For old-timers of Jinan, Daguanyuan is a popular urban hangout. It was built in the early 1930s, modeled after Shanghai’s Town God’s Temple (Chenghuang Temple) commercial zone. Its name was derived from China’s most famous classic novel Dreams of the Red Mansions in which a garden complex named Daguanyuan stands at the center of the story.
Developed on a three-hectare vacant lot, Daguanyuan was initially intended as an upper-class shopping and entertainment zone, which soon proved a failure. The proprietor quickly changed its business strategy and had the whole commercial block reopened in a few months. The reformed Daguanyuan was oriented to the general populace, its northern section constituting stores and stalls dealing in local snacks, popular entertainment and general merchandise.
Daguanyuan in the 1930s and 1940s, a bustling commercial quarters in Jinan, where urbanites enjoyed vibrant social life.
Daguanyuan today, still a busy market place.
The inner quarters of the Daguanyuan complex were three theaters. The First Theater mainly presented musical, dramatic folk art forms such as Beijing operas, talk shows, and dances. The Second Theater was a cinema, and The Third Theater presented magic shows, acrobatics, and smaller-scale dance performances.
Thus, Daguanyuan was turned into an ideal place to experience popular urban social life of early modern China – both its bright side and downside. Jinan locals would constantly come here for shopping and leisure. Of course, negative social phenomena abounded in here, too: hooligans, thieves, rogues or soldiers of fortune, spies and secret agents, drug dealers, brothels, etc.
Chenguang Teahouse a popular hangout where Jinan residents would sip a cup of tea while listening to talk shows, stories, and operas. This makes an indelible experience in the memory of an old-timer of Jinan.
Famous talk show performer, Mr Sun Shaolin, was the founder of Chenguang Teahouse.
Daguanyuan Theater, an influential platform for entertainers.
Daguanyuan used to house one of China's top four training grounds for traditional wrestling. Today, national wrestling matches are held here.
Daguanyuan was nationalized after 1949 under the Communist regime, and re-organized in 2004. For Jinan urbanites, Daguanyuan is part of their way of life, and means much more than a mere commercial zone. Local authorities of Jinan now often use this as a venue for certain public cultural, festive events.
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