The 21st century cityscape of Beijing; skyscrapers of eclectic shapes made from steel and glass reflecting the sunshine. For a city looking so far into the future, some of its most striking features are from its past. Go behind the high rise buildings and onto the hutong alleyways to travel to Beijing of a bygone era.


The Beijing Hutongs

Dating back to the Yuan dynasty of the 13th century, hutongs were created by connecting a ‘siheyuan’, a traditional housing unit with a courtyard, to another. Centred around the Forbidden City, the hutongs were arranged according to the social hierarchy of its residents; the merchants and officials closest to the palace, and the artisans and labourers living farther out. The houses of the wealthy are beautifully decorated with pillars and carved roof beams and spacious landscaped courtyards. The more recently constructed houses clutter the outskirts of the city and lack the orderly nature of older ones.


The breakneck speed of modern Beijing is slowed to an almost village-like atmosphere of the hutong, where shouts of peddlers echo, and old men sit in front of shops talking all day. From the regal imperial hutong of the royal eunuchs to the charming surroundings of the Drum and Bell Towers, ramble along pathways lined with trees to get a glimpse into the life of ordinary Beijing citizens of centuries past. They are best travelled on a bike, which can be rented, on a trishaw, which are abundant, or on foot. The hutongs are gaining popularity among modern visitors who want to see something more rustic than the lavish life of emperors and the grand Imperial Palace.


Sadly, the modernization of Beijing has caught up with this slice of the past. Numerous hutongs are being demolished to make room for high-rise buildings and many residents have left for better living conditions. A white plaque marks the protected hutongs, selected to preserve not just a historic structure, but the way of life that surround it.


This piece of living history is an easy visit for a guest at a 5 Star Hotel Beijing. The convenient location of The Peninsula Beijing offer access to the city’s modern attractions as well as historic sites, making it a good choice for travellers. Its stylish interior promotes a serene atmosphere where guests can enjoy the very best of services and facilities that is only fitting for one of the city’s best Beijing luxury hotels.


The Beijings Hutong