Beijing Hutongs

Long slabs of raw meat hanging in the butcher shopMan pushing an empty cart through shaded narrow streetThe stalls and shops are the heart of the neighborhood, pumping business activity into the veins of the hutong as well as stimulating social interaction. The Heavenly Peach farmers market for fresh produce and the Cheng Dou Snack restaurant provide both, as do the many other local family run restaurants and bars. They offer local fare such as spicy or shaved noodles, fried dough and fried milk, but also face competition from the occasional pizza shop. Many proprietors live in the rooms behind their retail store front.

Narrow shaded cobblestone alleywayWoman preparing food on countertop

There are also recyclers gathering and selling scrap material to junk dealers, often in wheelbarrows or on bicycles as well as pushcart entrepreneurs providing seasonal goods and services. They offer fruits and vegetables after crops are picked, clothing as winter approaches, and red paper and fireworks to celebrate the New Year. Some sharpen knives and scissors while others visit as handypersons offering repair services. And, although livestock are no longer allowed to be sold or slaughtered in the hutong, there are butchers and markets. Additionally, there is some small-scale manufacturing, which completes the wide range of enterprise.

Most important of all to both Beijing, and especially the hutong, is tourism. “Tourism contributes 5.4% of the country’s GDP and by 2020 this is estimated to rise to 11% and around 58 billion US dollars ” (du Cros et al). Tourists are drawn to China and Beijing by things like the Great Wall, which is a World Heritage site, and The Forbidden City. Afterwards, they’re able to enjoy the experience of leisurely wandering through a nearby hutong.