The Hutongs (backstreets) of Beijing.


Beijing’s labyrinth of backstreets that’s home to “the city’s hardest bar to find”.

I spent the first three days of my time in Beijing getting lost in its labyrinth of “Hutongs” (backstreets/courtyards). Hutongs originated during the Yuan Dynasty, begun by Kublai Khan grandson of Ghengis. The word “hutong” comes from the Mongolian word “hottog” meaning, “water well”. Hutongs are alleyways that connect the various courtyards and groups of traditional houses. They form a grid of endless passages and intriguing doorways, lined with bicycles and gossiping neighbors.

You tend to get a lot of curious stares in the Hutongs if you sport an occidental face like me. Add to this the fact it’s 1am and you’re completely lost in a maze of dark alleys and you’d be forgiven for getting a bit scared. But the night a friend and I got lost looking for a bar (whose motto was “the most difficult bar to find in Beijing”), we felt completely safe. Of course this may well have something to do with the Chinese government’s strict policies with regards to the treatment of tourists. But this big group of homes also just felt like a genuinely nice place, somewhere I was very sad to leave.

(…We never found the bar).

written by bensozia on 2010-05-21 #places #bar #alley #bicycle #china #location #rickshaw #beijing #maze #labyrinth #backstreet #hutong #yuan-dynasty #kublai #genghis #khan


  1. tessaj
    tessaj ·

    I lost my heart somewhere in the Hutongs ... lovely! (and wonderful pictures) !

  2. jaalvarez
    jaalvarez ·

    Hace unos días, Warning me animaba a emprender uno de estos viajes ... ¡de momento, creo que me llega con vuestras localizaciones !
    ¡¡Enhorabuena, y gracias por compartirlas!!

  3. bensozia
    bensozia ·

    Thanks very much!

    Jaalvarez: venga tío anímate! Tienes hijos, verdad? Lo digo por tus fotos. Pues hace poco salió en las noticias una pareja con dos niñas que estaban dando una vuelta por el mundo durante un año o dos me parece. No tengo hijos, ni soy muy responsable, así que lo tengo más fácil (incluso con poca pasta)... Pero en serio, no te quedes con nuestras localizaciones, vete tú por allí, ya verás que bien! I completely agree with Warning!

  4. saidseni
    saidseni ·

    I loved the hutongs, I guess it remind me a bit home... the big buildings in Beijing may not atonish the regular european but it certain does to a young portuguese girl so I was happy to see narrow streets again! I'm guessing your next Beijing location is the Underground Beijing since you enjoy looking for spots difficult to find...! I'm getting used to your locations, you can't stop now! :P Lomo on!

  5. makeyuu
    makeyuu ·

    great shots!
    i am studying chinese so it was good to see these hutong streets that my teacher talked about!

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