Beijing hutongs are not only a great place for walks and shopping but also means for deeper understanding of traditional Chinese culture like language or TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) during special courses. During one of my walks in Beijing's hutongs I've found a place like this named Yiask.
Not everywhere will you find Beijiners who speak English so short Mandarin course was a great possiblity to learn basic expressions and sentences in this language. I've booked a 3-day course (3 lessons - 1,5 h each) on Yiask website which was my first experience with this not so easy language but it was worth it. In a group of 5 foreigners we got to know expressions related to shopping, getting directions, Spring Festival, etc. The instructor was a very nice Chinese girl with an excellent English accent who also gave us interesing tips about Chinese culture.
In Yiask I also set 1-1 acupuncture appointment which was one of my greatest experiences in Beijing.
During one of my walks in Beijing's hutongs I've found an interesting place named Yiask. It's a center of traditional Chinese culture where you can enjoy different courses. Using the form on Yiask website I set an appointment for 1-1 acupuncture consulting connected with the therapy. At Yask office I've met a very nice instructor-Chen who is a TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) specialist. I got a lot of useful information, anserws for my questions and knowledge what I can do with acupuncture by myself. The lengh of the appointment was 90 min and the cost was 79 USD.
After that I also attended the "Chinese language for beginners" course. Apart from that you can find here courses of tea ceremony, physiotheraphy and herb exploration,etc.
Visiting Yiask is also a good opportunity to meet other vistors to Beijing and local people who are interested in getting to know old Chinese culture and its heritage in an interesting way and to see what is the architecture of hutong inside this traditional, little houses.
It gets my full recommendation!
Most people live in government-owned apartments, but hutongs are the exception in housing. They are small traditional houses and owned outright by the people living in them. There aren’t many of them left. We were able to visit one. This couple has two rooms and a little separate (and very basic) kitchen. Shower facilities, etc. for the neighborhood are in a nearby building.
The hutongs are like a maze--We walked through blocks of crowded alleys, and I’d never have found my way back alone.
Hutongs are small narrow streets were remnant from the ancient capital city. If you walk around these streets , you might be amazed how old Beijing can be. With these old Hutong, you can picture those ancient Chinese city in the movie. Then, the forbidden City is surrounded by Hutong neighborhood , being the center of the city.
Explore the streets with smile, or maybe have a bowl of noodle in one of those old restaurants! You could meet the locals to get to know their life and the old Hutong houses.
Unfortunately, the city of Beijing has demolished a lot of these houses to build high rise buildings. The city also preserves some Hutong streets for tourism purpose. The South Luogu Ally is a good example.
In Chinese: 胡同 (Hu Dong)
The buildings are very interesting and if it isn't too hazy you can get a good view of the area around them. Both have long flights of stairs to get to the top and there are drum performances scheduled periodically during the day at the Drum Tower. They are very close to each other and the admission for both is 30 Yuan.
Da Jiang Hutong is a preserved hutong district located east of Qianmen. A lot of the buildings are newly restored. They all have unique traditional architecture with the combination of east and west. The area not only has old houses but mostly shop-lots, office buildings, and an outdoor food street market promoting Taiwanese foods. The street marts are also selling art and crafts from Taiwan to promote Taiwanese cultures to the mainland Chinese and tourists from abroad.
The following attractions are located in the neighborhood:
1) Taiwan Guild Hall
2) Liulaogen Grand Stage.
3) Teresa Tang Museum, (Famous Taiwanese Female Single).
This is another great place for shopping and hang-out in the evening. Don't miss!!
In Chinese: 大江胡同 (Da Jiang Hu Tong)
I found that I had been extremely lucky when booking a Hostel to stay in Beijing and looking at the accomodation possibilites I wisely chose to stay in a "Hutong"..This apparently was an extremely popular Hutong area that many Chinese from all over the city visited usually on weekends..At this time the Hutongs would have crowds of local Beijing residents all dressed up in their fineries...strutting their stuff in the Hutong.
The popularity was apparent with many different cafes and eateries and tea houses catering to the many visitors.although the place itself while full of life it was pretty well devoid of colour..This was a great place to stay and daily walks through the many back streets of the hutongs were very interesting..watching the locals going about their daily lifetime activities within the "Hutongs".To be a westerner here is for many to be something of a celebrity with many asking to have their photo taken with you !!!!
After our tour through the Hutongs in the Ho Hoi area we moved on to the Drum Tower with our guide. From the top of the Drum Tower we could see the skyline of Beijing. Off in the distance, almost forboding looking, is The Forbidden City, forever preserved from destruction.
