Ladies and Gentlemen:
Today we are going to visit Zhongyang Street. This is the downtown area. In order to better know the street, we are going to walk through it, which takes about 40 minutes. Those who do not like walking may keep seated, our coach will go along another street and stop at the Flood Control Monument. Those who cannot walk that far may take a taxi to the Flood Control Monument. Now let6’s get off the coach, and take a walk on Zhongyang Street.
Zhongyang Street measures 1450 meters from Jingwei Street in the south to the Flood Control Monument on the riverbank in the north. This is China’s longest walkway. The street was built at the end of the last century. It was connected to a wharf at the Songhua River. Because of the constant transport of the goods needed for building the China Eastern Railway, a shopping center began to take shape along this street at the turn of the century. Harbin at that time was a semi-colonial city with a foreign population of many thousands. Politics and economy were actually controlled by foreign powers. Owing to the concentration of Chinese shops along this street, foreigners took it as a China town and called it China Street.
Have you noticed the cobbled road surface? This is the only cobbled street left in Harbin. This cobbled street was paved in 1925. Thanks to the good quality, the street has kept in good shape with a few repairs in the past. This street began to take shape as an international street in the 1920s. There were over a hundred shops and many were owned by forergners, such as Russians, Greeks, Czechs, Swedes, Swiss, Frenchmen, Germans and Englishmen. They built their shops in their individual styles. Therefore, the street not only looked like a foreign street, but also was controlled by foreigners. Now this smooth cobbled street may remind us of the past when foreigners were sitting in chariots along the street, as if we could still hear the horse-hoofs clicking on cobbles.
Over half a century is past , Zhongyang Street is weather-beaten. With the implementation of reform and opening-up, it is ready to welcome visitors with a new outlook.
The building in front of us is very attractive. Its some and arched windows are typical of the Byzantine Style popular in Europe during the Middle Ages. It was built in 1934 and it was a shoe shop owned by a Czech. After liberation, it became a specialty shop-Women and Children’s Department Store. It is the biggest specialty shop along Zhongyang Street. There are a good variety of commodities. Now some world famous specialty chains have also set up branches down here, such as Crocodile, Bossini and so on. You can see some gentlemen also wandering in the Women and Children’s Department Store. At such a good shopping place, they will not walk out empty-handed.
Opposite the Women and Children’s Department Store is the Central Shopping City opened in November 1994. On its original site there were five small stores run by Russians, which were built in 1932. After liberation, they were turned into one department store. In 1994, the old building was torn down, and this comprehensive department store was built. The architecture is a combination of a European castle with modern architecture. It has become a new scenic spot on Zhongyang Street.
At we go along the road, we are able to see the Central Pharmacy. It was a bungalow before. In 1912, German Sidemen’s opened a shop here to sell electrical equipment and materials. After liberation, it was reconstructed. Now you can find not only medicine here, but also the Gold lion shop, a super-market and a Kentucky Fried Chicken Restaurant.
This shopping Center was opened in 1995. Its original site was a shop managed by a Swede. It dealt in china, porcelain and enamelware. After liberation, it became a food-store. The building you see now was designed by a famous architect in Heilongjiang. It is a masterpiece of adopting relief sculptures in modern construction. This building is an attractive site in Zhongyang Street.
The nost interesting building along Zhongyang Street is the Modern Hotel. It was constructed in 1913. It is of an attractive outlook and magnificently decorated. It has a typical Baroque style of the Neo-artistic period. At first, it was invested and managed by a Jewish Frenchman. The origin of its Chinese name once aroused the interest of many people. There was a column in newspaper for debating its origin. Some held its Chinese name came from the word “mother”, some said it came from “modern”. However, modern seemed to overwhelm mother as you can see the hotel now used the Modern Hotel as its English name.
Modern Hotel has all the facilities of a modern hotel including well-decorated suites, dining rooms and medium and small-sized meeting rooms in European palatial styles. There is a legendary oil painting hanging on a wall on the landing of the first floor. It was painted a famous Russian painter. He was inspired by “Divine Comedy”composed by Dante. It shows a pretty girl saved by angels from confinement by insects and demons;the girl who endured tortures in hell was about to rise to heaven. This picture was painted red during the Cultural Revolution. After the Cultural Revolution, the original painting was restored. Now we are able to appreciate its artistic charm.
In the past few decades, modern Hotel has catered to many famous people, such as well known Chinese writers Guo Moruo and Ding Ling, and a renowned painter, Xu Berhong. Those who have stayed here also include distinguished American celebrities such as Anna Louise Strong, Edgar Snow Yue-Sai Kan. Movie studios have shot movies here. “Harbin in the Dark Night”, “London Inspiration”, “The Orient Express to Moscow”have left people lasting memories.
Opposite the Modern Hotel, there is Huamei Restaurant. It was Malse Restaurant serving western food. After liberation, it was rebuilt several times and two more stories have been added. However, its original European Style had been kept. It was reported in 1973 that there were 260 Western restaurants in Harbin, with over 100 concentrated along Zhongyang Street. Huamei Restaurant was one of the best known. Now it serves many specialties, such as Russian dishes, potted cattle tail, French egg and fried prawns. It is said a Russian celebrity who used to serve in the army once visited Huamei. After dinner, he could not help praising food served in Huamei. He declared the Russian dishes here surpassed those in Russia. He would send chefs from Russia to Huamei to learn to cook when he got back home. Now that you know Huamei, your knowledge of Zhongyang Street will not be complete if you have not tried the food here.
Further in the front, we can see the Education Bookstore. It was constructed in 1909. It is a Baroque construction, extravagant and novel, with bold lines and strong contrast. Over the entrance, there are two staturs. They are Titans in Greek fairy tales. The male is Atlas and the female is Galliached. It is said they hold up the sky with heads and shoulders. Education relates to the future of a country. May these Titans hold up the building of education, and accompany us to a prosperous tomorrow.
Opposite to the Education Bookstore, the building in the Neo-artistic style is Qiulin Department Store. It is characterized by simple structure, flexible lay out, free style, and curved decoration. Qiulin was constructed in 1903. In the past few decades, it has transformed from a colonial company. It has witnessed great changes in Zhongyang Street.
Many people say Zhongyang Street is a street of architecture as over 70 buildings appear in different styles. Some state it is a small Paris in the Orient; some assert it is a Moscow in the Orient; some declare it is a symphony. When you step on this cobbled street, it is as if you could hear a prelude. As you go further along the street, you can see the Women and Children’s Department Store, and the Flood Control Monument at the riverside, as if their varied structures were different chapters constituting a harmonious tune. This symphony accompanies the people in Harbin as they suffered before liberation, wandered through the Cultural Revolution, and ushered in the reform and opening up, and encourages them to face up to the magnificent 21st century.
I would like to call this street an international shopping mall. There are state owned stores and outlets of foreign products. There are banks and post-offices. There are hotels and restaurants. There are Jewelers’and photographers’. People are able to stroll, shop and enjoy delicacies along the street. At night over 200 shops will be radiating with colorful neon lights. This century-old street will radiate its vigor and become more attractive.
Ladies and Gentlemen, if we go further forward, we are able to reach the Flood Control Monument. Now I will give you some free time for shopping and photography. We will meet at the Flood Control Monument in twenty minutes.