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Beijing Hutong

Beijing Hutong

A hutong is an ancient city alley or lane typical in Beijing, where hutongs run into the several thousand. Surrounding the Forbidden City, many were built during the Yuan (1206-1341), Ming(1368-1628) and Qing(1644-1908) dynasties. In the prime of these dynasties the emperors, in order to establish supreme power for themselves, planned the city and arranged the residential areas according to the etiquette systems of the Zhou Dynasty. The center of the city of Beijing was the royal palace -- the Forbidden City.

One kind of hutongs, usually referred to as the regular hutong, was near the palace to the east and west and arranged in orderly fashion along the streets. Most of the residents of these hutongs were imperial kinsmen and aristocrats. Another kind, the simple and crude hutong, was mostly located far to the north and south of the palace. The residents were merchants and other ordinary people.

The main buildings in the hutong were almost all quadrangles--a building complex formed by four houses around a quadrangular courtyard . The quadrangles varied in size and design according to the social status of the residents. The big quadrangles of high- ranking officials and wealthy merchants were specially built with roof beams and pillars all beautifully carved and painted, each with a front yard and back yard. However, the ordinary people's quadrangles were simply built with small gates and low houses. hutongs, in fact, are passageways formed by many closely arranged quadrangles of different sizes. The specially built quadrangles all face the south for better lighting; as a result, a lot of hutongs run from east to west. Between the big hutongs many small ones went north and south for convenient passage.

At the end of the Qing Dynasty unified and closed China came under influence from abroad, having experienced change of dynasties and the vicissitudes of life. The stereotyped arrangement of the hutong was also affected. Many newly formed hutongs with irregular houses appeared outside the city, while many old ones lost their former neat arrangement. The social status of the residents also changed, reflecting the collapse of the feudal system. During the period of the Republic of China (1911-1948), Chinese society was unstable, with frequent civil wars and repeated foreign invasions.
The city of Beijing deteriorated, and the conditions of the hutong worsened. Quadrangles previously owned by one family became a compound occupied by many households.

After the founding of the people's Republic of China in 1949, hutong conditions improved. In recent years, the houses in many hutongs have been pulled down and replaced by modern buildings. Many hutong dwellers have moved to new housing.

The hutong today is fading into the shade for both tourists and inhabitants.

However, in the urban district of Beijing houses along hutongs still occupy one third of the total area, providing housing for half the population, so many hutongs have survived. In this respect, we see the old in the new in Beijing as an ancient yet modern city.

Beijing Hutong

Beijing Hutong tours attract many domestic and overseas visitors every year, and there are many old Hutongs available in Beijing, where you may feel the living atmosphere of the local Beijingers and also get to know the history of Beijing. Here, we would like to offer the following information on the Hutong tours for your reference. you may choose one or two to explore in your spare time. We only describe the Houhai and Shichahai Hutongs carefully, and you may follow our suggestions to visit others by yourselves.

Yandai Xie Jie Hutong
Start from the north gate of the Beihai Park, cross the street and then pass the Yandai Xie Jie to Yindian Qiao (Yindian Bridge), where you may find lots of rickshaws. If you like, you can chartera rickshaw (the charge is CNY30 to180.00 per hour) andthe rickshaw driver could be your guide to transfer you to visit the Hutong. During your visit, you also can get off and wander along the south bank of Houhai, and you can visit the Prince Gong's Mansion (the admission is CNY20.00 and CNY60.00 including the explanation and opera show) and the former residence of Guomoruo on the way. Then take rickshaw to visit the Curio Market of Shichahai. You may ask the rickshaw driver to take you to Beijing Sihe Courtyard, please be sure that you may give the host some tips if you visit a local family.

Beijing Hutong
Then go to the north side of Houhai, visit the former residence of Songqingling and Guanghua Temple. In the former residence of Songqingling, there are many old and famous trees and the architecture inside is a representative of the oriental and western style combination. The final destinations are the Bell Tower and the Drum Tower.

There are also many tea houses, bars and restaurants in Shichahai area, which is also a good place to relax and to feel the Chinese young people's life.

Kind notice: Some rickshaws belong to the Hutong tour company and they may lead you to go shopping to waste much of your time. Please negotiate with the rickshaw driver and state clearly your interested sites and places.

Zhuanta Hutong
Zhuanta Hutong got its name because of the brick tower at the entrance of the Hutong. It is also the former residence of the famous writer Mr. Luxun.

Fuxue Hutong
This Hutong got its name because of the Suntian Fuxue. Fuxue was the early school in China. In the Ming and Qing dynasties, Shuntian Fuxue was the place to test the students. Now this Fuxue is well-preserved and once you visit this Hutong, you may also visit the Princess Jing's Mansion.

Mao'er Hutong
Start from Nan Luogu Xiang and end in Di'an Men Wai Street, Mao'er Hutong contains the most representative private gardens of Beijing and the former residence of the last empress of the Qing Dynasty, Wanrong.

Nanbanjie Hutong
This Hutong is very plain and most of the buildings are typical style of south Beijing. Among those buildings, the most important is the Shaoxing Assembly Hall, which was also the first residence of Mr. Luxun.

Beigouyan Hutong
This Hutong is very quiet and there is a row of Chinese Scholartrees inside the Hutong. The former residence of a great person in Chinese history Mr. Liang Qi Chao locates here.

Lishi Hutong
This Hutong is well-preserved and contains many grand old houses. It is a very good choice if you visit Hutong. Yard No. 129 in the west part of this Hutong contains a large amount of exquisite brick carvings on the wall. The former residence of Liuyong, who used to be the important and famous official in the Qing Dynasty, also locates in this Hutong.

Dongtangzi Hutong
It is one of the Hutongs with longest history with many former residences of celebrities. It is also an old street with more than 800 years' history.

Miliangku Hutong
This Hutong contains many former residences of the latter-day celebrities, including Liangsicheng, Linhuiyin, Xubeihong, Xuzhimo, etc. Now the north side of this Hutong is with new buildings, but the south side still preserves some old houses. And go to the west part of this Hutong, it becomes very narrow but very quite. Continue to go to the western direction to Gongjian Hutong, which is very plain and with the characteristics of old Beijing.

Badaowan Hutong
This Hutong is narrow and devious, and many local people reside here. The yard 11 is also the former residence of Mr. Luxun and his brother. And you can enter the Hutong from Zhaodengyu Lu.

Zhaojialou Hutong
Zhaojialou Hutong locates at the east of Nanxiao Jie, Dongcheng District. You may take bus No. 24 or 674 and stop at Waijiaobu Station. Once you are in Nanxiao Jie, enter the Hutong from east entrance of Zongbu Hutong, and then turn to the north and walk for about 100m to get to Zhaojialou Hutong.,
Author/Editor By : Athena