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Mianhua Hutong

05-18-2010 15:59 BJT

A hutong's name often refers to its former function, so it's no surprise that Mianhua Hutong, or Cotton Lane, was the location of textile mills during the Ming Dynasty. Over hundreds of years, it went back to being a regular lane, until the arrival of General Cai E, eventual leader of the National Protection Campaign (Hu Guo Zhan Zheng, 1915-1916) that ended the brief, feudal rule of Yuan Shikai by chucking him off the thrown.

Mianhua Hutong
Mianhua Hutong (File photo)

Yuan brought Cai to Beijing to keep an eye on him in 1913, having wisely perceived the high commander of Yunnan province as a threat to power. From 1913 to 1915, Cai lived in Mianhua Hutong under Yuan's surveillance.

Mission of 'love'

Arrangements were made for Cai to live at No. 66 Mianhua Hutong, but when Cai realized Yuan intended to restore the old ways of feudalism, he became determined to escape back to Yunnan to build up a resistance.

Over hundreds of years, it went back to being a regular lane, until the arrival of General Cai E, eventual leader of the National Protection Campaign  that ended the brief, feudal rule of Yuan Shikai by chucking him off the thrown. 
Over hundreds of years, it went back to being a 
regular lane, until the arrival of General Cai E,
eventual leader of the National Protection Campaign
that ended the brief, feudal rule of Yuan Shikai 
by chucking him off the thrown.

According to legend, in order to throw Yuan off his trail, Cai developed a scheme to make himself look like an irresponsible partier, interested only in women and mahjong. During his frequent appearances in Ba Da Hutong, the former red light area in Qianmen, he met Zhang Fengyun - also known as Xiao Fengxian - a 17-year-old prostitute. Cai used Zhang as an excuse to feign a conflict with his wife, causing his family to leave Beijing and getting them out of potential harm's way. Yuan thereafter believed Cai was an incapable person, teasing him by calling him a "dissolute general."

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