Monday, September 18, 2006

Hutong

Beijing's characteristic hutongs (residential alleyways) are disappearing quickly as redevelopment takes place ahead of the 2008 Olympic Games in the city.

In their glory-days when up to a quarter of Beijingers lived in their narrow confines, hutongs were long, snaking, maze-like alleys made up of old style houses situated on the four sides of a courtyard (siheyuan) and small, squat shop-houses.

Now city authorities are urging residents to leave the hutongs ahead of planned road-widening and redevelopment schemes for the 2008 Summer Games.

Some hutong districts have been conserved however, such as those around the Drum Tower area and it is possible to take an organized tour of the best-preserved hutongs in a pedicab or hire your own bicycles.

Some of Beijing's most famous hutongs are Jiuwan hutong (Nine Bend Alley), Beijing's oldest hutong - Zhuanta hutong (Brick Pagoda Alley) and the city's longest hutong Dongjiamin Xiang at 3km in length in the Dongcheng district.

The fate of the city's traditional houses (siheyuan) mirrors that of wooden townhouses (machiya) in Kyoto in Japan which were bulldozed in the 1980s and 1990s but are now enjoying something of a revival.

© Beijing-visitor.com


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