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Beijing Hutong

beijing-hutong3 Beijing Hutongs are a kind of ancient city alley or lane that is typical in Beijing. Most of them are found around the Forbidden City, and many were built during the three dynasties of Yuan, Ming and Qing.

beijing-hutong2Today, the Beijing Hutong is a living museum of Beijing history, showing the traditional lifestyle of Beijing people. Tricycles hold two people and are peddled by an experienced bicyclist. Stops are made to visit a local family and see first-hand how the people of Beijing live.

beijing-hutong1The Beijing Hutong had its first appearance in Beijing in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368).The name was gradually adopted by all the residents of Beijing , and has been handed down to the present. The houses built on each side of Hutong are called Siheyuan (quadrangle), generally rectangular dwelling compounds, in which buildings on four sides. Almost every quadrangle is surrounded by high walls. In fact, Hutong is formed by quadrangles standing side by side along a straight passage.

The width of Beijing Hutong was clearly regulated in the Yuan Dynasty and measured by steps. A passage of six steps in width was called a hutong, running directly from east to west. A passage of 24 steps in width was then called a street, which ran from north to south. The whole city, therefore, looked like a chessboard.  With the passage of dynasties, this stipulation, however, did not seem to be so strictly followed in the Ming and Qing dynasty.

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