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What are most fascinating about the modernized Beijing are not the skyscrapers or broad streets, but the winding, secluded hutong, where there are beautiful siheyuan.


In the Yuan Dynasty, each hutong was as wide as a large three-courtyard quadrangle. It was later divided into many nameless narrower lanes by houses built in it. Hence the saying that goes, ‘there are 3,600 hutong with names, while nameless ones are as many as the hairs on a cow’.

By 1949, there were 6,074 streets and lanes with names, among which were 1,330 hutong, 172 avenues, 111 lanes, 85 streets, 71 alleys, and 37 roads. Streets, lanes and alleys were customarily lumped together as hutong.

Beijing is crisscrossed by thousands of hutong, where there are numerous ‘sweet homes’. That is the main reason why citizens of Beijing are so much attached to them.

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