Exploring Beijing Hutongs
When you are visiting the Forbidden City in Beijing, China one of the things that you must see are the Beijing Hutongs. Hutongs are where the commoners live in Old Beijing. It is only in Beijing where you can go to see these old traditional alleys and the courtyard houses along its thoroughfares. Tourists will definitely enjoy visiting this rich remnant of the past that has managed to survive in this day and age. You can either walk; use a bicycle or rickshaw (pedicabs which are peddled by a huma).
To symbolize how the supreme ruler has the power over his dominion, the royal palace was built in the center of Beijing. Hutongs were then built in neat order to face the east and west part of the royal palace. Beijing Hutongs are categorized by means of social position. These Hutongs in the east and west housed the imperial kinsmen and aristocrats while those that are in the north and south of the palace housed merchants and commoners. The social position of the people that lived in these Beijing Hutongs is clearly reflected by the size and design. High ranking officials and wealthy merchants were build with beautifully carved roof beams and pillars while the Hutongs that belong to the common people are simply built with small gates and low houses to emphasize the distinction between each social position.
Some package tours includes a trip inside a traditional family courtyard home where families who live there will gladly greet you with their servings of tea as you take a tour of their home. It is interesting to take in the historical significance of how families lived their lives in the past and how such way of living is richly preserved by the present generation. The people who live in these modern day Beijing Hutongs still uphold their traditions. As a part of their tradition they keep birds as pets inside cages that they take in the parks to hang in the trees while they visit their friends or families on a lazy day.
It is in these Hutongs that famous Chinese people lived. Laoshe who was a well known playwright was born in such a Hutong. There are even famous Chinese operas and dramas that are loosely based on the Hutong way of living. At one point when urban construction was threatening the existence of such Hutongs, citizens of Beijing became worried since it is after all the only life that they know how to live. As an act of compromise, the municipal government has promise to protect about 400,000 of these residential houses which have been left just the way they are. It is rather fortunate that because of the Hutongs significance to the ancient way of living in Beijing they have remained untouched as part of visitors tours of their beloved City.
Because of the size differences of Beijing Hutongs, it is hard to allow a plump man to enter some of them! Tourist guides know which of this narrow passage ways should be avoided. On a regular weekday you can even visit some Chinese kindergarten classes but you are not allowed to interrupt them. Beijing Hutong Zhang Folk Art Museum which houses Chinese traditional crafts and toys as well as vintage photos and posters can be included in your tour as well.
Beijing Hutongs – Final Facts
These are some interesting facts about Beijing Hutongs. The oldest Hutong is located in the west and is known as Tanzhoujie which has been in existence for 900 years now. The longest Hutong on record has been aptly named as such. Dongjiaominxiang and Xijiaominxiang begin in the east and ends in the west. The Western style of architectural design can be easily explained because this Hutong was formerly used as an embassy which up to now is protected by the Municipal government of Beijing as a cultural relic. It is not only that woman who has nice curves that draw the appreciation of men. The narrowest Hutong on record is the Money Market Hutong which can only allow two thin persons to pass through it simultaneously. It would be fun to capture this image to store in your souvenir camera shot when taking a tour of Beijing, China.
Next up, lets take a look at what most people look forward to when traveling – Food In Beijing.