Hutongs, a type of narrow alleys or street, is very typical and unique in Beijing. With the history of 700 years, Hutongs in Beijing display the aspect of Chinese cultural history. At first glance, Hutongs is seemed to have the similar appearances with grey walls and grey tiled buildings. However, if you are patient to talk with the dwellers in Hutongs, you will find that every hutong has its own anecdote and allusion.
Hutong was not only the backbone of transportation in the ancient Beijing but also the place where common people lived. Hutongs represent the vicissitude of society and are rich in cultural atmosphere, which makes hutongs like a folk museum.
The term ‘Hutong’ first appeared during Yuan Dynasty (1206AD-1370AD) with the meaning of ‘town’. The place which was closer to Forbidden City was lived by those who had the higher social status like high-ranking officials and wealthy merchants. Their houses were called siheyuan which was characterized by carved and painted roof beams and beautiful gardens. And Hutongs were built and lined by the siheyuan and walled gardens.
In the mid-20th century, many hutongs were demolished to pave the way for new buildings and roads. Some of them still stands and have been designated as the protected area.
Some famous hutongs are listed below:
It is said that Yandai Xiejie is the oldest and most famous Hutong in Beijing. It is 232 meters long and located in front of Drum Tower. In Qing Dynasty, the shops in this hutong operated the business of tobaccos, smoking sets and curios. ‘Yan’ in Chinese means tobacco and ‘Dan’ pouch. Yandai is a pouch to contain tobaccos. And some persons said that the shape of street look like a smoking pipe.
During 1950s many buildings were converted into residential houses and this street was redeveloped to contain its historical features in 2007. You can find various types of shops and stores of Indian cloths, Tibet costumes, Lijing crafts, Shaanxi pottery and so on.
Ya’er Hutong started from Xiao Shibei Hutong in the southwest and is connected with Yandai Xiejie. In the east end stands a famous stone bridge named Xinding Bridge. With the length of 820 meters, it winds along the north bank of Shicha Lake and parallels with north part of Houhai Lake. Guanghua Temple is located at No.31 of Ya’er Hutong. It was constructed during the reign of Emperor Wanli of Ming Dynasty (1368AD-1644AD). It is one of best-preserve temples in Beijing and still in use. Some important Buddhism activities are held here.
The No.12 of Da Jinsi Hutong has a special arch which was wrote in the book of Lonely Planet and best-known to many tourists. It is said that this siheyuan is the only place which can be lived by foreign tourists.
Admission Fee: free of charge
Open Time: all day