The hutongs of Beijing

These days, in order to be a fully fledged patronising Westerner/ serious photographer/ nosy tourist, it seems you must explore the poorer, more traditional, ‘real’ parts of a city.

Beijing is no different. So after being urged by various internet sources to do so, and with little choice after losing my tour group in the Forbidden City, I set about visiting the city’s hutongs.

A hutong, literally, means a narrow street or alley-way, associated with northern Chinese cities, particularly the capital. They are now associated with the classic tale whereby a traditional way of life is under threat as modernisation and development takes over a city.

Shanghai’s equivalent area Xiaonanmen is somewhere I had already explored, and found to be quite upsetting as it was manically being demolished to make room for swanky flats and high rise offices. Beijing’s older section, however, I found to be a lot calmer and peaceful, perhaps because the government has designated some hutongs as protected areas, in a bid to preserve their cultural history.

I wandered the hutongs around Nanluoguxiang (subway line 6) and Ping’anli (line 4). Despite some stares, no one was hostile and people continued on with their daily life in spite of the camera wielding sole Westerner walking around.

Hope you enjoy these shots I took that afternoon!

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Now for my favourite part: adorable Chinese children, too youthful to be guarded, posing and showing off their cute pet dog.

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