The colour of Hutong in Beijing

Beijing Travel Blog

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Roof guardians in the Forbidden city.
    I've been living in Beijing Hutong area for more than 15 years, in my memory, there are many colours in Hutongs in Beijing, I was born in a Hutong in 1965, at that time, Hutong only had very simple colour, like grey,blue ,green...definitely no garish. but now, when you are sitting on a rickshaw and taking a Hutong tour, you will find out that there are many colours in Hutong areas in Beijing.

    Hutong is a typical lane or small street in Beijing that originated during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). 'Hutong' is a Mongolian word, meaning 'water well'. During that time, water well is the settlement around which people lived. There are tens of thousands of hutongs surrounding the Forbidden City.

In the past, Beijing was composed of countless courtyards. Hutongs were formed when people left a passageway between two courtyards to make entering them more convenient.

    As the symbol of Beijing City, a hutong has its own layout and structure, which makes it a wonder in the world. When taking a bird's eye view of Beijing, you will find the combination of hutongs and courtyards just like an orderly chessboard with delicate gardens, fine rockeries, and ancient ruins. Hutongs have witnessed the development of Beijing. Where there is a hutong, there is a story.

   The Courtyard, a traditional unique folk house in the hutongs, has a long history in Chinese architecture.

It is called 'Siheyuan' in Chinese, 'Si' means 'Four', which here refers to the four sides: east, west, north and south. 'He' refers to the surrounding, meaning the four sides circle into a square. Due to its special layout, it is compared to a box with a garden in the center. There is only one gate leading to a hutong, so when the gate is closed the courtyard loses touch with the outside world. Therefore family members can fully enjoy tranquility and share the happiness of a peaceful family union.
    in the courtyard, the main room only served for the parents, and the east side room is served for the sons(boys),because only boys can be a family bllod heratige. The west side room occupied by the girls in a family.

  Owners of the courtyards often grow flowers and trees in the garden to decorate their happy life. Generally speaking, they love planting date trees, locust trees and cloves. The pomegranate tree is also their favorite because it has many seeds. In Chinese, the pronunciations of 'seed' and 'son' are the same, and old people believe that the more sons, the more blessings. This is the reason why we can see many pomegranate trees growing in the courtyards. Living in this elegant and harmonious environment, they must enjoy a peaceful and blissful life!

     The more colourful Hutong made Beijing more pretty and attractive to the coming visitors, probably, you are also a painter, you could draw a special colour which you like the most paint on the big land and my Beijing!

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when you travel in the Foebidden city in Beijing, and look atop the sloping of the roofs, you will find carved representations of fantastical creatures, these gargoyles-like decorations are seatted in an order led by a immotoral sitting on a Phoenix.Traditionally, each supernatural animal had a special meaning:

Immortal: Usually the figure nearest to the corner of the roof, the sculpture depicts a human riding on a large bird--Phoenix.the figure symbolizes"turning ill fate into good luck."

Dragon: Symbol of the Emperor.

Phoenix: The queen of all  birds, and  symble of the empress.

Lion: King of the animals, a symbol of intrepidness and stateliness.

Sea horse: Represents royal power over the sea.

Heavenly horse: This sacred horse can fly.

 ya yu: Capable of creating rain and extinguishing fire, it can protect the architecture.

Xie Zhi: This is a mythical animal and he can tell good from evil and represents justice.

Suan Ni: A symbol of courage and dignity,and he is one of Nine Dragon sons,he likes smoke, so you can always find him sitting on the side of the incense burner or oven for sacrifices.

Dou Niu: Acturally, it is a large snake, which can drive away ill fate and evil sprits.

Xing Shi: a flying monkey, this creature is reknowned for its ability in keeping away from evil spirits.

As matter of fact, all these creatures originally are being used as nails for keeping sliding off the roof,and later, they are changed to be these imagined animals to preserve the building from the fire and drive away the evil spirits.
I will tell the story of Gragon in my next blog.

Roof guardians in the Forbidden ci…
Roof guardians in the Forbidden c…
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photo by: Eric