Beijing Hutong Protection

A shabby hutongChinese people are familiar with the character "拆Chai", which means to tear down. When this character appears on the walls of a building everybody knows that its doomsday is near. A century ago, people who lived in hutongs would never have imagined that this cruel word would be painted on their walls one day.

But it is true. Today, if you join a hutong tour, please slow down and take more photos, because this is probably the last time you will see them and your pictures will become precious mementos. It is no exaggeration. A teacher from Germany fell into despondency after his second visit to Beijing. The first time he was deeply impressed by the wonderful Forbidden City and the surrounding countless winding hutongs. But when he revisited it, the large area of them had already disappeared by half. What he saw was great mansions and tall buildings shooting into the sky, and the city was like another Hong Kong, New York or Tokyo.

The data can further explain the severe reality. According to research, Beijing had 3,050 hutongs in 1949, 2,250 in 1990 and only a little over 1,300 in 2004. Together with the Forbidden City, it is regarded as a symbol of old Beijing. However, with more and more being destroyed day by day, the old city is disappearing. Maybe in a few years you will only be able to see the old city in pictures.

You may ask why this precious historical relic has to be destroyed. It is because people's living standards are to be raised. These shabby and narrow lanes have held back modern development. To some extent it is true. But is it a must to tear down this precious historical treasure to continue modern development? Perhaps not, and more and more people have become aware of this and are using various ways to protect them. Some people stop bulldozers rolling into hutongs. Others write to the government, and some residents are reluctant to move from there where they have lived for a long time. Their efforts have achieved some initial success. They are happy to see many being saved.

Protecting the hutong is a long term and urgent task. Everyone has the responsibility to save this precious historical treasure.
A hutong in danger A hutong under repair

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