How a local Wuhan resident spends her week after lockdown ends

By Ji Yuqiao, Bi Mengying and Chen Xi , Published: 2020/4/21 13:48:40

East Lake Scenic Area Photo: VCG
Editor's Note:

As a Chinese saying goes, "The unique local features of a place give rise to the special characteristics of its inhabitants." People living in Wuhan in Central China's Hubei Province are just as great as the city they live in. They work hard to support their families, enjoy eating delicious food and spending their leisure time with those they love. They can give all their attention to a simple bowl of hot dry noodles and are patient enough to chew the meat right off of every single vertebra of a spicy duck neck. Considering they like spending time wandering around the city's various parks and streets during their time off, it was almost impossible for them to stay at home for 76 days straight during the height of the COVID-19 epidemic in China. In the end, however, they made it. Now with the lockdown lifted, their lives are returning to normal little by little.

Like the ancient side of Wuhan with its brilliant historical treasures, modern Wuhan draws visitors from all corners with its unique charm. Although the city and its people were placed under siege by the COVID-19 epidemic, their bravery and tenacity helped see them through to the light at the end of the tunnel. Now they are drawing upon this same well of strength to face the life once again as they strive to return to a semblance of normality. Chen Mengqiao, a 26-year-old white-collar worker, is one such resident. Below we take a look at her daily life in real Wuhan.

Hubu Alley Photo: VCG
8:00 AM Breakfast at Hubu Alley

On a Wednesday, Chen met with a friend, who was on a business trip to Wuhan, for breakfast - a meal that the people of Wuhan take very seriously. In the Wuhan dialect breakfast is referred to as guozao, which means "to pass the morning." For Wuhan people, kicking off the day with a good breakfast is a must.

With the Yangtze River flowing through the city, there are numerous dockworkers in Wuhan. Therefore, breakfast tends to be convenient, inexpensive and very filling. People rarely make breakfast at home, given a great variety of guozao that can be easily purchased at street stalls across the city.

Hubu Alley has them all, as such it remains a popular choice for travelers to look to get a taste of breakfast in Wuhan. The 150-meter-long alley has been around for at least 400 years. Walking past the alley's quaint buildings, which were primarily built during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing dynasties (1644-1911), Chen took her friend to try some doupi first.

Originally served as a fried snack during festivals, doupi has now become a part of traditional breakfast. The snack usually consists of an outside layer made from green bean powder, eggs, milk and flour over a layer of glutinous rice or minced meat. One crispy and hearty bite is sure to instantly steal your heart.

The duo continued on their foodie journey by trying out Wuhan's traditional rice doughnuts mianwo, tangbao (soup-filled steamed buns) and chicken soup cooked in a pottery pot, eating until they were too full to take another bite. After their meal, Chen was ready for work. Her friend decided to tag along to get a peek at what is known as the "Optics Valley of China."

Optics Valley of China Photo: VCG
10:00 AM Working at the 'Optics Valley of China'

Arriving at the Wuhan East Lake High-Tech Development Zone, they saw magnificent skyscrapers reaching proudly up into the sky. Bustling with professionals hurrying to work, the atmosphere stood in sharp contrast to the laid-back vibe of Hubu Alley.

First established in 1988, the Wuhan East Lake High-Tech Development Zone was later designated in 1991 by China's State Council as one of the nation's top centers focusing on high-tech research and development. With dozens of top universities and research institutes gathered around the zone, it was redesignated as a national optoelectronic information industry base in 2001, which is where its current nickname "Optics Valley" comes from.

Many heavyweight tech companies such as Alibaba and Huawei have established their regional headquarters or research centers in the zone. Boasting more than 90,000 companies, Optics Valley is one of the most innovative and fastest-growing regions in Central China.

While Chen began tackling her busy work schedule, her friend kept herself entertained by exploring outside.

Shopping malls, bars and restaurants lined the streets in the zone. Besides being a great place to witness the city's high-tech development, it was also a great spot for people-watching.

Wuhan snacks Photo: VCG
Classic dish - hot dry noodles Photo: VCG
12:00 Noon Classic dish - hot dry noodles

Since they didn't have much time for lunch, Chen took her friend to a curbside snack bar for some authentic hot dry noodles - the classic dish for which the city is known.

Hot dry noodles have become almost a symbol of Wuhan as many people in China associate the dish with the city. In many Chinese comics depicting the epidemic, artists often chose this dish to represent Wuhan.

Trying a bowl of the noodles has become a not-to-be-missed experience for many tourists going to the city. Wuhan hot dry noodles are bright yellow and very thin, while the secret to their flavor is in the special sauce that is used.

The mixture of salad oil, sesame oil, chili oil, tahini and brine together is an ancient recipe that can produce various flavors depending on the proportion of ingredients. The sauce is then poured on the noodles, which should be eaten quickly or else they will soon become unappetizing.

Hanzheng Street Photo: VCG
6:00 pm Leisure tour after work

After work, Chen took her friend for a quick shopping trip at the wholesale clothing plaza on Hanzheng Street and then a leisurely walk through Hankouli.

Located in the Qiaokou district of Wuhan, Hanzheng Street was once called the "No.1 Street of the National Small Commodity Market" during the early stages of China's reform and opening-up. The street is now being developed into a shopping area.

After comparing prices at several stores, Chen and her friend purchased some nice clothes at the wholesale plaza and then they went to Hankouli, the historical section of the city mainly built in the early 20th century.

A product of the cosmopolitan nature of the city, the unique buildings in Hankouli combine Western low-rise townhouses and traditional Chinese courtyard homes.

Chen and her friend visited an urban story hall that introduced the history and customs of the city.

Their leisurely tour ended with them snacking on some green bean cakes.

Saturday @Wuhan University

In Wuhan, weekends are a great time to get out for some fresh air in the city's many enchanting natural scenic areas such as the campus of Wuhan University, which is famous for its cherry blossoms.

A mild wind had blown some of pinky cherry blossoms to the ground, but the trees lining the paths through the campus still had many flowers that were in full bloom, drawing in people to take selfies in front of them.

Wuhan University has more than 1,000 cherry trees, a majority of which are sakura trees from Japan. The oldest sakura can be traced back to 1972, when China and Japan established diplomatic relations. As a gift, Japan sent 1,000 cherry trees to the university.

Blossom season is usually around mid-March. So that people would not miss out on the beauty of these trees in full bloom while on lockdown, the university launched a livestream that people at home could tune in to from the comfort of their homes.

East Lake Scenic Area Photo: VCG
Sunday @East Lake Scenic Area

On Sunday, Chen packed up her camera and went to East Lake Scenic Area in Wuhan, to capture on film the lives of people as they spend their off time at this famous and bewitching scenic spot now that they were free from the lockdown.

East Lake is so named since it is located in the eastern part of the city's Wuchang district. A lake of some 33 square kilometers in size is in the area, the second largest urban lake in China. The Chinese poet and statesman Qu Yuan, who lived during the Warring States Period (475BC-221BC), and many other famous figures in Chinese history have written poems about it after visiting its shores. When Chen arrived in the morning, she saw some locals walking, running or cycling around the lake. Elsewhere in the park, people were taking their dogs for walks, while closer to the lake some young ladies dressed in traditional Han Chinese clothing were taking pictures against the backdrop of the ancient pavilions and buildings in the park.

Chen clicked the shutter button, capturing a photo of the lively city as it regained its vigor and vitality.

"Dawn is coming," Chen thought.