Hutong – The Old Style Courtyard Residence

Hutong is the cultural relics of Yuan Dynasty that can be seen in the suburbs of Beijing. Hutongs are traditional courtyard residences and narrow alleys that are joined each other and developed around a well. The meaning for Hutong is water well, in Mongolian language. The Hutongs systems are developed during Yuan Dynasty. The Hutongs, connected to one other stretched out in all direction in the Beijing city in the old days. This type of housing got its momentum during Ming and Qing Dynasty. As per official information, during Yuan Dynasty there were only 29 Hutongs and in Ming Dynasty the number rose to 1,070. It further went up to 2,076 during Qing Dynasty and by the end of 1949 there were about 3,250 Hutongs in Beijing. When the city gave way to modern construction, many of the Hutongs were demolished. Today the there are hardly less than 1,000 Hutongs which are protected by the Chinese authorities.


The Hutongs are connected to one another:

The beauty of Hutong is that all layouts are connected with one another. This style of construction helps people to be connected always and as a result people are having good inter personal relationship. This way of life allowed people to know one and each other. It is more like a community life style where people can get every item for their daily life around the corner of the layouts. If you take an aerial view of the location, it may resemble like a chess board. It is will be a wonderful experience when you realize that the city or complex developed to the exterior from a well. Every Hutong is having water well.


Today you can see the Hutongs in the old Beijing. The Hutongs helps people to understand the living style of old Chinese culture. Each Hutongs are given a name to represent the location. Some Hutongs are given the name of important personalities of that location. 

Style of Hutong can identify the status of the resident:

All Dynasties who ruled Beijing contributed their town planning vision in encouraging people to develop Hutong. Hutong is simply stands for town. During Ming Dynasty the epicenter of the city was the Forbidden City and surrounding the city people are allowed to settle as per their social status. The affluent and aristocrats were allowed to settle in the east and west portion of imperial palace. The Hutongs developed in this region were mainly the people closely related to the administrating ranks of the Dynasties and rich merchants. Their house entrances were adorned with beautifully designed craftworks and painted doors. The developments of Hutongs were so systematic. Many of such complexes had large gardens and courtyards. The Hutongs belonged to the common people and small time merchants were comparatively with small features, such as narrow alleys and simple in appearance.


Hutongs do have a common character. The main entrance gates of the Hutongs are facing towards south to get more natural light. Between the Hutongs there are narrow lanes as passages. In ancient China the Hutongs were used as the bottom level of administrative geographical division, like a city within a city. The modern China is not following the old system of administration. However some of the Hutongs especially in the old Beijing are preserved by the authority as a cultural heritage. Tourists are encouraged to visit the area to have a close understanding about Chinese tradition and history.Image



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