a popular alleyway in Beijing, after the completion of a renovation project earlier this month.
Nanluoguxiang, a popular alleyway in central Beijing known for its traditional culture, reopened during the Spring Festival holiday after the completion of a two-month renovation project.
Work to complete the upgrade of the 800-meter-long narrow alley, which was initiated by shop owners rather than the city government, lasted from Oct 28 to Dec 28.
Wei Ziyou, 29, visited Nanluoguxiang on Thursday and said the new-look alleyway has a cleaner, fresher feel to it, as there are fewer stores and fast-food stands.
"However, as a local resident, I still don't think there is enough traditional Beijing culture on display, despite a new cultural center being opened to the public at the south end of the alley," Wei said.
The cultural center is a nonprofit enterprise that displays and sells folk art, such as New Year pictures, and sugarcoated and dough figurines.
"It should be more creative than it is. Beijing has much more to offer in terms of culture," Wei added.
The major reason for the renovation was that the alley, which was previously a hub of ancient Chinese cultural elements, had become primarily a food street, resulting in complaints from residents, tourists, shop owners and officials.
Originally, tourists, particularly foreign visitors, were attracted by Nanluoguxiang's small stores offering local crafts and cuisines. However, as visitor numbers increased, more shops began to sell cheap, low-quality souvenirs, while local restaurants selling traditional delicacies were replaced by stalls selling deep-fried chicken.
"The renovation was undertaken to revive the old alleyway," Xu Yan, head of the shop owners' group that organized the renovation, told Beijing Evening News.
Xu said stores selling cheap, low-quality goods had resulted in lower consumption, warning that if the situation continued unabated, there would be severe consequences. "We had to make a change," he added.
After renovation, the total number of stores in the alley has been reduced from 235 to 154, he said.
Kenson Kuang, a graphic designer and musician from the United States who has lived in Beijing for three years, said Nanluoguxiang is often too crowded for it to be enjoyable.
"It's hard to keep track of what's good in Nanluoguxiang, because there are so many tourist-oriented shops there. It doesn't really cater to my taste," he said, adding that many of his foreign friends also believe it had become a mere tourist trap.
However, Kuang said he believes that the alleyway is likely to become a better spot to hang out after its renovation, as it will be less touristy and display more of its traditional beauty.