Archives For Hutong & Heritage

In the 1520s, this village was an important military base. The village was encircled by stone walls, some leading up the steep hills of the valley, and some of the arched entries and exits still remain. The thickness of the remaining walls give some indication of the level of fortification, and the importance of securing this pass, a sort-of shortcut around the heavily fortified Badaling mountain pass.

As well as the old city walls, the village has several other sights to see: an old shrine which is alleged to cause difficulties for cameras; a restored-but-closed temple with a large bell inside, and a giant old tree just outside the temple entrance.

For more photos please see its website:

Chapter I – A Disappearing World

The Fate of Old Beijing: CH. 1 – A Disappearing World from Jonah Kessel on Vimeo.

Chapter II – David vs. Goliath

The Fate of Old Beijing: CH. 2 – David vs. Goliath from Jonah Kessel on Vimeo.

Chapter III – Beyond the Alleys

The Fate of Old Beijing: CH. 3 – Beyond the Alleys from Jonah Kessel on Vimeo.

Cuandixia Village

john  —  February 21, 2012

On the ancient land of Beijing lies an ancient mountain village with peaceful tranquilities and distinctive characters. It is “the cultural pearl of ancient villages”—”Cuandixia Village”, which hides itself quietly in the deep valleys in the west of Beijing.

Cuandixia village lies on a ancient post road,90km far form Beijing. It was first built in the Ming Dynasty, where the Han’s Family has inhabited. After its development for several generations, it became a flourishing inn on the post road populated by many people. Its economics is dominated by farming, combining farming with trading, ploughing with reading. Cuandixia village, having a long history of several hundreds of years, has retained the beauty of traditional culture relics and vernacular environments. Mountains surround Cuandixia village and streams flow through them.The village layout merging with the slopes is quite orderly and harmonic. About 70 various and flexible courtyards were built one by one following the terrain of the slopes. The houses were built with natural stones and wood, the steep stairs and streets paved by the rocks are all simple,natural and colorful. The poetic landscape,the ancient architecture, the emotional carvings and antithetical couplets all express the villager’s love of beauty and the desiring for culture. The environments, where the villagers have inhabited, ploughed and enjoyed themselves for generations are full of serenity, just like “a Land of Peach Blossoms”. In this village, the beauty of nature,artifacts and society have been combined to a unity, producing and idyllic drawing full of vitality. It reflects the traditional concepts of harmony between”human and nature”, “human and human”, “human and society”.

Cuandixia village has the rare value as the “live fossil”. It records the historical development, the intelligence and practicing of the ancestor during the construction of the village.Historical relics from different periods have been reserved. Cuandixia village has experienced many things and changed much over the time. Although not brilliant any more, it’s still very attractive for its cordial, natural and vivid environment. The well-preserved village and the hilly courtyards,the intense depositions of vernacular culture and the captivating idyllic scenery are all astonishing and splendid!

The Imperial Academy

john  —  February 21, 2012

Beijing’s Guozijian(国子监), or Imperial Academy.

For centuries, the top young scholars on civil service examination came here to study Confucian classics and learn to write in a beautiful hand. Today, it is a quiet place to read a book or just sit by the pavilion where the emperor gave his annual lectures.


john  —  February 21, 2012

Foreigners living in and traveling to Beijing frequent areas like Qian’men, Sanlitun and Houhai for shopping, drinking and other fun activities. However, there are many somewhat hidden places that have much to offer like Nanluoguxiang located in the Dongcheng District near the Drum Tower (GuLou 鼓楼).

Nanluoguxiang is a traditional-style hutong (alley) that has been renovated and filled with small shops, cafes, hostels and bars. It attracts both young and old, Chinese and foreigners with its range of offerings. A few of my favorite places around Nanluoguxiang are C Rock Record Shop (located on Gulou East Ave), Plastered T-Shirts, The Pass By Bar and 12SQM Bar. If you’re shopping for a more alternative, hipper style this area is perfect with a lot of music inspired clothing.

While Nanluoguxiang’s tourist traffic has dramatically increased over the past few years, the quint feel of this hutong and others around it are still perfect for a weekend stroll. For more pictures, please see our Nanluoguxiang photo album.

(Blog contributed by TheBJReviewer on July 5, 2011)

Related photos:


Beijing Hutongs

john  —  February 21, 2012

Hutongs, narrow lanes or alleys lines by courtyard housing, form traditional residential fabric in the historic center of Beijing. The Hutong — the term is derived from the Mongolian word hottog (water well) — came into being during the Yuan dynasty (1271 to 1368), when China was absorbed into the Mongol Empire. Most of Beijing’s remaining Hutongs date back to the Ming dynasty (1368 to 1644), which established Beijing as its capital city in 1421 on the site of the original Yuan capital.

Related article:

5 Unexpected Finds in the Beijing Hutongs

The Drum Tower and The Bell Tower

john  —  February 20, 2012

The Drum Tower and the Bell Tower in Beijing were used for keeping and announcing time for almost 700 years. Drums and bells were used in China for over 2,000 years to tell the time and every major city had a drum tower and bell tower. From 1272 to 1924 the Drum Tower and the Bell Tower in Beijing were used for announcing the time.


The two towers were originally built in 1272 during the Yuan Dynasty when China was ruled by Kublai Khan. At that time the capital of China was called Dadu not Beijing. The towers were destroyed by fire soon after construction and were not rebuilt again until 1420.

After the fall of the Yuan Dynasty and the establishment of the Ming Dynasty in 1368, Dadu was renamed Beijing, the city was extended, the Forbidden City was built and the city was laid out on its current north south axis. In 1420 the site of the towers was moved east to their current site on the most northern end of the north south axis.

Continue Reading…

The Hutongs

john  —  February 18, 2012

Hutongs are small alley ways or lanes surrounding the Forbidden City in the old section of Beijing that are hundreds of years old. These hutongs provide a tantalizing insight into life in ancient Beijing and a glimpse of modern Beijing’s traditional life.

A typical residence in ancient Beijing was a walled compound with a courtyard yard in the center that was surrounded by living quarters that were built against the north east and west walls of the compound. The southern wall of the compound was the gateway and entrance to the residence. Typically one family of at least three generations lived in a residence and the courtyard was the focus point of the family.

A hutong is formed by a row of these traditional residences the same way a suburban street is formed by a row of houses and yards. The residences faced south for better light and heat so hutongs normally run on a east to west axis.

Continue Reading…