Beijing 2009 - Hutong Trishaw Ride

The Hutongs of Beijing are now famous and have become popular tourist attractions. They are essentially old residential areas around the Forbidden City, where many court officials and also the general populace used to live. The term "Hutong" actually means water wells in the Mongol language. Hutongs are developed around water wells as these were their only source of water. 

Houses in the Hutongs were mostly courtyard houses or "shiheyuan" in Chinese. The size and designs vary according to the wealth and position of the residents. The court official's residences would have gate designs which identified their status in the palace. 

During the Communist Revolution, many of the houses were taken from their original owners and turned into tenements. You could have several families living in one house.

One of the most convenient ways of touring the Hutongs is by taking a trishaw ride. The alleys are quite narrow, and often there is only enough room for one way traffic, but somehow the residents here have learnt to navigate their way effortlessly.

Sanitation in the Hutongs are not exactly top-notch. The houses do not have toilets, and rely on public toilets built by the government. The smell in some parts can be intoxicating. Most of the buildings are in quite poor condition, though here and there you can see some repair and rebuilding being carried out. Realizing the tourism potential of the Hutongs, the Beijing government has gazetted some of the areas and slowly converting them into tourist attractions. Hopefully they will not turn them into another Disneyland.

The leader of the trishaw ride. He looks like a character out of a Chinese kungfu movie.

Life in the hutongs.


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