Kuan-Zhai Xiangzi (Kuānzhǎi Xiàngzi, 宽窄巷子) are the last remnants of the Old Shaocheng part of Chengdu that housed the Imperial officials and soldiers from the Qing Dynasty.

Before the fall of the Qing, Shaocheng (the area around the alleys as well as the old Imperial palace which was razed and replaced by Tianfu Plaza) was for the Eight Banners of the Manchu nobility only -- Han were not allowed to own homes or conduct business within that part of Chengdu.

After the founding of the Republic and during the civil war between the Communists and the Nationalists, Kuan-Zhai Xiangzi was turned over to the rich and powerful people of the local Nationalist government.

When they in turn were defeated by the Communists, the local authorities turned the two alleys over to the People. For 50 years the only people living here were the poorest of the poor. Massive Qing-era mansions once decorated with chandeliers and artwork were divided up by several families and became noodle shacks, teahouses and homes decorated with washing lines and smoked pork.

Five years ago, the local government decided to throw the poor people out and renovate the two alleys along the lines of Shanghai's Xintiandi. The cookie cutter tourism street that has invaded and occupied every last old part of every city in China also conquered Shaocheng in late 2008.

The two alleys are now home to trinket stands, upscale restaurants and teahouses, a Starbucks and a few art dealers. Although the original authentic feel of the alleys is mostly gone, the streets are now clean and beautiful, and much of the new architecture was modeled after, or built on top of, the old existing edifice.

Kuan Zhai Xiangzi are just a few blocks away from People's Park and regardless of how you feel about modernizing and renopvating old towns, it is a nice place to stroll, have a couple snacks and drink a cup of tea.

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