Hutong has a double meaning. Originally, a hutong is a type of narrow alley, most commonly associated with Beijing. In Beijing, hutong alleys are formed by lines of Siheyuan, old Beijing residences, called courtyard or quad in English. Thus, hutong also refer to the neighborhood formed by lines of hutong alleys and Siheyuan houses. Hutong was the origin of Beijing culture and hutong culture could reflect the old face of Beijing. Some hutongs have been designated as protected areas though most of hutongs are demolished to make way for new roads and buildings in the modern times.
Hutong has a long history that could be dated back to the Zhou Dynasty (1027-256BC). The living quarter was divided for different people based on the social classes. For example, in the Ming Dynasty in the early 15th century, the center was the Forbidden City; aristocrats lived close to the imperial palace to the east and west while the commoners, merchants, artisans and laborers were far from the palace to its north and south. The Siheyuan residences of the nobility’s were beautifully featured and large, and the hutongs they formed were orderly and spacious in contrast to the far smaller and simpler Siheyuan and the narrower hutong alleys of the ordinary people.
Each Hutong has a name and is named in various ways: some are named by place names, such as Inner Xizhimen Hutong; some by temples, such as Guanyinsi Hutong, some by people’s names, such as Mengduan Hutong.
In addition, lots of most famous Beijing attractions are distributed in the Hutong area and there are also top famous Hutongs in Beijing and most featured Hutongs. Learn more through our introduction of Hutong Attractions, Top 10 Hutongs and Most Featured Hutongs.
Nowadays, more and more travellers prefer to live in the characteristic hotels in hutongs. Most Hutong hotels are actually the old Siheyuan, the classic residence type of old Beijing and most are operated by the house’s family. The furniture, dectoration and layout are old Chinese featured. Thus, the tourists living in the hotels are able to learn more deeply about the local people’s daily life and the interesting Hutong culture by staying right in the old town Beijing.