We spent a day with the locals at a hutong neighborhood in Beijing. A hutong is a traditionalChinese neighborhood with concrete houses and narrow alleys. About forty years ago, most of Beijing was comprised of hutongs – before they were demolished to make way for large high rises today. The hutong we went to is protected by the government as a way to preserve cultural history.
SInce there’s so few hutongs left in cities, they are now worth millions of dollars. They are either owned by families who have lived there for generations, or wealthy celebrities. The younger generation moved out of hutongs and into high rises, while the old generation is stubbornly staying because they don’t want to leave the community. Our hostess explained to us that everyone is like family there.
The hutong we went to is at city center, close to the Dragon Line. That’s what they call the line that goes down the center of the city (or in Chinese history, the center of the world). It has all the major national monuments on it, including the Forbidden City and Tienamen Square. It’s considered good luck to be near that line.
Here’s our volunteer tour guide, Alice. She’s explaining the layout of traditional Chinese houses. All the houses have a courtyard and a few rooms, all in separate buildings. She grew up in a hutong herself, but moved out to live in a high rise.
This is the entry way for the house we went into. The land is owned by the government, but the houses are owned by the people. However, the government can relocate people if they need to use the land.
I believe my dad grew up in a similar style house in Taiwan.
Our hostess invited us into her house for lunch. Her kitchen is a small room outdoors with a sink and a stove for two woks. There’s a small fridge and microwave in the living room, though I doubt they use them that much. Most of what they eat is fresh from the market.
life (our guide translated for us). They’re asking us if we’re full.