Siheyuan 四合院 and hutong 胡同


China is hot and sexy, so are the one storey grey brick Siheyuans (quadrangles or courtyard dwelling) and the surrounding hutong, the sprawling and vernacular narrow lanes that lattice the heart of Beijing, 咸鱼翻身 too.  Oh well .. don’t throw away your old jeans, it will become fashionable again, wink .. wink.

This picture depicts a san jin – three courtyards siheyuan 三进四合院.  Four row of rooms on each side forms a siheyuan, the very basic one (on the lower end of the market).  The standard siheyuan is liang jin – two courtyards siheyuan 两进四合院. .. without the rear north wing and the third courtyard.  The aristocratic residence 王府 would have sijin 四进 or wujin 五进, or 东西跨院 additional siheyuan expanded from west/east end. (盝顶 luding – seeping roof.) 

The main hall on the north (facing south) with five rooms (sometimes with six) is for the head of the household, be it parents or grandies or great grandparents, flanked by the eastern and western wings (three room on each side) – for the younger generations, and the least desirable southern building (receives no direct sunlight, but would have the same number of rooms as the main hall) used as study, reception hall or housed servants.

Siheyuans are all located within the old Beijing limit, inside the fortified walls.  They had its glorious days but had suffered a lot over the centuries (Forbidden City was built starting in 1406..), wars .. especially for the 30 years that was under Emperor Mao’s reign. He spent no money on maintenance of his backyard, we had no money to fix our courtyard due to the re-distribution of wealth.  Mao’s various campaigns had added salt to the injury, people without legal right moved in.  The last blow was 1976 Tangshan earthquake.  Over all, the siheyuan and hutong are outdated, dirty and unsophisticated. The people who lived around the heart of Beijing (before 1980) were mostly factory workers, weren’t intellectuals in Zhongguancun.  Far cry from when I was born.  I’m so glad to see some of them are being preserved.  Siheyuan as a whole, is getting a new sexy make over.  The image is being rehabilitated.

Btw, Hong Kong has a sizzling restaurant called Hutong located on 1 Peking Road in Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon side.  US$40 min for dinner (no worry, HK$ is still pegged to US$, right?), and the reservation is hard to get.  Guess the dilapidated siheyuan and hutong finally got a make over, 🙂 luscious and pungent.

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