Nowadays, with space scarce in the city of 21.5 million, most hutong courtyards are filled with makeshift wood-panel shacks or higher-quality concrete rooms — allowing each courtyard to accommodate multiple households.
(In picture: The banner reads "The house belongs to government and the government forbids the people who live here to rent it to others") (AFP)
Bicycles and motorbikes are the best ways to get around the disorienting alleyways, which can resemble mazes.
Although many of the refined old homes are now rundown, gentrification has begun to transform some of the neighbourhoods into havens for hipsters — with numerous craft breweries and art galleries cropping up. (AFP)
“There is no privacy here, everyone sees your comings and goings and overhears your conversations,” said Luo Pu, a young man living in an alley near the Drum Tower, a historic landmark that was used to keep time during the Qing Dynasty.
(In picture: People playing Mahjong in their home) (AFP)
The centre of Beijing is crossed with a grid of many hundreds of small lanes and alleyways. These are called hutongs and their layout dates originally from the Yuan dynasty in the 14th century. The number of hutongs in the city peaked in the 1950s at around 6000. (AFP)