Visiting the Hutongs, Beijing, China

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The Hutongs 🏡 of Beijing

Hutongs, part of the culture of China. Hutongs (simplified Chinese: 胡同; traditional Chinese: 衚衕) are narrow streets or alleys. You can typically find Hutongs in North  Chinese cities, among which Beijing. The hutongs in Beijing are formed by linking courtyard residences. Also known as: “Siheyuan”. Hutong neighborhoods were in their turn formed by linking the Siheyuan to one another.

Picture: Riksja Hutong Picture: Small Hutong house

Nowadays, more and more Beijing hutongs are appointed as Chinese protected heritage in an attempt to preserve Chinese culture. This is of importance as in the last decennium, many hutongs were destroyed to make room for new high-rise projects as Beijing keeps getting busier. The first Hutongs were formed in the Yuan Dynasty (1279 to 1368). In the Yuan Dynasty, about 29 Hutongs were formed. During the Ming and Qing Dynasty (1368 to 1911), the amount of hutongs rose exponentially up to as much as 3,250! As mentioned before a drastic decrease in hutongs took place in the last years. Currently, there are only 1,000 hutongs left…

Picture: Riksja Hutong Picture: Hutong square

The hutongs in Beijing are quite lovely to walk or ride through. They are like calm villages within the big chaotic city. In between the Hutongs next to the Bell tower, you can find a square where locals are playing chess out in the open, just chat or play other games together. A very relaxing vibe. Take a tour in a typical and traditional Chinese riksja through the Hutongs or just take a stroll. A riksja ride costs usually between 40 and 80 RMB.

Fun fact: Hutong is a Mongolian word and means: “water well”, as the Mongolians centered their life around water (wells). In the Yuan dynasty, water was of great importance for the Mongolians.

Picture: Hutong house Picture: Hutong house decorated

Hutongs are always built in a certain manner. Around an open square, like a chess board and obiding by the rules of Feng Shui. As many hutongs are old, they do not seem very modern. For this reason, many walls were build around hutongs in Beijing for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

All in all, a visit to the hutongs is definitely recommended. You get away from the big city and the the nice community feeling. In the hutongs, everybody knows one another. Plenty of gossip and family feeling going on!

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