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Arcade Street,a hundred years of cultural heritage

24 Mar, 2022

Arcade Street,a hundred years of cultural heritage

Streets are the epitome of changes within a city. Haikou Arcade Old Street is the imprint left by the city during developments in the early 19th century.

It records the glory and prosperity days of that era. The stories of life that happened in the Nanyang cultural circle show the cultural legacy, customs of Haikou over the past century, as well as the rich connotation of the island's history.

If you want to experience the traditional culture of Hainan Island, you must first visit Haikou; if you want to understand old Haikou, you must first head for the Arcade Street.

1. History

Arcade Old Street condenses the essence of local island culture. It was a commercial district more than a hundred years ago. It is precisely because the commercial vitality has been maintained that the exquisite arcades have been preserved.

"Arcade" is a typical veranda-style building with a covered walkway or corridor in front of the building. It can provide shelter from wind and rain and block out sunlight and is very popular in Southeast Asia.

According to historical records, in 1858 (the eighth year of The Reign of Emperor Xianfeng during the Qing Dynasty), Haikou was opened as a foreign trade port and became a crossing between Nanyang Islands and the mainland. For a time, the shipping bureau, the Westernisation Bureau, hotels, warehouses and shops flourished; foreign tobacco, wine, clothes, oil and match sticks filled the streets of Deshengsha. It was a scene likened to lots of businessmen“flowing like a stream.”

After renovation, the new arcade ushered in a new starting point. It not only retains the traditional culture, but also integrates the atmosphere of modern European style, which adds to the arcade's unique charm. 

My favourite (you want this?) is the old lifelike little bronze figures of the arcade. They seem to present the most glorious historical fragments of the arcade. Here, you can see "them" playing on the rickshaw, or drinking fresh coconuts, the image of old Haikou is vividly displayed.

The Haikou Arcade is exquisite and majestic. The buildings are scattered in in picturesque disorder, the exquisite doors and windows, brick carvings, archways, and so on, are all filled with the classical atmosphere of Nanyang, and the pedestrian street is unique. Patterns, as well as those embellished under the eaves are always so charming under the blue sky and white clouds.

2. Slow life

There are a lot of pretty bourgeois-style stores tucked away in the Old Arcade Street. If you don't pay attention, you will miss them. These small stores are perfect for chatting and drinking tea with friends, places where leisure time is in plentiful supply. Some people say: “The slow life in Haikou may be like this. Stop your hasty footsteps and watch the beauty around you.”

Due to the special geographical location and historical imprint, the architectural style, living art atmosphere and the scenery of the old arcade are also different from each other. It has both the romance of the old times and the tranquility not seen in the modern city.

3 Local food

In addition to historical buildings, there is also a strong atmosphere of life here. There are many teahouses full of people on the old street. Older people like to gather here to chat and enjoy entertainment.

For tourists, it is also a good place to enjoy local delicacies. In various teahouses and snack bars, you can sample the most authentic Hainanese and Cantonese dishes.

Walking into the old street of Shuixiangkou, you can hear the sounds of oil pans from a distance, while the air is filled with the seductive smell of food.

Wu Ribiao's Fried Pork Ribs is a well-known "star snack" in Shuixiangkou, served from an old shop which has proved popular for more than two decades.

Many diners take-away some freshly-baked fried spareribs and enjoy. The crispy, fried garlic-flavoured sensation, along with meaty-sweet flavours, have long become a feature of the Old Arcade Street.

In the Old Arcade Street, the food boasts a unique literary and artistic temperament, with all sorts of varieties, simple on the outside, but gentle and delicate on the inside. Once you taste them, you will fall in love. They are all "famous" in Hainan’s rich food culture.

The arcade has "the taste of Nanyang and the love of China". When the Chinese who went overseas to make a living returned to Hainan, they not only brought back the capital, but also the living habits of Southeast Asia. Along the bustling arcade streets, some western-style tea shops began to appear. Gradually, this habit was integrated into local life in Hainan and evolved into "Laoba Tea," which is popular all over the island.