Beijing Hutongs

Though Beijing is one of the most developed cities in the world, with all of the glittering and enormous towers and modernization in general, if you visit the remained narrow alleys called Hutongs you will get the impression that you are lost in time, since everything there reflects the past. Hutongs (衚衕; Hútòng) are famous neighborhoods in Beijing, which are full of traditional courtyard houses of one story. Hutong means “water well” because they were usually built near the water, serving as a daily dose for the locals. Today, there are still some dry wells in some of the old alleys. They are quite similar to each other, usually being nine meters wide. They originated during the reign of Yuan Dynasty, though they were not numerous as during the period of Ming and Qing Dynasty. It the middle of the 20th century there was more than 3,000 Hutongs, but now there are no more than 1,000. Hutongs are important because they are places where people can take a glimpse of everyday life of ordinary people in imperial China. Most of the remaining monuments are related to the Chinese emperors and nobility, but only a few of them preserve the memory of ordinary population.

They did not resist the process of modernization, which is the reason why they disappear day by day. That is why modern people of China have the commitment to protect and preserve hutongs, in order to save the tradition. Fortunately, ancient architecture is preserved in several hutongs. They are protected by the government which means that they cannot be destroyed or redesigned since they serve as the great portrayal of the China’s history and Mongolian influence.

One of the most interesting and most popular Hutongs in Beijing is Nanluogu Xiang Hutong. Other famous and interesting hutongs are Yandai Xie, Guozijian, Mao’er, Bada, Liulichang, Dong Jiao Min Xiang, and Xijiao Min Xiang.