Hutong refers to the ancient small lanes peculiar to Beiing. Hutong, which originated from the Yuan Dynasty, has a history of more than 700 years.
Beijing has a wide variety of hutongs, each having its own distinctive characteristics. Most of the hutongs in Beijing were named after the official organizations, temples, warehouses, workshops, bridges, rivers, fairs, commodities, utensils, the surnames of some celebrities, scenic spots and folk customs. Many of the original names have still been used until today.
Hutong in Beijing, mostly extending straight from east to west or from south to north, form a square city of Beijing. The residential houses are most siheyuan ( rectangular compound ) complete with rooms facing south. This is why the hutongs formed as a result of connected rectangular compounds mostly extend from east to west.
The hutong is mainly lined on both sides by courtyards containing compound houses, known as quadrangles, which are traditional residences in old Beijing. A quadrangle often has a large courtyard with independent houses along its four sides. The house on the north squarely facing the courtyard entrance is the main house, those on the east and west sides are wing houses, and the house on the south are called inversely set house.
The courtyard in the quadrangle is spacious, and the houses on the four sides are independent, linked by covered corridors. It is a closed residence, with only one door facing the street. When the door is closed, the family can fully enjoy its privacy, as well as the natural scenery.
The quadrangles in Beijing are national precious cultural heritages of China. Many typical quadrangles can be found in Shichahai and Lishi Hutong. Riding in old-fashioned pedicabs through these hutongs is a great experience. And you can also visit local family and make Jiaozi (dumplings ) with the host, which will be something special for your Beijing trip.