In addition to imperial structures and gardens, hutong and siheyuan (quadrangle) are characteristic of life in Beijing and perfect to tour, whether riding in a rickshaw, on a bike or on foot.
Most people who visit Beijing are drawn to its hutong and siheyuan (courtyard with houses on four sides). In Beijing, hutongs may follow criss-crossing grids or wind naturally with the environment; they house many families. If you want to known more about hutong, you should enter the quaint courtyards which are the main structures found in hutongs, and Beijing courtyards are famous all over the world. In ancient Beijing, in addition to the Forbidden City, imperial gardens, temples and yamen (government departments), most of the structures were for civil use. In the quaint courtyards, there lived not only old Beijingers from generation to generation, but also notables. Former residences of notables are the main attractions in some courtyards, allowing you an insight into the lives of historical, distinguished people.
Unfortunately, many of the old courtyard dwellings are becoming uninhabitable. Modern buildings are replacing them, and some hutongs are losing contact with the past. Nonetheless, hutongs still account for about one-third of the dwellings in Central Beijing. Many renowned hutongs have been preserved to protect Beijing’s heritage and to maintain the ancient charms of a modern and internationalized Beijing.
Classical Courtyards in Beijing
No. 11 Courtyard, Mao’er Hutong
Wen Yi, a learned person of the late Qing Dynasty, built the courtyard, one of the most beautiful private gardens in Beijing.
No. 3 and No. 5 Courtyards, Ju’er Hutong, and No. 6 Courtyard, Shoubi Hutong
This house is very big, with three parts. The southern part is a residence; the middle part is a garden and the western part has western-style structures.
No. 35 and No. 37 Courtyards, Mao’er Hutong
The last empress of the Qing Dyansty, Wan Rong, lived here before marrying. It’s also called “Queen’s House”.
No. 22 Courtyard, Banchang Hutong
This was once Senggelingqin’s home, a noble of the late Qing Dynasty. Now, it has been rebuilt as the Lusongyuan Courtyard Hotel.
No. 53 Courtyard, Shijia Hutong
Shijia Hutong No. 53 is a typical courtyard with high-end architectural style. In 1999, Cherie Blair, the wife of then British Prime Minister Tony Blair, had a party here.
No. 7 Courtyard, Houyuan’ensi Hutong
This courtyard used to be the home of a Qing Prince’s second son. Now, it’s the Youhao Hotel.
Typical Hutongs in Beijing
The longest Hutong: Dongjiaominxiang in Dongcheng District, which is 3 kilometers long.
The Shortest Hutong: Yichi Street in Xicheng District, which is only 25.23 meters long.
The Widest Hutong: Lingjing Hutong in Xicheng District, which is 32.18 meters wide at its widest point.
The Narrowest Hutong: Xiaolaba Hutong in Xicheng District, its northern entrance is less than six-tenths of a meter wide.
Hutong with Most Corners: Jiuwan Hutong in Xicheng District, with more than 13 corners.