The Hutong has been part of the urban DNA of Beijing, since probably around 1000 BC, found always in the poorer areas in the City outside of the main ring roads that have as their center the Forbidden City.
Encompassing both the history of the development of a city and a cultural picture of where people live – they have always been anthropologically significant in the way that a slum in other countries tend to be and so when Beijing had the World coming to see then during the recent Olympics they decided the best way to deal with the poor was to remove them – and so most of the Hutong areas were destroyed in case anyone asked any awkward questions – like ‘where did all the people go?’.
These days, the Hutong has become an extension of the Historic Sites in Beijing where you are more likely to find a small store or even a tattoo shop amoungst them – rather than encounter generations of Beijingers.
Sanitised and restricted they exist next to the monuments outside of the central areas – these being next door to the Drum Tower.
And you can even get Hutong tours in rickshaws or even on quad bikes that show that the Chinese entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well.
Even if the Department that looks after Historical Monuments is a little off it’s game these days.