The story of Beijing’s hutongs start over 800 years ago in the Yuan dynasty, when the Mongolians took over China. In Mongolian, “hutong” means a well – a water resource. These treasured alleyways in the center of Beijing's vast metropolis is a must-visit destination for tourists from all over the world.
As a result of Beijing's accelerated urbanization over the last few decades, many traditional hutongs have vanished. The living conditions in the old hutongs and courtyard homes were known to be poor - there was little heat, so they were cold, and modern conveniences such as a private toilet, were not available. There was a time when many local Chinese people craved for the demolition of their hutong so they could receive the generous compensation real estate developers were paying inhabitants to leave. Not only would they benefit financially, but they could "upgrade" and move into a more modern apartment building.
But now, there are new options for the hutongs, and more and more people have seen the value of the hutong. The government, and neighborhood communities are looking to rejuvenate the hutong areas both residentially and commercially. This includes upgrading the living standards in the old ancient courtyard homes, and urging people to stay. These groups believe it's not only about saving the ancient buildings, but also about preserving the cultural heritage that was born and developed in these hutong areas.
In this episode, we are joined by professionals from cultural heritage conservation groups, business owners who have chosen the hutong area as their workplace, and local hutong residents to talk about their sentimental bond to Beijing’s revered hutongs.
Let's talk a walk through Beijing's historical hutongs together on Crossover!