QianMen was the Front Gate of the Imperial City, located just North of Dashilan Street on the Central City Axis which also delineates the border between Chongwen- and Xuanwu-Districts. The Poor districts of the City had no access to the Imperial water supply but had to make do with the
brackish water of nearby streams and ponds, or draw from the City Moat. Nevertheless
the districts flourished. As a home of the common people, many poor and
migrant, the Streets and Alleys of the Xuanwu District were
alive and vibrant with culture and music. Find the architectural
treasure, the Ox Street Mosque with its unique Moon Gazing
Tower as a reminder of the earliest migrants to the City. Along
Located due North of Niu Jie Mosque and FaYuan Si - Source of The Law Temple, Bao Guo Temple Fair is a nice detour. Enjoy browsing the Temples Flea-Market, then stroll through the surrounding Hutong. All just a Few Hundred Meters away from Busy Beijing's Inner City traffic. Bao Guo Temple is neither an astounding Architectural Feat, nor a very large Market offering 1000's of goods and items. It is however a charming getaway and close enough to other Landmarks of Interest.
Hidden away in the Hutong streets of the Xuanwu district, just east of and very near Ox Street (Niu Jie) we find the romantic Fayuansi or Temple of the Source of the Law. Fayuansi is a very tranquil but active Buddhist temple, home to the China Buddhist College. A fine example of Chinese Temple layout and an interesting & soothing place to spend your time. Dotted with buddhist art and many a deity , this modest but colorful Temple
Liu Lichangs Street is an Ancient shopping street now restored to its old Ming Dynastic Style splendor for commercial and esthetic reasons.
Home to many a interesting store and shop , the Main part of Liu Lichang Culture Street as it is officially known , is taken up by many a line-up of different stores dealing in every truely chinese treasure to find. Colorfully and skillfully painted and crafted the store exteriors are a pleasure to the Eye, the shops themselves are fine places to dwell, browse , wonder and dream. Don't forget Lui Lichang Market at the End of the Street ! Interesting treasures can be found among these small family stalls.
At Ox Street (Niu Jie) a wide but not very conspicuous main street cutting North-South through the Xuanwu district , we find Ox Street Mosque, the main Temple of the Hui'. The hui are China's most ancient Islamic Minority and have a status as such. Browse around the interesting Mosque , the main prayer hall is reserved for Muslims only. Get the ethnic feeling of the Hui district by walking the hutong streets.
Don't forget the Hui Islamic Headquarters of China located just around the Corner to the South ! Combined with a visit to the Fayuansi , just East of Ox street hidden in the Hutong , a visit to Niu Jie can be a joyfull change from the usual Chinese crowds and neighborhoods.
Li Yuan Peking Opera Theatre at the Jianghuo Hotel. A Grand Spectacle of Peking Opera in a large Theatre with english and other langage translations and subtitling, all for the pleasure of visiting Tourists. But don't let this bother you as the show is excellent and costumes are as ever a joy to watch move.
Covering some 17 Square kilometers in the south-west of Beijing's Old City, the Xuanwu District is
one of the Older Parts of the City of Beijing. Reflecting this long
history, Xuanwu District, among things, is home to the oldest street
Chongwen and other parts of Beijing derive their name from the mongolian language. The word "hottong" referring to "well" or perhaps the space between two tents. There are several other possible translations. Xuanwu District, with its humble origins is the location of both the narrowest Hutong in Beijing, and the shortest Hutong Lane in Beijing. Respectively, Qianshi (banking) hutong in the now endangered Dashilan Hutong area with only 40 centimeters width and Yichie Dajie, south of the eastern entrance to Liu Lichang Street, with the length of only a dozen or so meters. Although from meager origins the Xuanwu District soon developed from home of the underprivileged into something more. With the less well to do of the city having to ply a trade to get by in
Life, the southern districts soon became the business, trade and
Lichang Street became the center of attention of the ceramics and
tile industry (Liu Lichang, meaning Tile Factory), with Liu Lichang
Street being the Place where the Kilns to fire and prepare the
imperial yellow Tiles of the Palaces were located (Clay was excavated
from the extreme south-east corner of Chongwen District. Now Beijing Amusement
Park). Other Trade Guilds, Arts & Crafts works, artisans,
exlusive tailors and the like similarly enjoyed a huge economic
Zheng YiCi Peking Opera Theatre
Dashilan Shopping Street
Located directly South of TiananMen Square on the extreme eastern edge of Xuanwu District Dazhalan Shopping Street is not only easy to locate , it is also conveniently close to most important Hotels. This historic street , with shops that date back to the eunuchs of the Imperial House and other Ancient rich and powerful families is a joy to the eye
and very handy and fun for
the wanting tourist shopper.
Get your tips and introduction here !
