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Chinese Culture >> Bejing Hutong

Beijing Hutong

Before Qin dynasty (in the 12 century), there were no Hutongs in Beijing, just streets, roads and district. Before we go on, hutongs are narrow throughways, often alleys. In old China, there was a clear definition for a street or a lane -- its width. Hutongs were often no wider than 9 meters. To this day, many hutongs remain narrow through ways in Beijing. Sometimes, an alley will be no wider than 3 or 4 meters, and some are so narrow that even a compact motorized vehicle cannot pass through them. Many of them were built during the Yuan Dynasty (1206-1341), Ming Dynasty (1368-1628) and Qing Dynasty (1644-1908) surrounding the Forbidden City.

In the early 13 century, a Mongolian tribe from the north became very strong. Led by Genghis Khan, the Mongolians occupied Beijing. In 1260, Kubla Khan, the grandson of Genghis Khan established Yuan Dynasty. Kubla Khan set Beijing as the capital city. Unfortunately, the old city was destroyed during the war. So they had to rebuild it. In old China, all the structures and roads were required to be symmetrical. First, they had to find a center, and then built a regular square city. After construction was completed, they asked all the residents who lived in the old city to move to the new one. Thus the Hutong was formed.