Since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Beijing’s hutong have been on the endangered list, victims of the Communist Party’s desire to modernize the republic. More recently, property developers have set their sights on many of the city’s traditional neighborhoods. Nowadays, less than 1000 hutong remain, compared to around 6000 in the mid-1950’s. The authorities have begun to designate a few hutong as protected areas, preserving them so that they can become boutiques, cafes and souvenir shops, but it’s still too early to tell how many hutong will be able to survive the wrecking ball.
For Memorial Day, we rode the Metro two stops to one of Beijing’s most famous hutong, Nánluógŭxiàng 南锣鼓巷. We started out by walking along Chădòu Hútòng 炒豆胡同, where Amber stopped to admire the entranceway to the former mansion of a Qing dynasty general named Seng Gelinqin:
This wasn't a courtyard entrance, but a hallway gate, a connecting passageway between two hutong:
The house at No. 37 was the former home of Wăn Ròng婉容, the woman who married China’s last emperor, Pŭyí 溥仪. It was also one of the few homes open to the public:
Despite the effects of tourism, the hutong still function as ordinary neighborhoods populated by the common folk…:
Leaving the Bell Tower, our next stop was naturally the nearby Drum Tower:
The drums inside the Drum Tower were once used to mark the times of the day. The Night Watchman’s Drum 更鼓 was a little worse for the wear, having been damaged during the Boxer Rebellion by the Eight Nation Alliance:
Looking at the Drum Tower from the front, demonstrating how in China bigger is always considered definitely to be better: