Liulichang Street is probably the most famous ancient Chinese street in Beijing, known as an art and culture bazaar with stores filled with books, curios, calligraphy, paintings, and musical instruments. The street is 750-meters long and is located south of Hepingmen (Peace Gate) in the southern part of the city.
During the Yuan and Ming dynasties, the street was known for its colored glass glaze factory. The factory made tiles for the palace, temples, and noble residences. In the Ming and Qing dynasties, it was a flourishing cultural center where artists and scholars would come to purchase materials, discuss ideas, paint, write, and philosophize about life, hence, many vendors gathered to sell curios and books.
In 1950, the People's government passed laws to prohibit the export of valuables antique books. This affected much of the business in the area. By 1956, many of the small shops gave way to big enterprises that dealt in replica paintings and calligraphy and the purchasing and selling of books.
Finally, in 1979, the state council approved restoration and expansion of Liulichang Street and which was completed in 1982. Shops were restored with gray tile and brick houses lining the street. Some that have stood the test of time are Qing Dynasty shops such as Rongbaozhai, China Bookshop, Guanfu Classical Art Museum, Changdian, and Haiwancun Park.
Rongbaizhai is probably the most famous bookstore in Liulichang. The bookstore was built during the Qing Dynasty and even today, it sells authentic calligraphy and paintings by major ancient and modern artists. Rongbaozhai is well known for it's printing and replicating of original works of art. China Bookshop is a specialty bookstore where visitors can purchase block-printed editions and hand-copied books.
The Ganfu Classic Art Museum is reputed to be China's first private museum. Opened in 1997, the museum boasts a collection of porcelain from the Ming Dynasty, antiques, carpets, costumes and other Ming and Qing dynasties paraphernalia.
The area is the venue for one of the largest Temple Fairs held during Spring Festival, Changdian Temple Fair. After a long absence, the Temple Fair has resumed and attracts thousands of Beijingers and their families. Last but not least, there are many relics around Haiwangcun Park. In ancient times, the park featured buildings, pavilions, ponds, and stone carvings.
The Beijing city government is currently investing heavily in the renovation of the area. The street and its surrounding area are expected to be a prominent tourist attraction in time for the 2008 Olympics.