The Hutong: Well, I couldn’t take the Hong Kong Jockey Club members just to a beautiful section of The Great Wall. A visit to Beijing should also include a jaunt through a hutong or two – those collections of narrow alleyways that are formed by rows of traditional courtyard style dwellings. Fortunately, when my fiancée lived in that city for two years, I had a chance to explore many of the old hutongs there. Up until the 1950’s, virtually all of Beijing residences were of this style; however, with China’s rapid modernization, many of these were torn down to make way for modern apartment buildings and office blocks. Those that remain are now largely protected areas, and a number of them have been refurbished and frequented by groups of tourists in pedicabs.
I was thrilled to be able to discover an ancient hutong on one of my visits that appeared to be completely overlooked by the tourists and had a real old Beijing ambiance to it that many of the other hutongs appeared to have lost. When I brought my group there, our sense of the past was heightened by the silence pervading through the soft morning light, for we were the only ones there along with the local residents.
An elderly resident strolling along with her walking aid
Storage sheds along a narrow alleyway
Chairs of all styles, age, and sizes are a key identity of a hutong