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Hutongs and Courtyards & Beihai Park


Hutongs and courtyards, BeijingCourtyard, (Si He Yuan) in Chinese, refers to a square or rectangular courtyard compound usually with four houses built on each side. It is a typical example of Northern Chinese residential architecture. This closed construction has only one entrance and is considered to safeguard family privacy. Four houses arranged on each side with an interior courtyard symbolize the union of the family. Architectural designs of unique roof decorations, elaborate wood and stone carvings and vividly colored paintings make the courtyard a museum of traditional Chinese culture. Entering the compound is to explore the traditions of China.

The history of Beijing's courtyard can be traced back to the construction campaign of this capital city in China's Yuan Dynasty (1271 - 1368). Compared with its skyscraping modern counterparts, courtyards in the city allow tourists to learn more about the daily life of ordinary Beijing people.

The word 'Hutong' refers to the small and narrow alleyways between rows of courtyards and it is estimated that there are thousands of hutongs in the city from the narrowest 40-cetimeter (16 inches)-wide Qinshi Hutong to the zigzagged Jiudaowan (literally means quite a long hutong with nine turns). Names of hutongs are related to people's daily life, such as a person's name, an auspicious word or a beautiful flower.

Nowadays, Hutong Culture or Courtyard Culture is used to describe anything related to old Beijing and a featured tour by a pedicab through Beijing's winding hutongs is a popular choice for travelers who want a glimpse of the city's past.

 Beihai ParkWhite Dagoba on the Qiongdao Island, Beihai Park, Beijing

Located in central Beijing, Beihai Park is one of the best-preserved imperial gardens in China. First built in 1179, this garden complex has served as the winter palace for emperors in China's Liao, Jin, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties.

With an area of 68 hectares, Beihai Park is composed of an island and a beautiful lake. A Tibetan style White Pagoda built in 1651 on the island is a landmark of the park. There are a wide range of Tibetan Buddhist scripts in the pagoda. A variety of traditional Chinese architectural styles of Buddhist temples, pavilions and towers and courtyard structures can be found on the lake bank. A zigzagged bridge with five elegant pavilions extending from the bank into the lake is a beautiful sight in the park and has the beautiful name of 'Five-Dragon Pavilions'. To the north of the pavilions is Nine-Dragon Wall, one of three famous walls of its kind in China. It was built in 1756 during the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911). Nine dragons playing in the clouds are decorated on both sides of the wall.

An imperial court cuisine restaurant housed in an antique building boasts the best imperial court dishes in the city.

Admission Fee: CNY 5 (Nov. 1 to Mar. 31)
CNY 10 (Apr.1 to Oct. 31)
Opening Hours: 06:00 to 22:00
Time for a Visit:
One hour
Electric Bus Route: 5, 101, 103, 107,109, 111, 118, 701, 812, 814,823, 846

 Recommended China Tour with Beijing Hutong
5 Days Beijing Tour: Visit Tian'anmen Square, Forbidden City, Badaling, Rickshaw Tour in the Hutong and more as well as enjoying Beijing Duck Dinner and Chinese Kungfu Show