As I approach the Quaoxi Historic Block, I first spot the Gongchen Bridge, the northern gate of Hangzhou on the canal. "Gong" denotes welcome and "Chen" of Imperial Palace: the tall arched bridge symbolizes welcome and respect for the emperor. The bridge itself is 16 meters (52 feet) high, but only 92 meters (102 feet long), making for quite a steep up and down.
Crossing the bridge, I enter the Qiaoxi Historic Block, restored by the government in 2008 to feature designs from the Ming and Qing Dynasties. In addition to restaurants, cafes, and museums, the district features Chinese medicine and culture (especially ceramics) and shows the development of modern industry and commerce in Hangzhou and the influence of Western culture on housing in the area: building simple brick-wood structures with a combination of Chinese and Western elements.
There are museums for famous products of the region: umbrellas, scissors, knives, and swords. The Chinese Museum of Knife, Scissors, and Swords features two halls: "Knife and Sword" and "The Story of Scissors". The China Umbrella Museum is the first umbrella museum in China and shows the culture, history, stories, manufacturing technique, and art of the umbrella.
Continuing down the river, back toward Hangzhou, on the other bank I find sculptures of river workers and equipment from the early days of the Grand Canal.
I follow several paths alongside smaller waterways leading off the Grand Canal and find quiet residential neighborhoods with great views and parks throughout.
And, while there are no dancers on the route back, there are periodic musicians playing for everyone's pleasure.
Tour boats are out on the Grand Canal, heading up and down the canal, carrying people on the water alongside the path I just walked from Wulinmen Square to Qiaoxi Historic Block.
Reaching Wulin Square, I find more interesting sculptures and small parks along the way.
Next, it's time to explore life in Hangzhou during the Song Dynasty.