Honeycombing the heart of Beijing are the historic hutong: alleyways containing old, walled courtyards, often fronted by thick red doors, with the more prestigious guarded by a pair of lions on either side. Their existence dates originally fron the Yan dynasty in the 14th century.  The number of hutongs in the city numbered 6000 in the 1950's. Howevery, today there are considerably less and more are rapidly disappearing each day because of the high premium on land and the modernization of the city as it prepares  for the 2008 Olympics.

The Pedi-cabs are lined up ready for another days' work. 
We chose a nice spring day this March to go the tour. There are a number of them in Beijing, we went to the hutongs near BeiHai Park. That's me and Mr.Wong, our driver, and yes, I had to force him to pose with us before he left us with the tour guides.  Samantha and Kevin get to share a pedi-cab, doesn't Kevin look thrilled?
    Can you believe cars actually drive down these alleys? We met up with one, and it was a close call.  Thank goodness cars are rare around here. These alleys are so intertwined, it is easy to lose your way.
    Each door to the courtyards can be plain and brown or highly ornate. The more decorative the door, the more important the family is, possibly someone rich or famous, someone in government or someone who has friends in the government. 

  courtyard 01     
    The residence surrounding each courtyard is divided up into N-S-E-W quadrants. Boys stay in the east side, because it is warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. The girls stay in the west side, parents in the north and the kitchen, bath area are located in the south buildings. Guests also stay in the south side. Each courtyard  has an entrance way.....
Kevin is standing by an inscription that displays the family name.  Samantha is in the courtyard doorway just beyond the "red door". As a young unmarried chinese girl, this is as far as she can go from her home without a female chaperon.
Commercial streets in the Hutong.  The neatest little shops that sell absolutely everything  

    They boil sugar and water until it thickens, take a dollop and knead it into a hollow egg shape. One end has a long tail with a pinhole into which they blow, turning it around until it reaches ithe desired shape. Within one minute the raw candy is transformed into an animal.
This is the craft of candy-blowing; its masters are called candy men.
Kevin, Samantha, Donna with HoiHai Lake in the background.    

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