Photos by Nathanael Cheng (Hillsdale College) Student Correspondent CET Beijing, Summer 2017
As we enter the inner courtyard, each side contains a residence for each member of the family. The residence on the left, facing south, is for the master of the house.
After we had finished our visit to the home of Mei Lanfang, our teachers gave us a mission: find and interview local residents or Chinese-speaking tourists. Our class topic of the week had been the clash between traditional culture and urban development, and we were required to get the perspective from Chinese visitors or residents on the preservation of the traditional hutong. After trudging around the narrow alleyways, we finally found an elderly man who was willing to talk to us. Smiling and nodding, he detailed how he had lived all his life in the Beijing hutongs, describing how everyday life had changed because of modernization. Although he welcomed more tourists to visit the hutongs, he emphasized the need for careful and gradual economic development without sacrificing Beijing’s traditional culture.
On the second week of classes, our teachers took us to see Beijing’s traditional hutongs, narrow alleys often flanked with 四合院 or traditional Chinese courtyard houses. As we walked through the streets, we caught a glimpse of life behind the walls.
Our main destination is the courtyard home of Mei Lanfang, a renowned Beijing opera singer who specialized in female roles.