ni hao – part V

up from the 36 chambers arlie and stephanie tour with the hutong clan

Day 6 – Hutong Clan
On the sixth day of Xmas, Arlie and I toured the hutongs of Beijing.

A hutong is an ancient city alley or lane typical in Beijing, where hutongs run into the several thousand. Surrounding the Forbidden City, many were built during the Yuan (1206-1341), Ming(1368-1628) and Qing(1644-1908) dynasties. In the prime of these dynasties the emperors, in order to establish supreme power for themselves, planned the city and arranged the residential areas according to the etiquette systems of the Zhou Dynasty. The center of the city of Beijing was the royal palace — the Forbidden City.

hutong clan

The hutongs are dying out quickly with many residents preferring to live in the high rise buildings rather than in these old buildings. Plus, as you can imagine, this is some prime real estate that they are built on that you can pack many more people into.

Arlie and I were on the free tour from the hotel that took us out in some rickshaws along the hutong path. We visited a family residence along the way and went in to ask about their everyday life in the hutong. I found this to be a bit odd…a bunch of foreigners trampling into someone’s house and then sitting in their daughter’s and grandma’s bedroom, but I suppose they get some subsidy from it and the lady was very nice.

The actual hutong structure was old and slightly grimy. Although we did see some nice outer hutongs that looked pretty posh. There are upwards of 3 families living in some of these structures. All of them share an inner courtyard. The neighborhood has neighborhood watch programs that look our for everyone and the elderly (as the hutongs are filled with a lot of elderly). The lady explained that when there are disputes, they have one person who is elected to be in charge of each hutong for the year – if this person can’t resolve the dispute then it goes to a neighborhood commitee to resolve. Some popular disputes could be kids fighting or too much noise from one family.

captain of the hutong clan

During the hutong tour, the rickshaws drove us by this frozen lake and river. This was quite a sight. A bunch of people out there on the ice in makeshift skates – things like bicycles and chairs with some blades attached to the bottoms. There was even a little dog that was being pushed in a chair around. Oh, did I mention that I was about to die from the cold??? Yes, I was.

Another funny sight was the old men Chinese polar bear club. These crazy old men were getting down to their underwear and jumping into a hole in the ice and going for a swim. Quite a few of the old fellows. Pretty sexy stuff.

uncle cold balls

After we visited a museum and gardens (of which I can’t remember the name), we ended up at the Bell and Drum tower where Arlie went up the stairs to take photos and I went inside to thaw my frozen toes.

Then we had a nice Chinese tea ceremony complete with the upsell to the magical porcelin cups that change their picture into the Great Wall and panda bears when you pour the hot water into them.

When we arrived back to the hotel, we had a nice cup of gloog and then decided to do some more shopping or browsing. We went out of the hotel and down the street to check out the freaky food vendors.

crickets anyone?

Lots of lots of crazy, disgusting stuff going on down there. You can get snake, frogs, silkworm, octopus, crickets and some other stuff that I’m not even sure what it was. Arlie and I ended up eating corn on the cob and having some banana fritters. Pretty much the most normal things you can get there.