It is called the Street of Sunshine, but I only had time to visit it at night the first time round. Then I came in the morning before I left Yantai and realised why it was named as such.
Historical Chaoyang Street
By the end of the Qing Dynasty, with Germany forcibly “renting” Qingdao and the British forcibly “renting” Weihaiwei, Yantai was not spared. In Zhifu 芝罘 or Chefoo (modern Yantai), the invading powers carved up the area on the north side of Fort Qishan 奇山卫所 to setup their concessions. This was the predecessor of Chaoyang Street today.
Built in 1872 (11th year of Qing Emperor Tongzhi), Chaoyang Street 朝阳街 is a 400 m long pedestrian street that stretches from the Beima (“North”) Road 北马路 in the south (yes, you read it correctly, it literally translates to “horse carriageway to the north”) to Haian “Coast” Street 海岸街 in the north. Because it is north-south in orientation and directly facing the sun with Yantai Mountain at the back, it was named Chaoyang Street or “street facing the sun”.
Chaoyang Street is like a living architecture museum of European building styles in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Old Yantai’s foreign banks and businesses gathered around this area to continue to export goods like silk, cotton, peanuts, coal, etc from China. English signs of factories, businesses, banks and entertainment venues can still vaguely be seen everywhere.
In 1923, the street was paved with asphalt, making it the first asphalt road in Yantai. In 1939, asphalt gave way to cement when underground sewage was built. Then in 2021, it was given a refresh with the current sandstone paved roads.
On the southern end, the accolade of the tallest building on Chaoyang Street belongs to the former site of the “New China Cinema” 新中国电影院旧址. Built in the Art Decor style by patriotic industrialist Li Dongshan in 1934, it was originally called Golden City Cinema 金城电影院, and was the first modern projection movie theatre in China. The reinforced concrete structure, slender windows, concave entrances, and iron roofs are still very trendy from the current perspective.
Right next to the cinema was the original site for the first privately owned modern timepiece factory opened by Li Dongshan. Baoshi Clock Factory 宝时造钟厂 was founded in 1915 when it produced timepieces by assembling Japanese parts. By 1920, Li was able to produce all the parts in Yantai but maintaining the same quality. Business picked up and by 1935, he built this site to house his expanding factory. There’s another site that housed the original factory that has been turned into a timepiece museum.
After the Second World War, Yantai became a well-known financial centre in North China due to its rich history (no puns intended) of commerce and foreign banking. Fushunde Bank 福顺德银号 was a privately owned bank founded in 1900. Fushunde Bank specialised in foreign exchange and silver deposits and during its heydays in the 1930s had branches all around China. Now it houses the brand that owns “the most beautiful bookshops in China” – Zhongshuge Bookstore 钟书阁.
In the 6th year of Guangxu 光绪6年 (1880), German merchants opened the largest peanut exporter in Yantai called O.H Anz & Co 盎斯洋行 at that time. Mr. Oscar H. Anz, head of the firm, was appointed Belgian Consul in 1903. Born at Hamburg in 1877, he was educated at Dusseldorf and Bergedorf, and came to Chefoo in 1893. The historical building saw the first X-ray machines in China, and is now the site for L’atelier de Joel Robuchon (opened in 2021, not sure if it is still operational as I could not find any evidence).
The Christon Hotel 克利顿酒店 is famous for the stay by founder of modern China Dr. Sun Yat-sen when he visited Yantai in 1912. Built by Russians, a huge black double-headed eagle crest symbolic of the Russian Empire (1721–1917) was installed on the white wall. Unfortunately with the collapse of the Russian Empire, this double-headed eagle was removed. Fortunately all the decorative and classical styles of the building made it through the annals of time. It has since been restored and is now a fine dining restaurant.
And on the other end of the street is Yantai Mountain 烟台山. Of course, it was an exaggeration, as it was nothing more than a hill overlooking the cliffs to the Bohai Sea. However it is like Gulang Yu, and showcases an outdoor exhibition of colonial and western houses and embassies that were left behind by the conquering superpowers in the early 20th century. That’s for another day and another blogpost.
Yantai is famous for its affiliation to the vino cultivation and wineries. When most Chinese people still knew little about chateaus and varietals, the city of Yantai saw an increasing number of European-style chateaus along its 100-km coastline. And the biggest and oldest of the whole lot is Changyu.
Yantai has a long history of wine. Zhang Bishi, a patriotic overseas Chinese, established the first wine company in China in 1892 named Changyu Pioneer Wine Co, launching a new era of vineyards and industrialised wine production in China and making Yantai the birthplace of China’s wine industry.
Modern sculptures dotted the entire street to remind us the long association of Yantai with wine.
The main square houses the world’s first wine-themed interactive entertainment experience, showcasing a museum with wine related memorabilia from around the world, combined with VR technology, lighting sets and spatial displays, through immersive augmented reality technology to explain the story of wine.
Opposite to the former site of Fushunde Silver House is the former Shuntai Merchants 順泰商行. On summer afternoons, yangren 洋人, literally “people from the oceans” as the residents called the foreigners that descended into Yantai, would come here to buy wine. Today, it caters to local and tourists alike who wanted a swig and a gulp of the local wines.
And with good wine, you need good food. They managed to attract the reverent L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon to setup here. But only the distinctive name and decor were put up, there was no sign of opening any time soon, or any trace of any announcement of any sort in the Internet.
Modern Chaoyang Street
Chaoyang Street is a bustling commercial street in modern Yantai.
Today’s Chaoyang Street, although bars and halls are full of modern atmosphere. But if you walk on the street, the gorgeous decoration of Western-style architecture and the shadowy foreign alphabet on the wall can still make people think, and their thoughts will travel through time and space to enjoy the deep charm of the century-old streets and alleys.
Chaoyang Street Scenic Area is undoubtedly an outdoor museum for people who like modern European architecture. In addition, there are several bars and restaurants along the street, so it’s a great place to come people watching. Unfortunately it was still very quiet when I visited it due to Covid. Hope it gets better in time.
Visited in Dec 2021