Beijing may have fully embraced the modern world, but its hutong streets retain much of their traditional charm. Locals continue with the day-to-day habits that would have occupied their parents and parents' parents, while locals eat, drink, play games and go about their business, often on the bicycles that have filled the streets for decades. However, changes are afoot, with construction sites a continual presence on most hutong alleyways and each year bringing a shrinking of the remaining hutong space.
Take a tour through just a few of the thousands of hutong alleys and lanes that give Beijing some of its unique charm.
The Beijing Hutong is part of the greater mixed media project The Fate of Old Beijing: The Vanishing Hutongs.
In the face of China’s rapid modernization, the world’s most populous country is struggling to preserve its cultural heritage, and nowhere is this more visible than in the ancient alleyways and courtyards of Beijing.
Once a ubiquitous feature of Beijing, the hutongs are more than simply housing; they are actually a way of life. Entire families live in single, crowded courtyards, often with no bathrooms. Yet despite the lack of modern amenities, the communal aspect to life within the hutongs means that few want to leave – even as their neighbourhoods are being demolished and redeveloped. UNESCO estimates that more than 88 percent of the city’s old residential quarters are already gone, most torn down in the last three decades.
In a three-part series, filmmakers Jonah Kessel and Kit Gillet explore the vanishing world of Beijing’s hutongs, the realities of life within the narrow streets, and the future for these culturally-irreplaceable areas of China’s capital.
To learn more about this project visit: sites.asiasociety.org/chinagreen