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Untill 1949 the Xuanwu District was also home to Beijing's City execution grounds, located just south of what is now Dashilan Street.
Tower at Guang'Anmen Nei'Dajie'
-The Face of New Beijing. Modern Architecture, before reserved to area's outside the 2nd ring road, has already taken over large parts of Xuanwu District.
Liu Lichang Culture Street
The Ox Street Area and Xuanwu District regularly celebrate the rich (islamic) minority backgrounds of its Citizens. These Posters announce a coming festival.
boom and soon the Southern City Districts were the place
of business of many workshops and industries
directly or indirectly catering to the Imperial Palace
and the extensive Imperial Court. Through the
succeeding ages, Emperors and Dynasties, the
Area between Liu Lichang Street would become famous for the highest quality jades, silks, woodworks, ceramics, antiques and the like, continuing this legacy at
have the stores of some of the wealthiest commercial families in the City, and had multiple outlets owned by (former) Imperial Eunuchs who built their fortune robbing the Chinese State and their workplace the Imperial Palace. Dashilan's glamour could only be rivaled by Wanfujing Street, the high class commercial street inside the Imperial Cities' eastern DongCheng District, thus located even nearer the Palace and in steady supply of quality goods.
Once surrounded by its own Defensive Walls the Southern Half of the City composed
of Chongwen- and Xuanwu Districts had access to the Imperial City through 5 City Gates (Hsi PienMen, Chun Chie Men=XuanwuMen, HepingMen, QianMen, and ChongwenMen),the Most important of which
As the third largest district of the old city, the Xuanwu District is
undergoing its fair share of changes in advance of the Beijing City 2008
Olympics. There are really too many to mention. As described above
modernity is encroaching and hutong are disappearing since the year 2002. In the past, streets were narrow, public health a shambles and the general community street environment was filthy and polluted. The situation was already bad and the recent influx of city migrants due to the economic boom of the 1990's only served to enhance problems. People lived in crowded and shabby houses in Ox Street and the surrounding charming but outdated hutong area's. Something had to be done to alleviate the citizens complaints and combat hutong health hazards. Thus, since 2002, the Beijing
In their path followed the Priest and Scientist that functioned at the Yuan and later, Ming Court and Observatory, establishing as their headquarters, the Ox Street Mosque, named after its location on the same street as the Oxen Market was located. The Islamists, would eventually be outdone by
arriving Jesuit Christians, but the Mosque remains until today the center of worship and community for the many Islamic minorities living in and around the Area. Another spin-off of the diverse migrant nature of the southern districts were the many small theatres, enjoyed not only by the common people, but -according to legend- regularly by Emperors incognito. The most historic of all Theaters are the Zheng Yici Peking Opera
Not less than the oldest wooden theatre in China, the Zheng Yici Temple cannot be missed by any Peking Opera Fan or enthousiast. The purest experience possible inside the oldest wooden theatre located in a small corner of the Beijing Hutong, the Zheng Yici Theatre has it all. Go see for yourself and experience the Theatre that once played Peking Opera Master Mister Mei Lanfang himself !
Located near the Eastern edge of Xuanwu just of the Central Axis TianQiao NanDajie', Wansheng Theatre continues with a new name but an long and impressive history. For long the leading acrobatics theatre of the City of Beijing and North China, the theatre now enjoys some competition from more modernly housed theatres. The Wansheng Theatre however remains at the Top of Chinese Acrobatics. Don't Miss Out ! Amazing !
Beijing city landscape. Although by far most damage was done in the years before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the process is still ongoing today.
What were once overcrowded dusty but lively Hutong left after Mao Zedongs rule during which virtually no money was spent on housing construction in all of China, cities have now been transformed.
In the case of the Xuanwu and other districts in Beijing; before there were close knit communities now there are anonymous blocks lined with rows of modern and adequate but completely unexciting, ,-if not boring-, city appartement flats. The results of this all this are visible to the North and South of the Entrance to Liu Lichang Street, for example. Other sites are around the Beijing Drum tower, directly west of which now runs a wide boulevard where earlier were charming Hutong (see Drum Tower Report). North of Tiantan Park (in the Chongwen District) now runs a 6 lane New Boulevard along which an entire block of identical appartment
reflecting the darker side of life in Xuanwu and the lowly economic and social prospects of the majority of the districts inhabitants. One such place was south of Luxury Dashilan Street, where in a still open area also used for horse-riding maneuvers, the city banditry and other unwanted elements were executed. Public beheadings, but also death-by-cuttings and surgical torture were the practice of the day. Nothing reminds in the area of this gruesome history, anywhere, but screams of torture mixed with shouts of spectators must have been audible in a large swath of the Area. Quite a depressing thought. Dashilan, interestingly, translates as Big Railings Street, not because of big copper railings signifying the streets status, but named after the Big Fences that closed off the street after curfew time, serving as anti-theft doors. All in all
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away in the heart of Eastern Xuanwu, between Zixin Lu and
Niu Jie (=Ox Street). Although modernity is ever encroaching on
Beijing and this district, the Temple
grounds, home to the China Buddhist
College still offer a calm and soothing
retreat from bustling city life. The First
Source of the Law Temple was built on
this Site in the 7Th Century AD, making it
entwined with its surroundings. From
here hutong alleys lead east and west,
leaving plenty opportunity for discovery.
