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About

About Beijing Hutong

Beijing Hutong are a type of narrow street or alley commonly associated with northern Chinese cities, especially Beijing. In Beijing, hutongs are alleys formed by lines of siheyuan, traditional courtyard residences. Many neighbourhoods were formed by joining one siheyuan to another to form a hutong, and then joining one hutong to another. The word hutong is also used to refer to such neighbourhoods.
Since the mid-20th century, many Beijing hutongs were demolished to make way for new roads and buildings. More recently, however, many hutongs have been designated as protected, in an attempt to preserve this aspect of Chinese cultural history. Hutongs were first established in the Yuan dynasty (1279–1368) and then expanded in the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) dynasties.

History

History of Beijing Hutong

During China’s dynastic period, emperors planned the city of Beijing and arranged the residential areas according to the social classes of the Zhou Dynasty (1027–256 BC). The term “hutong” appeared first during the Yuan Dynasty, and is a term of Mongolian origin, meaning “water well”.
In the Ming Dynasty (early 15th century), the center was the Forbidden City, surrounded in concentric circles by the Inner City and Outer City. Citizens of higher social status were permitted to live closer to the center of the circles. Aristocrats lived to the east and west of the imperial palace. The large siheyuan of these high-ranking officials and wealthy merchants often featured beautifully carved and painted roof beams and pillars and carefully landscaped gardens. The hutongs they formed were orderly, lined by spacious homes and walled gardens. Farther from the palace, and to its north and south, were the commoners, merchants, artisans, and laborers. Their siheyuan were far smaller in scale and simpler in design and decoration, and the hutongs were narrower.

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