Beijing Hutongs - Know More

beijing hutongAlleyways (Hutong in Chinese) and Courtyyard Homes (Si he yuan) have been the signature features of Beijing's urban landscape since the Ming Dynasty. These homes traditionally comprised buildings built around an enclosed courtyard, but many have been subdivided in modern times. The narrowneess of the Alleyways and of many Courtyard Homes discourages heavy traffic and encourages residents to live their lives on the street, fostering a strong sense of community. The pace of life in these neighborhoods is less hurried than on Beijing's broad modern avenues; the noises less grating. The Hutongs are like villages within the megalopolis. As you wander through them, you may feel as through you have stepped back in time.

Many hutongs have disappeared in the past decade to make may for modern apartment buildings and wider roads. Fortunately, soem historic neighborhoods are being preserved, as you'll discover if you take the walks described below. Besides winding you along some of Beijing's most beautiful hutongs, these walks will take you to some the capital's best sights.

Renting a bicycle is also a good option, this way you can cover more ground and keep your feet relatively happy. Bikes for rent can be found at several prominent places in the Qianhai/ Houhai areas, you'll have to leave a deposit, but the hourly fees are very reasonable. Tandem bicycles are also available.

Lakeside Hutong Stroll

The charming hutongs around Houhai and Qianhai lakes meander through quiet neighborhoods and parks along the lakeshore. The Hutongs, despite being a tourist attraction, are living communities enclosed within a warren-like maze of narrow lanes. You can see residents chatting over a pot of tea on whicker chairs while their songbirds chitter their musical tunes. Strolling through the Houhai and Qianhai areas will take you by grand homes, hip cafes and the centuries old Bell and Drum Towers. A thorough exploration of the area will take about 3 hours, though 2 hours will be more than enough time to get a good look and feel for life in a hutong.