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6 Aug 2015

Beijing Hutongs Part 1

Beijing [北京] • 06 AUGUST 2015
Our plan is to visit Guluo, Drum Tower Beijing, located at the northern end of the central axis of the Inner City to the North of Di'anmen Street. Along our way we passed the hidden courtyard homes, fruit shops, kebab stands and trendy cafes and bars. 

This narrow warren of hutong alleyways called Gulou, a charming 12.94 hectares in the middle of the Chinese capital, is one of Beijing’s most endearing neighborhoods, offering a glimpse into the city’s fading past. 

Many of the courtyard homes do not have sufficient plumbing and heating. Many residents, have to use the nearest public toilet because of plumbing problem in their homes.

They spend their leisure time playing chinese chess. 

Hutong is a lane or an alley, formed by rows of siheyuan (a compound with buildings around a courtyard) where old Beijing residents lived. The word "hutong" originates from the word "hottog" which means "a well" in Mongolian, in ancient times villagers dug a well and then lived around it

In old China, there were clear definitions of what was a street and what was a lane. A 36-metre-wide road was called a big street and an 18-metre-wide road was called a small street. A 9-metre-wide lane was called a hutong. Most of the hutongs in Beijing run east-west or north-south. This is because most siheyuan were built along such axes according to the rules of feng shui and to take in more sunshine and resist cold winds from the north. Of course, not all hutongs follow the straight and narrow. There are also slant hutongs, half hutongs and blind hutongs. Beijing's shortest hutong is just 10 metres long and the narrowest is only about 40 centimetres wide. Some hutongs have more than 20 turns. As such, they are often a maze through which it is fascinating to wander, as long as you're not afraid of getting lost.

The gray-tiled houses and alleys crossing with each other in identical appearance are like a maze, it is fun to walk through them but be careful not to get lost.

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