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Cultural Scenery in Beijing's Hutong

There are still quite a number of hutongs built around the Forbidden City still exist in Beijing. Their overall arrangements are just like Eastern labyrinth if one has chances to overlook form the air.

Most of these hutong were built in the Yuan (1271-1368), Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. The Shichahai Lake scenic sites consist of West Sea (Xihai), Back Sea (Houhai), Front Sea (Qianhai) and Prince Gong's Palace (Gongwangfu), which have helped to keep the hutong there intact, and fascinating many tourists from home and abroad. When one stands at the top of the 700-year-old Drum Tower (Gulou), glancing at the alleys in the city, one would feel Beijing's great cultural and economic changes.

There are several kinds of hutong. Some of them are named after the yamens (government offices) or temples located there; some named after the official titles of their residents, etc.

Beijing's longest alleys are Dongjiaominxiang and Xijiaominxiang, running parallel with the Chang'an Avenue. The shortest one is Yichi (meaning "one foot") Hutong, only 75 feet long. The narrowest is Xiaolabakou Hutong, whose northern part is less than 0.4 meter. Jiudaowan (meaning "nine turnings") Hutong located in Dongcheng District has the most turnings--more than 20 in all. The oldest hutong in Beijing is Sanmiaojie, which located outside Xuanwu Gate, was called Tanzhou Street in the Liao Dynasty (916-1125).

Tourists can also find vermilion gates, brass knocker, mottled stone lions and other cultural relics everywhere in the alleys.
(Chinanews.cn August 16, 2006)

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