Another interesting local attraction is the nearby Bao Guo Temple Market. Just across main artery
Curiosa market giving further opportunity to browse, stroll and enjoy. This is still the real Hutong Life, with the buying of snacks prepared on the street outside the main gate, green lanes and the temple a tranquil haven somewhat away from all
the noise and car emissions. Except for when its buying and selling time of course.
Not very well known so far The Temple of Heavenly Tranquillity with its unique 13 story stone pagoda is the oldest structure in the City of Beijing ! Visit this national buddhist relic with bases dating back to the 4th Century Northern Wei Dynasty. TianNing Pagoda itself was constructed in 1119 AD under Liao Emperor Tian Ching, and is preserved very much in its original style and form. The Pagoda has stood the test of time remarkably and has now been renovated.
TianNing Buddhist Temple
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the Xuanwu District was not the best place to live or dwell. Perhaps due to all of these difficulties and hardships in life, the Xuanwu Districts is also dotted with religious shrines of varying Nature. The majority are Muslim or Buddhist. Find the very worthwhile Source of the Law Temple hidden
fills the visitor with athmospheres from Imperial Days and Buddhist Monks. Please enjoy our multipage photographic digital Tour.
Traditional Candied fruits cooling down atop their sales cart outside a house in the Hutong between Dashilan & Liu Lichang Streets. - Click Image to Enlarge -
The southern city traditionally also had many bars populated with "sing-song" girls, brothels, gambling holes and other scenic spots to contend with. Places
not always so. Among them the famous writer Lu Xun himself, who initially lived quite luxuriously at ShaoXing Guild Hall at Nanban Jie (South Half Street), outside of XuanwuMen and inside the Xuanwu District. He was able to live there from 1912 AD until November 1919 AD when, as a revolutionary writer Lu Xun had made himself that unpopular with the local corrupt Government that he had to go into hiding. This however, would only be the beginning of his career as a writer, thinker and frontline revolutionary, making him China's most honored revolutionary writer today.
The nearby home of Lin Baishui (at No.1 MianHua Toutiao = First Cotton Lane which is North of Guozhi Xiang- Fruit Lane), founder of the revolutionary newspaper SheHui RiBao (Social Daily), has unfortunately been torn down. Lin Baishui (1874 AD - 1926 AD) was a socially interested journalist and later ardent revolutionary also known as Lin Xie or Wan Lin, both aliases developed to throw off secret agents searching for his person. Thus, of the many former residences of stars and celebrities, the Xuanwu District has its fair share. Another one of these is Kang Youwei's Former Home. The leader of the Qing Dynasty reform movement (under Emperor Guangxu, mortal enemy of Empress-Dowager
famous Homes further includes Gu Yanwu's Former Residence inside the west-wing of
Bao Guo Temple just North of Guang'AnMen XiDajie', the Former Home of Ji XiaoLan
(1724 AD -1805 AD), a high scholar during the late Qing Dynasty, and the Home of the
Caligrapher Shen JiaBen (1840 AD - 1913 AD), at No.1 Golden Well Lane (Jinjing
Hutong). Shen JiaBen was Vice-President of China's Congress in 1910 AD and presided
over the editing of the First Criminal (Law) Code in China. He is thus honored at his former
Home in the Xuanwu District. The list is completed with Yang Jiaoshan Temple, or the former residence of Yang Jiaoshan (1516 AD - 1555 AD) at No.12 Dazhi Bridge Hutong. Yang
With modernity car traffic in Beijing has seen a Terrific Boom. Private car ownership is rising each month, which in turn has made the Cities' small streets redundant, leading the city planners to decide to raise Hutong and other architectural and historical relics, widen lanes, create new boulevards, and last but not least - recreate the
towers, neatly stacked. On the other side of this new Boulevard, the remnants of the recently destroyed QianMen Area Hutong. The Area of Dashilan Street has been under the Hammer turning it and the adjacent Qianmen Nan Dajie into a tidy shopping street. Many of the Qianmen Hutong just across the Xuanwu District border and on the east side of Qianmen Dajie have been turned into rubble. The Hutong surrounding Dashilar East and West street have been drastically reduced, although the Hutong surrounding Dashilar thrive. Elsewhere in Dongcheng a lot of constructions are going on north of Jingshan towards QianHai and the Hutong surrounding the Drum- and Bell-towers have suffered repeatedly. The latest victim
unchanged for ages and last remodeled in the 1950's, forever. Find out more about the Planning of the Future City of Beijing, to be completed in fases in
chaotic, but a pleasure to dwell in during daytime and in evenings. Bars were long-gone, and brothels not seen since the clean-up that the new Communist inspired Government launched after its establishment in 1949 AD. Social and Public Health were greatly improved due to great efforts, and venereal disease eradicated. Until the turn of the millenium beggars were virtually unseen on streets. What endured throughout the communist period were the Theatres, Temples, tea-houses and the seemingly endless blocks of Hutong in between of which Temples, Mosques, fruit stalls and markets and the odd more modern structure. Above it all, in the far west, the Unique and Impressive Tower of TianNing Pagoda, the stone Pagoda dated to the 12Th Century Liao Dynasty, Beijing cities' oldest standing structure. Last but not least of our landmarks, due to its history, as well as its amazing architecture resembling a wooden-pagoda-cast-in-stone, TianNing Temple's small site is one of the most worthwhile of the entire
The scene outside re-enforced Main City Gate XuanwuMen (Men=Gate), sometime during the 1920's or 30's.
