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History and Appearance of Hutong in Beijing

Hutong is one of the culture marks of Beijing and I was interested in it. This time I got the chance to walk through the narrow hutongs (with long history) to experience the real local life in Beijing. My tour began at Old Drum Tower Street and ended to Prince Gong's Mansion (via many historical sites and old hutongs including Bell Tower, Drum Tower, Yandaixiejie, Yinding Bridge).

Bell and Drum Tower in Beijing

Bell and Drum Tower are the two landmarks of old Beijing located in the city center. There are only about 100 meters distance the two towers. The Drum Tower is more beautiful than the Bell Tower. I did not pay 20 yuan for the entrance tickets instead just stand at the foot of the towers and took some panoramic photos. Walk along the street, within 10 minutes, I got to the famous hutong – Yandaixiejie.

Yandaixiejie - Old Hutong with Long History

Yandaixiejie also named as Tobacco Pipe Lane, is one of the oldest streets in Beijing. Ethnic shops and various bars and cafes are opened here which attract lots of tourists from in and abroad. In the past, in this hutong there were only tobacco pouches and smoking sets were sold and nowadays, it has been rebuilt as a commercial street where there are more than 60 stores specializing in the sale of tobacco pipes, lanterns, kites, tea sets, curios, national costumes, folk craftwork and traditional needlework.

Are you fond of the origin of its name Yandaixiejie? Here are two reasons. During the Qing Dynasty, people lived in Beijing liked tobaccos very much, which caused the increasing demand of tobacco pipe. Therefore, more and more tobacco pipe shops were opened in the street. Another reason is that it is said the Yandaixiejie looks like a tobacco pipe in its shape - its gracile street is the tobacco pipe while the entrance in the east end is its mouth and the west entrance is the hollow. Therefore, Yandaixiejie got its name.

At the end of Yandaixiejie there is standing another historical site called Yinding Bridge. In the history, it was very much like a silver ingot upside down, so hence the name. Now it is a narrow channel joining Qianhai Lake and the Houhai Lake, the hub of Shichhai area with surrounding quiet hutongs. Standing on the bridge and viewing the lotus in summer has now become one of the most beautiful scenery in downtown Beijing.

Went on along Qianhai Lake with gentle breeze and wander through hutongs, we got the destination of Prince Gong's Mansion. Along the street, there are a lot of rickshaws for hutong tour. And the drivers will tell you much about the history of the old hutongs.