Hùtōngs: Greetings from Beijing! (九)


感恩节快乐 (gǎn’ēn jié kuàilè)! (Happy Thanksgiving!)

Note: internet has been extra problematic recently; I thought I posted this on Thanksgiving, but it only decided to go through today (still has a 12/28 time stamp). Fun!

~ Today’s Mandarin Lesson ~
character: 九 | pinyin: jiǔ | definition: nine | pronunciation: geeoh
character: 胡同 | pinyin: hùtōng | definition: alley; lane | pronunciation: hootong
character: 商店 | pinyin: shāngdiàn | definition: shop; store | pronunciation: shangdeeyen

I’d to like to talk a little about hutongs, as they are an integral part of Beijing and we’ve finally gotten around to checking out a few.

First, what are they? Directly translated, a hutong is a lane or alley. Physically, they are formed by traditional courtyard compounds – walls, more or less – lining both sides. In terms of width, they can range from a petite 40 centimeters to 10 meter mammoths. There is no rhyme or reason to their layout; they can be ramrod straight, curvy, or a mess of turns.

Hutongs are much more than all of that, though. Each one has it’s own personality, making them fun to explore. Some are residential and easy to get lost in while others cater more to the public and are lined with bars, restaurants, food stalls, and various shops.

Thus far, I have bopped around two of the more popular ones: Wudaoying (with Kyle) and Nanluoguxiang (on my own).

Wudaoying is considered hip and popular with young Western expats; probably why it was recommended to Kyle. It’s known for shopping, sightseeing, teahouses, and restaurants. We spent an afternoon walking in and out of shops, eating tasty food, warming up with mulled wine, and we even crafted hot toddies at a cat cafe. Overall, it was a very nice time.

A gargoyle keeping watch over the Wudaoying hutong.
One of the cats (I think a Scottish Fold mix) at the L’infusion cat cafe. As you can see, he has claimed this humans coat. It is now his. Furever.

Nanluoguxiang is the “most famous of the gentrified hutongs”. I spent my Thanksgiving afternoon and evening here as I had the day off work and the weather/air was nice (unfortunately, Kyle had classes). It is said to be best visited at night for the plentiful pop-up bars, places to eat, and micro-breweries. I definitely had some good snacks but didn’t find out about the micro-brewery scene until afterwards… looks like I’ll just have to go back. I also plan on having Kyle come with me so we can try the more uhh… interesting snacks (see photo).

“Interesting snacks”: scorpions, tarantulas, sea horses, centipedes, starfish, and other creepy crawlies.
Gate at the Nanluoguxiang Hutong entrance.

There are many more hutongs left to explore, and we definitely won’t be able to see them all. Beijing as I may have mentioned, is a humongous and sprawling city. Per my research I’ve settled on a few others I will try to hit before leaving, so stay tuned!


About azuremarie

I'm Azure; a healthy dose of eccentricity best taken with a grain of salt. I am often described as sassy. I have a fondness for words and those who can twist them in their mouth to create something exquisite. I read a lot, delight in live music, have a mild obsession with honey bees, and am baller at boggle. I believe that being normal is boring and love bright colors. Oftentimes, I prefer the company of animals to people; particularly dogs and horses, but have recently joined team cat. I love to travel and learn. I want to be able to experience our world, as well as help it. Oh, and unicorns exist.

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