Xixing Ancient Town, Binjiang District, Hangzhou

Siqi and I went with his parents for a walk in Xixing Ancient Town. It’s a historic neighborhood surrounding an old canal that used to be important. A couple of old houses have been renovated and decorated as trendy coffee shops, and we saw a few people posing for photos on an old bridge like tourists, but it’s largely still a pretty quiet residential neighborhood (according to the Wikipedia page for Binjiang, inhabited since the Spring and Autumn period, which ended in 481 BCE), complete with unmentionables and other laundry hanging out to dry. There are a few signs in Chinese and English describing the landmarks.

See below for 18 photos from our stroll.

A Walk Through Xixing Ancient Town

(1) The reflection makes a circle. 🙂
(3) Interesting architecture, albeit not so ancient (1990s). It’s an elementary school.
(4) This is the most random collection of chairs. I don’t even know what they’re doing there… I think that’s an appliance shop?
(5) Very relaxed atmosphere on the pedestrian street beside the canal!
(6) Stone bridge built during the reign of the Kangxi Emperor (1661 to 1722). Instagram worthy, if you don’t mind waiting for the other people taking photos to shove off.
(8) “The Grand Canal Witnessed the birth, development and decline of Caoyun the Grain Transportation, which is located in the central and eastern part of China, is a large scale water conservancy project in the human history, and also the canal of longest continuous usage time and largest span space of the world. [MAP] Zhedong Canal is located at the southern tip of the Grand Canal, west to the south coast of Qiantang River, east to the Yong River in Ningbo. It flows into the sea at Yong River and then connects the Maritime Silk Road. Zhedong Canal is the connecting bond of the Inland river navigation channel and the open sea, which effectively extends the major overland trade routes to the east coast. Hangzhou Xiaoshan-Shaoxing Section of Zhedong Canal mainly includes Xixing Canal, Shaoxing city Canal, Shaoxing Mote, the Ancient Waterway of Shanyin etc, totaling about 90km long. [sic]”
(9) This was an important wharf. Now it’s more or less the endpoint of the tourist walk. We came towards here via the path on the left, and went off to the right back in that direction, but along a narrow lane between the houses.
(10) Apparently there used to be some Chinese characters in the water here; I saw them in some other photos online. Now there’s a fountain, some plants, and a boat decorating this water area.
(11) The long lane between the houses that we walked down.
(12) Area map showing the canal and the long lane.
(13) Now we’re back along the canal again.
(14) Picturesque, but you couldn’t pay me to live this close to a body of water, especially one that attracts tourists.
(15) The school again, from a different angle.
(16) Urbanization and preservation in a nutshell. Quite a contrast.
(17) Here we are in the lane! Siqi’s dad took the photo.
(18) I promise he’s not as bored as he looks!

Where did we walk?

You can see the canal on this Amap map, labelled with the locations where the photos were taken:

(I’m not sure about the location of photo 17.)

Here’s what the buildings look like from overhead:

Although Google doesn’t show the canal in blue (?!), you can see the labels for things in English and transliterated Chinese:

We walked northwest on Guanhe Rd, then turned around and walked southeast on Xixing St.

What did Xixing Ancient Town look like previously?

I used Baidu’s streetview feature to figure out where I was when I took the photos so that I could put numbers on the map. I decided the contrasts between my photos and streetview were interesting because streetview shows the street some time ago (at different times), so I took screenshots and paired them with my photos:

(1 and 2 then)
(2 now)
(1 now)
(3 then)
(3 now)
(4 then) I think the chairs belong to people who live upstairs and like to hang out on the corner.
(4 now)
(5 then) The view of this curve in the canal is much nicer without cars.
(5 now)
(6 then)
(6 now)
(7 then) On the left behind the tree is the doorway I took a photo of. But streetview didn’t go that far.
(7 now)
(9 then) This is the wharf area where the fountain is now. This is as close as streetview would let me get.
(9 now, looking in the opposite direction)
(13 then) The exposed metal roof in the center was later removed.
(13 now)
(14 then)
(14 now)


(16 then)

(16 now)

From this we mainly learn two things:

  • Xixing has seen some investment since Baidu drove through.
  • I am better at taking nice photos than the streetview camera, lol!

If you’re ever south of the Qiantang River in Hangzhou, I recommend a visit to Xixing Ancient Town. It was a nice afternoon stroll!

More information

» Hangzhou Government page about Xixing Ancient Town (English)
This page offers two walking routes and a list of historical sites to visit. I think there’s a museum, but we didn’t go in.

» Study on the sustainability of ancient canal towns on the basis of the topological structure analysis of streets and lanes: A case study of the Xixing ancient town
This is an academic paper written by 3 Chinese authors about the past, current, and future status of Xixing Ancient Town as Hangzhou has urbanized. It has a fascinating map that compares satellite images from 1969 and 2021.

» Xixing Station: Xixing Ancient Town
This page talks about places you can visit on the Hangzhou Metro, including Xixing Ancient Town.