Hutongs are northern China's traditional back alley neighborhoods. Their houses are small; their bathrooms are shared. They typically have communal central courtyards. Some hutongs date back to the Ming dynasty of the fifteenth century. In recent decades, many hutongs have been demolished to make way for highrise towers and wide avenues. Only a few have been protected from modern development.
One day while walking around central Beijing, I stumbled upon Jiaochangkou Hutong and got my first brief glimpse of Old China. About a week later, I walked through Wudaoying Hutong. Here are some photos from those experiences:
An elderly woman is pushed through an alley in Jiaochangkou Hutong.
Fruit vendors abound on the quiet, narrow streets.
The alleys form a maze in which it's easy to get lost.
An intense card game happens next to a fresh load of beer. The men will continue to slam their cards on the table and shout for hours to come.
Old men ride bikes past an ice cream vendor. Squeaky brakes are easily audible in the car-free streets.
Many buildings are crumbling. Will they be restored, or will yet another office tower soon sit on this valuable piece of property?
The hutong from above, surrounded by central Beijing.
Wudaoying, located close to the famous Lama Temple, is a hip hutong, full of trendy cafes and bars.
Men play table tennis in a public park.
A man sits outside, writing and drinking his second beer while others have long conversations indoors.
A large gate welcomes visitors to this restored neighborhood.