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Siheyuan covered with snowThe quadrangles, called Siheyuans in Chinese (literally, four-side enclosed courtyards), in Beijing have a long history, and they are traditional residential compounds with houses around courtyards. As the name implies, these courts are formed by inward—facing houses on four sides. closed in by enclosure walls. According to records, such residences were first built during the Han Dynasty, and they were improved during the Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties as one of the representative residences in China.

There are three kinds of quadrangles, large, medium, and small. All the quadrangles were built in accordance with a strict set of rules from their size and style one could tell whether they belonged to private individuals or the powerful and rich.

 Three Kinds of Quadrangles

A small quadrangle has simple layout, with three rooms facing south, three rooms facing north, and two rooms facing east and west respectively. The room at the eastern end serves as a passageway leading to other rooms. The medium-sized quadrangle commonly has three courtyards, with five or seven principal rooms facing south, in addition to side rooms. The principal rooms facing south are usually flanked by corridors and taller than other rooms. The houses facing east and west have three or five the gate of Siheyuan with bamboorooms, and are separated by a wall with an ornamental inner gate in the center. This wall is served as the boundary between the front and rear courtyards. The front courtyard is also called the outer courtyard, which has one or two small rooms for servants or used as kitchens, facing east and west. The large quadrangle is imposing with large, storied buildings, courtyards within courtyards, gardens, corridors, passageways, ornamental inner gates, and screen walls. Behind the principal rooms there is also a posterior shielding stories building or a set of posterior shielding rooms. They are mansions or residences for senior officials and rich people.

The fittings, decorations and paintings in the quadrangles display the local customs and traditional culture and show-case people's wish for happiness, beauty, well-being, and good luck. For example, the bat in a pattern and the Chinese character longevity together symbolize the a long and happy life, because the bat pronounces the same as the Chinese character "happiness": while a pattern with a vase of Chinese roses means peace all year round. The quadrangles are filled with a strong cultural flavor with carved Chinese characters, couplets on the pillars, and calligraphy and paintings in the rooms, which are collections of warnings by eminent philosophers.

There are flowers and plants in quadrangles. 0ld Beijing residents like to grow flowers such as lilac, Chinese flowering crab-apple (Malus spectabilis), flowering plum (Prunus triloba), and mountain peach flowers, as well as plants such as dates and Chinese scholar trees. There was a common saying going around in Beijing in the Qing Dynasty, "Awning, fishbowl, pomegranate tree, master, big dog and fatty maid", which had vividly presented a picture of the leisurely and idle of wealthy families in old time quadrangles.

Quadrangles Tour

During the Quadrangles Tour, tourists could get a deep understanding about the old Beijing and its Hutong Culture, which will make your Beijing tour more meaningful.