Whilst in Beijing we visited the Hutong and Shichahai historic scenic area. Hutong has a double meaning. Originally, a hutong is a type of narrow-alley. In Beijing, hutong alleys are formed by lines of Siheyuan, old Beijing residences, called courtyard or quad houses in English. Thus, hutong also refers to the neighbourhood formed by lines of Siheyuan houses. So Hutong was the place we experienced the old authentic Beijing culture, and the Shichahai Scenic Area is where the old Chinese culture was most featured. It is located in the west of old Beijing and used to be part of the old Grand Canal of the Yuan Dynasty 600 years ago. Willows line the river bank, like a misty green curtain. The lake shore line is packed with people chatting, drinking, shopping and generally relaxing. From here we had a rickshaw ride through the narrow alleys of the old area. We dismounted our rickshaws and walked down even narrower alleys to eventually enter a single doorway that lead into a small private courtyard. This was a typical family home of the area, where the home family entertained us, with the lady of the house playing a 400 year-old Guzheng Chinese Zither. After which we all sat inside to enjoy an excellent traditional home-style Chinese meal(and a few Chinese beers). For me, this being allowed to share an evening in the home of a Chinese family, was one of the highlights of the tour. The house itself was over 500 years old, and I felt very privileged and honoured to be one of the family’s guests.
Above: The scenic Shichahai area of old west Beijing
Above: Part of our rickshaw ride, from the lake past gardens and former ministers residences.
Above: Ivor and Barb, (my travel companion), in a rickshaw, and then in the private courtyard of the Chinese family home, where we were entertained and had a home-cooked Chinese meal.
Ivor Steven (c) 2018