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Outsiders' view: Life in a Beijing courtyard

09-22-2012 14:45 BJT

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In the Houhai area of Beijing, there’s a Siheyuan. It’s a square courtyard house, where Ma Ronglan lives with her family. They come from the Hui ethnic minority, and have been living in this house for 64 years.

The house was renovated before the 2008 Olympics, and is now more comfortable and safe. Today, it’s home to four generations. Mrs. Ma invited us in and told us about the history of her Siheyuan and her daily life.

In the famous area of Houhai, inside one of Beijing’s old alleyways, or hutong, you can find the house of Ma Ronglan. The 87-year-old matriarch lives in a traditional house,,called a siheyuan. It’s composed of a central square courtyard, surrounded by several rooms. Mrs Ma moved here with her family in 1948. They are Hui Chinese, one of the China’s major ethnic minorities. Many Hui live in Beijing.

Mrs. Ma invited CCTV reporter in and told us about the history of her Siheyuan
and her daily life.

This house which has witnessed the ages had been damaged and didn’t suit modern life. To protect this kind of historical architecture and enable Mrs Ma’s family to enjoy modern conveniences, the government had her house renovated. So, in 2007, just before the Beijing Olympics, some of the rooms and the entire roof was renovated.

Ma Ronglan, Beijing Resident, said, "Our life here is very comfortable now. Just before the Beijing Olympics, the north and south parts of the home were entirely renovated."

An efficient water drainage system was installed. The house made it through the last downpour of July the 21st without any flooding. Kitchens and bathrooms were also added. This made the family’s life much more convenient, as they previously had to use the public toilet on their street.

Ma Ronglan, said, "It’s much better now. Back in that time, we didn’t have our own toilet, and the eight of us had to use the public toilet, which is far from our home, and quite dirty. It’s very convenient now that each apartment has its own bathroom."

Ma Ronglan, Beijing Resident.

Mrs Ma, like most Hui, is a Muslim. She prays five times a day, eats halal food and goes to the mosque each Friday. She reads the Quran in Chinese and in Arabic. Belonging to her district’s Muslim community is very important to her, and she takes part in all its activities.

As old Beijing residents, food is very important for Mrs Ma and her family. They cook a lot at home, sometimes with their whole family. Often it’s dumplings. They also cook a lot of traditional Hui food, like dry beef and songrou. They have some discount coupons given by the government to the elderly.

Mrs Ma and her family cook a lot of traditional Hui food, like dry beef
and songrou.


Editor:Zhang Pengfei |Source:

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