This is presently Beijing’s longest hutong a preserved traditional street with commoner residences, and it is considered the most attractive Hutong in Beijing with 3.25 kilometers long.
This long city street runs parallel with Chang An Street. The street was once a prosperous street where rice was sold, and it was also considered the city’s finance street because of banks and merchants on the lane. After the city was built by the Mongols during the Yuan Dynasty, the original geometrical urban plan was altered. Streets grew of themselves as people built walled residences. Each walled compound was connected to the others, so that that high long walls with small gates bordered the streets. This is how the hutong was formed. In 1901, it became a foreign legation street with lots of embassies and foreigners living there. There are trees and sidewalks and a lot of early 20th century buildings that were built by foreigners, and people park their cars near the street. So people can see common urban residential life and foreign-built old buildings and shop and eat in the restaurants.
On a spot along the street, thick green willows offer shade for avoiding the summer heat. Since the area is close to the Forbidden City, foreign governments and foreigners built embassies and offices. Chinese government offices including those of the Ministry of Rites were set up to receive foreign guests. After the Second Opium War, Russia, England, America, France, Portugal, Germany, Japan, and Italy built their embassies on this street. During this period, the name of the lane was changed from Rice Street to the Lane of Dong Jiao and Xi Jiao orDong Xi Jiao. Now, there are a lot of interesting architectures with various international styles including French, British, and American that you can see, and some of Beijing’s best international restaurants are now located along Dong Xi Jiao.
The Memorial Hall of Chairman Mao now lies along Dong Xi Jiao. Along with this building, a lot of other historically notable buildings are along it. It is an interesting place to visit for the restaurants and for seeing foreign architecture in the center of Beijing. The lane is surrounded by Beijing’s landmarks. To the north are Tian An Men, The Forbidden City, Zhong Shan Garden, Beijing Hotel, and Wang Fu Jin Business Mall. To the south are the Sword Tower, Zheng Yang Men, the Temple of Heaven, and Xian Nong Temple. Around the area are the Monument of People’s Heroes, the Great Hall of the People, the Natural History Museum and the National Opera Building. Thus, this street is a golden lane linking a great many important sites of our human heritage.
Along Dong Xi Jiao Lane, there are the buildings of the Liu He Hotel, the French Embassy, the Post Office of France, the French Catholic St. Michael's Church, the Agriculture Bank of France and the Continental Bank. These Western buildings have a century worth of history and exemplified the best of Western architecture for their times. Some of the original buildings have new uses. The former Japanese Embassy is now the Beijing Municipal People's Government Building. The former German Embassy is now a clothing store. The Italian Embassy was turned into the Foreign Friendship Association that serves to build communication and cooperation with foreigners.
Some notable buildings now have notable functions. St. Michael’s Church is still an active church. It is a two-story building that was built in French Gothic style. It is distinctive and beautiful with colorful stained glass sparkling amid the flat-topped buildings around it. Though it is two stories, it is really quite tall. There are two tall steeples. There is a statue of St. Michael hovering above the gate. There are some single-story brick buildings near it that are a mixture of traditional Chinese and Western architecture. They have arched doors and windows, and they were once church offices. The church was built by a French priest, and it is still in use. Services are held twice a day from Monday to Saturday in Chinese at 6:30 am and 7 am. On Sunday, they are in the Chinese language at 7 am, 8 am and 6 pm. At 10:30 am, it is in Korean language.
The former Legation Quarter has a number of notable and high-end restaurants. Once through the gate into the area from Dong Xi Jiao Lane, it's like stepping into a different world. There are newly constructed glass buildings and the old site of the American Embassy. This space, though it is inconspicuous from the outside, is home to some of the best Western restaurants in Beijing. There is the Meat and Wine Co. that claims to have the best steaks in Beijing -- shipped directly from Australia. All the restaurants at Ch'ien Men such as Maison Boulud, the Japanese Shiro Matsui, and the Italian Ristorante Sadler are luxurious. There are even prestigious boutique shops like those of the watchmakers Patek Philippe and Melchers.
The Mongols destroyed much of Beijing when they established the Yuan Dynasty. But they designed a highly geometrical and planned city. The inner city of Beijing retains the geometrical design, but the neighborhood streets bordering it meander. Dong Xi Jiao was a meant to be a principal lane next to the Forbidden City of the Qing Dynasty, so it was planned to be a wide street. In 1901, the International Protocol treaty designated Dong Xi Jiao Lane as an embassy zone. The street continued to be an embassy area after 1949.
Besides the many attractions mentioned above in the Overview section, the Beijing Police Museum that is in the former building of the National City Bank of New York and the Beijing Urban Planning Exhibition Hall are notable especially if you want to learn more about Beijing’s urban history and what modern Beijing is like now.
The Beijing Police Museum is toward the western end of Dongxijiao Hutong near Zhengyi Lu. The building is simple and serious, with a solemn gate and tall pillars. The first floor of the museum contains displays that chronicle the history of the police force. The second floor exhibits more recent police technology. The third and fourth floors have a memorial wall and artifacts. For 20 RMB or 3 USD, people can get a ticket that includes admission to the simulation shooting range with 20 bullets. The museum closes on Monda and opens from 9 p.m. to 4 p.m. on the other days.
Another notable building in the immediate area is the Beijing Urban Planning Exhibition Hall. There are numerous maps and models in the hall, displaying what Beijing or its buildings looked like in the past. The highlight of a visit to the Beijing Planning Exhibition Hall is the extraordinarily detailed scale model of the city that projects what China’s capital will look like in the year 2020. English-speaking guides assist foreign tourists.
China Highlights can help you customize a tour to visit Dong Xi Jiao Hutong and other highlights in Beijing.
Transportation to the Dong Xi Jiao Hutong is easy because it is in the middle of Beijing.
Address: the Central Square of Tian An Men, Beijing.
Bus: No. 1, 2, 4, 5, 9, 10, 17, 22, 44 and many others go to the hutong or along it.
Subway: Line 2 to Qianmen Station