A Hutong is the name given to a small square formed by the various rooms of a typical old fashioned Beijing dwelling.
As you drive through the flashy wide streets of modern Beijing, dwarfed by its glittering sky-scrapers, you won't find these little squares readily. You need to go off the beaten path. Like much of the world, Beijing has destroyed many of the original hutongs to make way for modern development. Then, realising its mistake, the Government is now doing all it can to preserve these wonderful native structures.
Wander a little bit off the main thoroughfares, for example around the area surrounding the Back Lake, and find yourself some narrow streets (so narrow even one car can't pass down) and you may begin your hutong search.
We were part of a guided tour and so we were taken to a renovated and modernised one. It was very pretty, with the open space of the hutong covered in grape vines hung with red lanterns and twittering birds.
It seems that the hutong is laid out to conform with the ethos of feng sui, with the main building at the Northern end, kitchen at the south east, and bathroom at the south west.
Those that have been modernised are now fitted with showers, computers, tv's and all mod cons.
I would suggest that you go off the beaten path to find one that hasn't beern modernised - that's what I would have liked:-)
We climbed towards the Houtongs, the ancient streets, which are already very few. In the area of the Prince Gong's Palace there are a few... But there are 2 types of streets here:
- there is kind of tour to tourist, with buses and rickshaws, and shops in the streets selling things to tourists.
- on the around streets is just the normal life of the locals. Here come up normal neighborhoods, poor, in a doorway, giving rise to a small neighborhood ... It is also Beijing!
I went to Great Wall by bus, line 919. The starting station is at De sheng men Gate, an ancient City Gate,also named Jianlou Tower (literal means a broigne for arrow solider). It is used to be part of city wall of Beijing and you can still see some remain wall here.You can take subway here, line 2 at De Sheng Men station, or you will drive an auto passing here for it is also the starting of Ba da ling expressway.I remembered a history event when i was waiting bus, a war to defend Beijing from invading by Mongolian and just happened in this Gate .This is a story about brave and determination. No matter how hopelessness, you need to hold on to the last, then you will do a miracle.
At Ming Dynasty in 1446 AD, ancient Mongolian won a battle at Tu mu bao and prisoned Yingzong, the Chinese emperor, and also killed 200,000 soldiers. Then they invaded further until they met a general, Yu qian. Yu qian and his troops waited Mongolian outside the Den sheng men Gate(the north gate of Beijing). It is a final war for them and if they lost, the whole history of China would be changed. After the troops went across the city moat, the gate was closed behind them. In front of astonished eyes of his army, Yuqian said,"it is no use to only talk about your determination usually. Today you need to realize it. Fight untill your death". It means only two types of person can came into the city again, victory one or corpus. He is an hero, isn't it?
the ancient houses of the capital beijing where very small and are mostly gone since they are remodelling Beijing and building large condominiums to accomodate the burgeoning population of the capital. a typical hutong has a one to two room area and the rooms are multi-purpose like for eating or sleeping or living room etc.
There is not much of old Beijing left. The first impression a visitor gets as he races along the highway from the airport is of a modern city rushing headlong into the 21st century: shopping malls, corporate towers, highrise hotels. But you can find something of the old Beijing in the hutongs, the lanes or alleys which run between compounds of houses built around an inner courtyard. The word "hutong" apparently comes from an old Mongolian word meaning "well". A well was dug, and houses were built around it. Take a cycle rickshaw through the gray-tiled lanes and relive something of Beijing's traditional past.
Hutongs are the alleyways of Beijing along which people have live for centuries in one-floor apartments that open onto common courtyards with shared kitchens and bathrooms. In addition to residences, the hutongs are lined with small shops and businesses that cater to the locals. With all of the construction activity in recent years, Beijing's hutongs have been disappearing at a rapid clip, being replaced with multistory apartment and office buildings.
While you are in Beijing, take the time to stroll through some of the hutongs. It is a great way to get a feel for how the city's people live, and get a feel for the city's culture. We strolled through a bunch of them and felt very safe. It was a nice change of pace from the usual tourist sights.
We enjoyed wandering around the hutongs around the Bell Tower area,and near to the Behai lakes, and in my opinion it is not necessary to take a rickshaw tour. It is much more fun to walk, to peek into the alleyways and people's houses but you had better hurry because this area is fast disappearing , and being "renovated".Some of the new shops have been built in the old style but appeared to me a little gentrified ,not so much the real thing as a replica.
The whole area is a lot of fun, though, especially the little bars and tea houses near to the lake.
We dived inside one and had a splendid cup of tea, when it started raining , and came out again when the rain stopped.