A hutong is a small area of old buildings in Beijing centered around one or more narrow streets or alleys. As the residential areas of common people, hutongs have for centuries contained Beijing’s popular culture. The hutongs reflect the culture of the common people, while the Forbidden City, Summer Palace, and the Temple of Heaven are symbols of imperial culture. You should not miss the hutongs during a Beijing tour!
It is the longest hutong in Beijing, but it is famous for its historical events rather than its length. In the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368), it was called Dongjiangmi Xiang (East River Rice Lane), as it was next to the river port where rice and grains from the south were unloaded for distribution in Beijing. After the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, according to the Boxer Protocol, this hutong was renamed the Legation Quarter (Dongjiaomin Xiang, as shown on official maps from then on). It became an area managed by foreign legations, and all Chinese residents in the area had to move out. Therefore there are many Western-style buildings in this hutong.
Xijiaomin Xiang and Dongjiaomin Xiang were called by a joint name Jiaomi Xiang in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Xijiaomin Xiang is famous as old Beijing's financial street.
Since the end of the Qing Dynasty and the beginning of the Republic of China (about 1900) there were many banks founded in Xijiaomin Xiang. The Daqing Bank was the most famous Chinese-funded bank. Founded in 1905, it is the first central bank of Chinese history, formerly named Hubu Bank. In January 1912, Sun Yat-sen, the temporary president of the Republic of China announced the reorganization of Daqing Bank to become the Bank of China.
At the east entrance of Xijiaomin Xiang, there is the office block of Continental Bank. It’s said that the block is the Western-style classical building with highest quality that a Chinese architect has designed. The Central Bank's former site, the Agriculture and Industry Bank of China's former site, and the Continental Bank's former site were listed as officially protected monuments and sites by the Beijing government.
Guozijian Street was formerly known as Chengxian Street (成贤街). It is listed as an important historical site. The Guozijian (Imperial College) and Confucius Temple are located in this street. Yonghegong Lama Temple is next to the east entrance of the street.
Built in 1306, the Guozijian was the highest educational institution of the Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties. Completed in 1306, the Confucius Temple was a place to sacrifice to Confucius during the Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties. Built in 1694, in the Qing Dynasty, Yonghegong Lama Temple originally served as an official residence for Prince Yong, who later became the Yongzheng Emperor.There are four pailous (traditional Chinese archways) on the street.
Tobacco Pouch Street is one of the oldest byways in Beijing, and one of the famous cultural streets of Beijing. During the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911), it was a business street mainly selling smoking sets, antique jade, and the mounting of pictures. Guangfu Temple, built in 1459, is located there. It is still a business street, now selling handiworks and clothing, with restaurants, pubs, and economy hotels. The basic architectural style of Tobacco Pouch Street has not changed.
Nanluogu Xiang is a few kilometers from the Forbidden City. It is one of the oldest streets in Beijing. It is the only board type traditional residence area in China that perseveres the Yuan Dynasty’s (1271 -1368) hutong texture completely.
Both sides of Nanluogu Xiang connect with eight east-west hutongs. Therefore, it looks like a centipede, and it is also called Wugong Xiang (centipede alley). Those eight east-west hutongs include the famous Ju’er Hutong and Mao’er Hutong. Many celebrities’ former residences are located in the hutongs around Nanluogu Xiang.
There have been many restaurants, cafes bars and special shops set up in Nanluogu Xiang. There is no doubt that it is a favorite spot with tourists from around the world!
Mao’er Hutong contains many traditional private gardens and celebrities’ former residences. Keyuan Garden in Mao’er Hutong is the former residence of Wen Yu, a grand secretary of Emperor Guangxu (1871–1908), of the Qing Dynasty. It imitates the Humble Administrator's Garden and the Lion Grove. It is one of the best-preserved private gardens in Beijing.
Numbers 35 and 37 of Mao’er Hutong are the former residence of Wan Rong (1906–1946), the last empress of Chinese history. The former residence of Feng Guozhang (1859–1919), one of the major Chinese warlords is also located in Mao’er Hutong.
Numbers 3, 5, and 7 of Ju’er Hutong are the former residence of Rong Lu (1836-1903), a minister of the late Qing Dynasty who was appreciated by Empress Dowager Cixi. Numbers 3 and 5 were listed as officially protected monuments and sites in 1988. Number 7 was the Afghan embassy.
At the end of the 1980s, a part of the siheyuans of Ju’er Hutong were remolded, and this program obtained World Habitat Awards from the United Nations. However it wasn't popular everywhere. In recent years, there have been a multitude of foreigners who like Beijing gathering in Ju’er Hutong to appeal for keeping the hutong’s original appearance.
The literal meaning of Liulichang is "colored glaze factory". There were royal kilns in Liulichang Street providing the glaze materials for imperial palaces, mansions, and gardens. That is why it is called Liulichang.
In the early Qing Dynasty, antique shops were set up, and in the Qianlong period (1736-1795) , it became the distribution center of antiques, calligraphy works, Chinese paintings, and the “scholar's four jewels” (writing brush, ink stick, ink slab and paper). Still there are many shops selling antiques, calligraphy works, and Chinese paintings. Founded in 1672, the famous Rongbaozhai still keeps operating.
Liulichang Street is a well known cultural hutong in Beijing and even China.
Jinyu in Chinese means goldfish. Jinyu Hutong is 567 meters long. The east entrance of it is 44 meters wide and the west entrance is 12 meters wide. The Xianliang Temple, one of the eight Buddhist temples built in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) is in the middle of Jinyu Hutong. Sadly many buildings of Xianliang Temple no longer exist.
Connecting with the renowned commercial area, Wangfujing Street, Jinyu Hutong is a business street. The famous Peace Hotel, Wangfu Hotel, and Peking Eastern House are located there.
The Eight Hutongs, nightspots in the old days of Beijing are: Baishun Hutong, Yanzhi Hutong, Hanjiatan (now known as Hanjia Hutong), Shaanxi Xiang, Stone Hutong, Wangguangfu Street (now known as Sago Palm Street), Zhujia Hutong, and Lishamao Hutong (now known as Dali Hutong and Xiaoli Hutong).
They were founded during the Qianlong Emperor period (1735–96), and were famous at the end of Qing Dynasty (1644–1911) and the Republic of China period (1911–49). Lady Sai Jinhua (famous prostitute and influential lady, 1872–1936) once lived in some of these hutongs. One building she lived in is preserved in Shaanxi Xiang.
The Eight Hutongs have been preserved, though there are great changes happening in Beijing.