This paper presents a PhD program examining the formation and governance patterns of the social and spatial concentration of creative people and creative businesses in cities. It develops a typology for creative places, adding the terms ‘scene’ and ‘quarter’ to ‘clusters’, to fill in the literature gap of partial emphasis on the ‘creative clusters’ model as an organising mechanism for regional and urban policy. The framework is then applied to China, specifically to Hangzhou, a second-tier city in central eastern China that is ambitious to become a ‘national cultural and creative industries centre’. Drawing on in-depth interviews with initiators, managers and creative professionals from three cases selected respectively for scene, quarter and cluster, together with extensive documentary analysis, the paper investigates the composition of actors, characteristics of the locality and the diversity of activities of the three places. The findings demonstrate a convergence of the three terms. Furthermore, in China, planning and government intervention is the key to the governance of creative places; spontaneous development processes exist, but these need a more tolerant environment, a greater diversity of cultural forms and more time to develop. Moreover, the main business development model is still real estate based: this model needs to incorporate more mature business models and an enhanced IP protection system. Finally, the business strategies need to be combined with a self-management model for the creative class, and a collaborative governance mechanism with other stakeholders such as government, real estate developers and education providers.