Free of Charge!
approx. 2.5 hours
real culture of Beijing is the culture of hutong and courtyard, typical Beijing alley or lane, a glimpse into Beijing’s yesterday and today
A visit to the Hutongs and Siheyuan is a must for the ones who want to experience Beijing local customs, as well as the history and culture, because the real culture of Beijing is ‘the culture of hutong’ and ‘the culture of courtyard’. The winding hutongs are much more attractive than the high-rise buildings and large mansions.
As the symbol of Beijing City, a hutong has its own layout and structure, which makes it a wonder in the world. When taking a bird’s eye view of Beijing, you will find the combination of hutongs and courtyards just like an orderly chessboard with delicate gardens, fine rockeries, and ancient ruins. Hutongs have witnessed the development of Beijing. Where there is a hutong, there is a story.
Featured Beijing Hutongs
Among the numerous hutongs in Beijing, Beixinqiao Hutong has the most turns. There are more than 20 in which you can easily get lost. The narrowest is Qian Shi Hutong (Money Market Hutong), measuring about 30 to 40 meters (32 to 44 yards), located in Zhubao Shi Street outside the Front Gate. The narrowest part is merely 40 centimeters (16 inches) wide, so when two people meet, they must turn sideways to pass each other. The longest one is Dong Jiaomin Hutong, with a total length of 6.5 kilometers (4 miles), lying between Chang’an Avenue and East Street and West Street of the Front Gate. The shortest one is Guantong Hutong measuring about 30 meters (33 yards).
Beijing hutong is an ancient city alley or lane among courtyards. Surrounding the Forbidden City, many were built during the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. They built houses and courtyards which were arranged in order around water wells. The passages between houses were left in consideration of light and ventilation and convenient right-of way. These countless passages crisscrossed the old capital like a chessboard. In that time, the small retailers peddled their wares among the hutongs to satisfy people’s daily needs.
Hutong represents an important culture element of Beijing, just in the same way of the Forbidden City. Thanks to Beijing’s long history and status as capital for six dynasties, almost ever hutong has its anecdotes, and some are even associated with historic events.
Unlike the imperial life and court culture represented by the Forbidden City, Summer Palace, and the Temple of Heaven, the hutongs reflect the culture of grassroots Beijingers. The hutongs are residential neighborhoods which still form the heart of Old Beijing. So, while visiting the Beijing hutong, you will appreciate the dramatic changes of Beijing’s yesterday and today.
Beijing Courtyard (Siheyuan)
Beijing courtyard, or called Siheyuan, consists of houses on all four sides. The house that stands at the north end facing south is called the ‘main house or north house’. The ones on each side are called the ‘side houses’ and the one which stands at the south end facing north are called the ‘opposite house or south house’.
The siheyuan’s entrance gate is usually at the southeastern corner, in accordance with the traditional concepts of the 5 elements that were believed to compose the universe, and the 8 diagrams of divination.
Normally there is a screen wall inside the gate so that outsiders cannot see directly into the courtyard; it is also believed to protect the house from evil spirits. Outside the gate of larger siheyuan, there is a pair of stone lions, one on each side. Such a residence offers space, comfort and quiet privacy. It is also good for security as well as protection against dust and storms The gates are usually painted vermilion and have large copper door rings.
Highlights of Beijing Hutongs
Yan Dai Xie Jie
The Skewed Tobacco Pouch Street (Yan Dai Xie Jie) is one of the most famous hutongs in Beijing, so named because it goes like a tobacco pouch from north-east to south-west. It measures 254 yards long connecting Di’anmen Street at the east and the junction of Xiaoshibei hutong and Ya’er hutong at the west end.
At that time, local residents were addicted smoking opium, and the increasing demand of pipes encouraged the opening of many pipe shops on the street, so it became famous for its pipe business. Today, there are kinds of bars, tea houses, coffee rooms and souvenir shops, and the street is ablaze with lights at night.
Beijing Liulichang Culture Street
Located outside the Heping Gate in Xuanwu District, Beijing, Liulichang Culture Street has a long history. In early Qing dynasty, antique dealers transacted their business on the street which turned it into an antique market. It really deserves your visit.
Located near south Xisi Street, Zhuanta hutong is named after the Brick Tower which was built inside to commemorate the great Buddhism master Wan Song. The tower has seven layers and is made of blue-grey bricks. Today, it is under good protection and preserves its historical features.
Shi Cha Hai
Shichahai is an historic scenic area consisting of three lakes in the north of central Beijing, located to the north-west of the Forbidden City and north-west of the Beihai Park. Sichahai consists of three lakes: Qianhai, Houhai and Xihai. Shichahai area used to be the most important commercial district with all kinds of activities going on, harboring several temples and mansions, and the most famous are the Prince Gong Mansion and the Prince Chun Mansion.
Drum Tower and Bell Tower
The Drum Tower, situated at the northern end of the central axis of the inner city to the north of Di’anmen Street, was used to announce the time and is now a tourist attraction.
The Bell Tower stands closely behind the drum tower. Together with the drum tower, they provide an overview of central Beijing and before the modern era, they both dominated Beijing’s ancient skyline.
Location: Xicheng District, Beijing center
Opening Hours: all day
How to get there
You can take a rickshaw or hire a bicycle at the gate of Beihai Park, then explore the narrow and curved alleys, also passing by the Houhai, Shichahai, Drum and Bell Tower, Prince Gong Mansion and Prince Chun Mansion.
Weather/Best Time to Go
Beijing enjoys the humid continental climate with hot humid summers, cold dry winters, shorter spring and autumn. You can have a Beijing tour any time of the year, because it can give fresh feeling by enjoying the special tour of the four seasons.
You can visit the hutongs at any time of the year, which will impress you with different scenery. Choose a sunny day and explore the Beijing hutongs on foot, or by rickshaw and bicycle. Would like to know how the weather looks like during your Beijing tour? Pay attention to the Beijing weather forecast.
- You have to avoid the rip-off richshw crooks, because they would ask for a high price.
- You should think twice before you buy the stuffs in the shops around the Hutongs. Buy the souvenirs that you really like.
Recommended Beijing tours including Beijing Hutong
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