Beijing (English) - - CONTENTS - Trans­lated by Pu Songlin Edited by Mark Zuiderveld

Hu­tong , Bei­jing’s Leg­endary Lanes Bei­jing’s hu­tong is an es­sen­tial part of the capital’s culture, and with a li­brary of books on streets and hu­tong, these re­sources help to­day’s read­ers learn more about city plan­ning in his­tory.

East of Wang­fu­jing, Meizha Hu­tong stretches from Mishi Av­enue in the east to Xiaowei Hu­tong in the west, and neigh­bours Jinyu Hu­tong in the north and Beishuaifu Hu­tong in the south. The fame of Meizha Hu­tong is rooted in the his­tor­i­cal fact that Shen­jiy­ing sta­tioned ya­men (the of­fice or res­i­dence of a pub­lic of­fi­cial in im­pe­rial China) there in 1861. Shen­jiy­ing was one of the three elite im­pe­rial mil­i­tary di­vi­sions sta­tioned around Bei­jing dur­ing the Ming Dy­nasty (1368–1644). It was the world's first in­de­pen­dent firearms di­vi­sion, even 100 years ear­lier than the well-known Spanish mus­ke­teer. In­her­it­ing this mil­i­tary sys­tem of the Ming Dy­nasty, the Qing Dy­nasty (1644–1911) se­lected more than 10,000 sol­diers from the Eight Ban­ners and equipped them with mus­kets. In early days of the of­fice, many banner peo­ple vis­ited there to seek for a job. At that time, Meizha Hu­tong saw a grad­u­ally bustling am­biance.

Ac­cord­ing to Jing­shi fangx­i­ang zhi­gao (“manuscripts of the records of lanes in Bei­jing”), a book writ­ten in 1879 by Zhu Yixin (1846–1894), a scholar in the late Qing Dy­nasty, “Meizha Hu­tong was named af­ter the steel­mak­ing slags ac­cu­mu­lated there from a cast­ing fac­tory.” To­day, the bustling Shen­jiy­ing has al­ready dis­ap­peared. But peo­ple can still learn things about this lane from his­tor­i­cal records.

Luck­ily, Zhu's manuscripts still ex­ist. From these manuscripts, read­ers might be sur­prised by leg­endary sto­ries that took place in Bei­jing's hu­tong (lanes).

Hu­tong Sto­ries

A hu­tong is an old nar­row lane in Bei­jing. It once was an in­te­gral part in lo­cal peo­ple's daily life. To­day, it still car­ries a nos­tal­gic mean­ing for many. There are many kinds of state­ments on hu­tong's his­tor­i­cal ori­gin. The best-ac­cepted the­ory is that hu­tong comes from the Mon­go­lian word mean­ing wells, or places with wells. The Chi­nese char­ac­ters for hu­tong ap­peared for the first time in Dan dao hui ( Meet­ing the En­e­mies Alone), a play by Yuan Dy­nasty (1271–1368) play­wright and poet Guan Han­qing (1241–1320).

Hu­tong weren't com­monly seen in an­cient Chi­nese cities. Khan­baliq, the capital of the Yuan Dy­nasty, was di­vided into 50 res­i­den­tial dis­tricts, or fang, such as Fu­tian Fang, Baoda Fang, and

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