Hutong refers to the ancient
alleys and lanes typical in Beijing. It is a term
passed down from history, believed to be a Monglian
word from the times of Changkis Kan, who built
Beijing as the capital of the Mongolian Empire
Hutong runs into several thousand,
surrounding the magnificent royal tempeles and
palaces in Beijing, quietly demonstrating the
life of grass-root people in this ancient city
through the history.
One kind of hutong, usually referred
to as the regualr hutong, was near the palace
to the east and west and arranged in order fashion
along the streets. Most of the residents of these
hutongs were imperial kinsmen and aristocrats.
Another kind, the simple and crude hutong, was
mostly located far to the north and south of the
palace. The residents were merchants and other
The main buildings in the hutong
were Si He Yuan - a building complex formed by
four houses around a quadrangular courtyard. The
quadrangles varied in varied in size and design
according to the social status of the residents.
The big quadrangles of high-ranking officials
and wealthy merchants were specially built with
roof beams and pillars all beautifully carved
and painted, each with a front yard and back yard.
However,the ordinary people's quadrangles were
simple built with small gates and low house. hutongs,
in fact, are passgeways formed by many closely
arranged quadrangles of different sizes. The specially
built quadrangles all face the south for better
lighting; as a result, a lot of hutongs run from
east to west. Between the big hutongs many small
ones went north and south for convenient passage.
Unfortunately, the Hutong receding
fast into the history as the city becomes a modern
metropolitan. In time many Hutongs have been pulled
down and replaced by modern buildings. Quadrangles
previously owned by one family became a compound
occupied by many households and the conditions
of the hutong are getting deteriorated.
However, in the urban district
of Beijing houses along hutongs still occupy one
third of the total area, providing housing for
half the population, so many hutongs survied.
In this repect, we see the old in the new in Beijing
as an ancient yet modern city.