In Beijing, hutongs are alleys formed by lines of siheyuan, traditional quadrangle courtyard residences. Many neighborhoods were formed by joining one siheyuan to another to form a hutong, and then joining one hutong to another. Nearly all siheyuan had their main buildings and gates facing south for better lighting; thus a majority of hutongs run from east to west. Between the main hutongs, many tiny lanes ran north and south for convenient passage.
Following the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, many of the old hutongs of Beijing disappeared, replaced by wide boulevards and high rises. Many residents left the lanes where their families lived for generations for apartment buildings with modern amenities. Today, the surviving hutongs are considered by many to be a quintessential part of Beijing. In particular, the Houhai area has become a focal point for tourists, where they can enjoy the lakes, along with the Drum and Bell Towers.
Photos taken July 2, 2012.