Three Lanes and Seven Alleys (Sanfang-Qixiang), located at the centre of Fuzhou City, is a century-old block crisscrossed by ancient lanes and alleys. Featuring the well preserved architectural complex of the Ming and Qing Dynasty, Three Lanes and Seven Alleys enjoys the reputation of “the Museum of the buildings of the Ming and Qing dynasties” and “living fossil of ancient city street system”.
The design of the small streets is a typical city street system of ancient China. With the Nanhou Street as the central axis, the original three lanes were in the west and the seven alleys are in the east. The layout dates back to the Tang (618-907) and Song (960-1279) dynasties. The street is unique as it is the only existing street district in China bearing this pattern. Running from north to south, the lanes refer to Wenru Lane, Yijin Lane, and Guanglu Lane, whereas the alleys refer to Huang Alley, Gong Alley, Yangqiao Alley, Langguan Alley, Ta Alley, Anmin Alley, and Jipi Alley. As Jiqi Alley, Yangqiao Alley and Guanglu Lane have been reconstructed into driveways, now only two lanes and five alleys are preserved. The general pattern of the area has been retained. Taking a bird’s eye look at the city, this interesting spot looks like a shaped chessboard.
With the narrow lanes paved with stone slabs, Three Lanes and Seven Alleys boasts 159 ancient buildings in the styles of Ming and Qing dynasties. Most of them were the homes of scholars, bureaucrats and wealthy figures of the time. The houses have white walls and tiled roofs. Some of them are decorated with pavilions, terraces, towers, gardens and rockeries. Outside the houses there are huts, halls, public lodgings and recreation areas with unique walls decorated with intricate colorful paintings. The old buildings reflect the workmanship of ancient craftsmen and provide a window into the lives of residents of ages past. Nowadays, some of the local people are still living here.
The history of Sanfang-Qixiang’s houses is also in its walls. The houses there are built with huge-bricks. If you look at them closely, you will see tiny seashells embedded in them with the sand that was collected on the beaches to make the bricks.
The area is also home to many well-known historical figures, such as Yan Fu, a Chinese scholar and translator most famous for introducing Darwin’s theory of natural selection to China in the late 19th century.
Three Lanes and Seven Alleys is an important symbol to show the long history of Fuzhou city, and also the largest well-preserved historical heritage site in China, covering an area of about 40 hectares. Hanging out along the lanes and alleys, you would be fully packed with the strong antique atmosphere of China.