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We had an absolutely perfect day with our tour guide - Rogin Luo - who took us for a hike along The Great Wall! Didn't know what to expect and were thrilled to have him as our guide. Very imformative, knowledgable and fun! We go to experience a part of The Great Wall that was unrestored and see all its natural beauty. Got a long history lesson along the way!

After the hike, we all went to lunch at a small place at the bottom of the hill. Located in a house, we ate lunch in the proprietors bedroom! What a hoot! Rogin is the Best of the Best! This tour company delivered for us and we are extremely grateful.

Westborough, Massachusetts
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Home  »  China Travel Guide  »  Beijing Travel Guide  »  Beijing Hutong
Beijing Hutong

Beijing Hutong

What is real Hutong? Is the hutong what we called lanes? Hutong are Beijing's unique old city lanes. Hutong originally were named Mongolian, namely street alleys. Because Beijing had layout in ancient times, the hutong are relatively straight and dotted. There are 7000 hutongs and their names are very different. Surrounding the Forbidden City, many were built during the Yuan (1206-1341), Ming(1368-1628) and Qing(1644-1908) dynasties.

In the prime of these dynasties, the emperors, in order to establish supreme power for themselves, planned the city and arranged the residential areas according to the etiquette systems of the Zhou Dynasty. Some are with person names, such as Prime Minister Wen Hutong; some are with market and commodities, such as Golden Fish Hutong. Some is with Beijing largest hutong is East & West Jiao Min Xiang, and the whole length is 16.5 km.

The shortest is one-foot street, and the length is less than 10 meters. The narrowest hutong is Qian Shi Hutong in Da Shi Lan district of Qian Men. It is only 0.7 meters wide and a little fatter people can not pass unless he hold his breath.

In order to collect more natural daylight, courtyard with buildings on the four sides sit on the north towards south, its arrangement result is that hutong most become from east to west.

The whole Beijing city is like enlarged courtyard with buildings on the four sides. The east, West, south and north is basically symmetrical. The layout is orderly, the vigor is very splendid, and the surrounding is encircled with rectangular high walls in order.

The former residence of celebrities and the princes'residences scattered in downtown area are all authentic courtyards with buildings on the four sides. The courtyard with building on the four sides has the difference of trivial details and simplicity according to high and low social status of the people.

Big courtyard with building on the four sides of dignitary and rich busimessman is dainty architecture, owns carved corridor and picture ridgepole with front and back yard. Small courtyard with building on the four sides of populace has simple design and own narrow appearance and low house wall.

Before the end of Qing Dynasty, China was still in laggard natural economy. Engage in trading is a inferior occupation in feudalism idea. So Beijing is a consumption city with most of imperial noblemen living idlely. Various living scence mostly assemble in hutong. Courtyard with building on the four sides (Siheyuan) is a minature of the living status and social culture of that period. At the end of Qing Dynasty, hutong went from prosperity to wane. This is a natural development trend of Beijing hutong with the collapse of feudalism.

Man-driving pedicab with red peak and black body is main traffic tool of visiting hutong. If in the tree seasons of spring, summer and autumn, tourists can enjoy folk living sights of the two sides of Shichahai by taking old manpower boat besides by taking man-driven pedicab for sightseeing.

At nightfall, people light lamp on the boat, and there is a lady with traditional stringed and woodwind instrument play gentle and fair sounding folk music on the fore. When boat goes through Silver Bridge and arrives at back sea, tourists could taste tea and cake, or have a barbecue dine together on the boat.

When the sun falls and night curtain raises. Tourists on the boat light paper river lamps and put them into water and make a wish to God mumuredly. The lamps float on the surface of water and move with stern, suddenly dark just like Qin Huai River of Tang and Song Dynasties.

It is specially recommended to visit hutong before sunset and at nightfall in summer. Because there are abundant and busy folk activities along the two sides of Shichahai and the lives of common peple in hutong is very active and various.

Two Sites for Hutong Exploring:
Shichahai Area: north of Beihai Park
Dazhalan Area: south of Tiananmen Square
Rickshaw: RMB 50-100

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