Visit HuTong in Beijing

The most memorable moment of my Beijing life was to stroll among old town alleys in a sunny afternoon of fall season.  HuTong is Chinese name of these alleys. Thousands of HuTongs are formed by lines of SiHeYuan, traditional residence courtyard residences, and compose the residential neighborhoods that surround Emperor’s Palace in heart of old Beijing.   

Narrow, aged, full of culture and tradition, you may find historical sites, Elites residence, time-honored brands, street food stalls and modern boutique stores.  I enjoyed watching the HuTong Chess match or joining Beijingers chat to feel the rich and layback culture of Beijing and learn stories that spread among locals.  Thanks to Beijing’s historical role as capital of six dynasties, almost every HuTong has its anecdotes. 


The courtyard we visited in 2019 sits in GuoSheng HuTong.  Current owner showed us the SiHeYan and introduced his grandfather who was bestowed of this residence during Qing Dynasty and several generations have been living there.  His family residence was subdivided and shared by 7-10 families per government instructions after 1949 of formation of new country and in recent years as the country became more open and developed the original owner family took back most of the courtyard. 


Beautiful stone carving YingBi at entrance of GuoSheng HuTong courtyard.  Very impressed!


Many courtyards were not lucky as GuoSheng courtyard though.  HuTongs were demolished since early 20thcentury due to social unset and civil fights.  Some disappeared forever while others kept deteriorating with many family sharing one courtyard.