hu·tong

[ˈho͞otäNG]

NOUN

1. A narrow lane or alleyway in a traditional residential area of a Chinese city, especially Beijing.

Throughout my stay here in China, I will be living in a Hutong within Central Beijing.

Most apartments in this area do not contain bathrooms inside of them since there are public squat toilets all throughout the alleyways, yet I am lucky enough to have a toilet and shower in my apartment.

In my opinion, living in a hutong is the perfect way to experience the traditional Chinese lifestyle.

The residence is composed of old traditional looking Chinese buildings, which they never renovate on the outside since it keeps the historical contents of China in fact in such a rapidly developing country.

Throughout the zig-zagging narrow lanes, neighbors sit outside to chat with their co-residents.

Some even bring out food for everyone who lives around them to enjoy!

You can usually find the retired men sitting in a corner crowded around a table where they are competitively playing mahjong from the crack of dawn until about 11 at night. Kids race their scooters and bikes up and down the allies, while mothers and fathers chat away about what’s new in their lives.

It is sad to think that most of the hutongs that were in Beijing were destroyed due to urbanization and the Cultural Revolution.

My co-worker’s grandmother, for example, had her land and home taken from her by Mao’s regime in order to build government-owned businesses.

She explained to me how her grandmother cried when she first moved into a high-rise apartment as a result of this.

Her sense of community and friendship was stolen right under her feet by her own leader.

Due to stories such as this one, I am very lucky to be living in such a customary neighborhood within one of the fastest growing metropolitan cities in the world.

If you ever plan on coming to China, no matter how long it is, you can find not only apartments but hotels and hostels within the hutongs as well so plan accordingly!

Until next time 🙂

Sarah DiPasquale, a legal intern from China internship programme, is placed in Beijing for 20 weeks, from Drexel University.

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