Hutongs at Beiluo Guxiang, Beijing, China

Having lived in Beijing for eight years now, I’ve started to take things for granted. There are amazing neighbourhoods to explore in this 3,000 year old city, but the familiarity creates indifference. For the next few months, a friend and I are going to force ourselves to go explore some of these unique neighbourhoods. Fortunately, my friend just picked up a Nikon D7 Mk2 so I know he’s going to be keen to make good use of it.

GFX 50R 110mm ISO-200 1/680sec f/2
GFX 50R 110mm ISO-200 1/200sec f/8

There are a number of Hutong neighbourhoods in Beijing. The phrase is somewhat misused these days since a Hutong just indicates a type of alley surrounding a housing style that was common in Beijing. A typical “Hutong” house is square shaped with a courtyard in the middle. Up to four families would live in these homes and share the central common area, which often included the toilet as well. Sadly, many of these homes have been razed to make way for nondescript modern buildings.

GFX 50R 110mm ISO-100 1/240sec f/2
GFX 50R 67.6mm ISO-1600 1/160sec f/4

Thankfully, there’s a real drive now by the Beijing government to save some of these areas and this unique style of housing. I can imagine a day when these well-worn Hutong areas will be converted into cafes, restaurants, art galleries and other productive assets while still retaining their historic appearance. There are areas like this in other Chinese cities and Beijing deserves a tasteful restoration of these areas.

To start this series, we visited the Beiluo Guxiang area, which is north of the very popular and touristy Nanluo Guxiang area, with a goal to have a great lunch, some very good third wave coffee, and to find some Japanese whiskey. It turned out, these were easy targets and we even found coffee and whiskey in one shop at the same time! The owner even joined us for the whiskey. Hope you enjoy this series as we will be exploring many Hutong neighbourhoods in the future. 

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