Hutong means a lane or alley, formed by lines of Quadrangles where old Beijing residents live, witness the vicissitude of the city. The gray-tiled houses and deep alleys crossing with each other in identical appearance like a maze, you will find it much fun to walk through but be care not to lost yourself.
According to experts, the word Hutong originated from Mongolian language meaning "well". In ancient times, people tended to gather and live around wells. So the original meaning of Hutong should be a place where people gather and live.
A 37-metre-wide road was called an avenue, an 18-metre-wide one was called a street, and a 9-metre-wide lane was called a Hutong. Most of today's Hutong were formed during the Ming and Qing Dynasties that followed.
Nobody knows exactly how many Hutongs there are in nowadays Beijing. But one thing is for sure, if we connected all the Hutongs together, their total length would even be longer than the famous Great wall, which is about 4000 miles longer. Or to make it clear, it could build a highway from Seattle to Boston, all across America!
In old times, transportation was not as convenient as today, street vendors played a very important role in Hutong life. They wandered from lane to lane selling various goods or providing all kind of services. People could judge the goods or services from their peddling or the sounds of their special instruments. The food they sold usually include baked pancakes, seasoned millet mush, or Youzhaguo, a kind of deep-fried twisted dough sticks, and all kinds of vegetables.
The main attraction of Hutong life is friendly and interpersonal communication. Children living in one courtyard play together and grow up together like one big family. So now our government is trying to preserve such Hutong area in Beijing. Without permission, nobody is allowed to tear down old houses to build high-rise apartments. We want to save it as a treasure to show our later generations what Beijing used to be like.