Ching Dynasty reformer, personal tutor-adviser and trustee of Emperor Guangxu, Kang Youwei.
Untill recent days the southern districts have remained
the poorest districts of the city but the richest in Cultural Heritage and Tradition. As described above, due to their humble origins they were the districts richest in Hutong, the vibrant, lively and colorful home of the common people, giving a heart and soul to this Big City. Although somewhat wild-west like in the Old Days of Ching Dynasty and Foreign encroachment, Xuanwu - and Chongwen Districts recently were very safe to live, interesting, poor and humble and somewhat
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A Reminder of the 2003 SARS virus scare and other public health hazards, in the crowded Xuanwu District Hutong.
A proud father and his daughter smiling at visitors in the Beijing Hutong (2002).
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Jiaoshan was a famous minister in the Jiajing regime of the Ming Dynasty, who was much praised for his righteousness and integrity demonstrated by the risking and losing his own life over the impeachment of a powerful and higher ranked Ming Official. With his house officially reveired and turned into a shrine during the Qianlong Reign (1735 AD - 1796 AD) of the Qing Dynasty, over time, the small place in a corner of the Xuanwu District grew into a monument to criticism of the ruling Government. Interestingly, as a late result, much later, during the short-lived 100 day reform movement of 1898 AD, Kang Youwei, Tan Sitong and 1,300 symphatizers gathered at this very place to write a memorial to the fast declining Qing throne (Empress-Dowager Cixi) to propose reformations. The episode was later named “Gongche Shangshu”. As hinted above, the entire 100 day reform movement including Emperor Guangxu himself, was ruthlessly crushed by the evil Empress-Dowager (Cixi the Dragon Lady), and as a ring-leader of the Gongche Shangshu-affair, Kang Youwei became a hunted Man. Kang had to leave the country, but as one of his achievements he elevated the status of Yang Jiaoshan Residence Temple even further. Worn down by time and somewhat neglected
during the post revolution era, the charming little hutong house stands until today. Other Celebrity Residences in the Area outside XuanwuMen, such as Zhu Yizun- and Xun Huisheng-residences have recently been torn down to make way for drab modern city apartment
flats. More destruction is ongoing.
Hints of Islamic influences in the architecture of the Hutong at Dashilan West Street.
City Government officialy launched and executed a "renovation project" for the old and unsafe houses in Ox Street. In practice this has meant the tearing down of many hutong, replacing them with more modern highrises and apartments of no cultural or historic value whatsoever. Today's new streets are wide, the living spaces more modern, adequate and spacious. According to The People's Daily newspaper, the per capita living space in Xuanwu District increased to 20 square meters from previously less than 5. True, the housing condition for some 10,000 residents there have been greatly improved. Additionally, the largest domestic Islamic super market and Beijing's sole Muslim hospital for Hui ethnic minority have brought modern life, more services and conveniences to the local residents. Luxuries before truely unheard of. However, all has been done at considerable cost. In 35.9-hectare measuring area around Niujie Street alone, some 7.500 families have been relocated, 58 percent of whom are Ethnic minority Muslims. The street environment is still polluted, the air as never before, and due to the mass relocations, local community feeling, the vibrant essence of hutong life, is gone. In its place, neatly stacked apartments and a real Muslim Shopping Street and bonanza at newly reconstructed Niu Jie in 2010 AD. New Highrise Towers can be seen at Guang'AnMen Dajie' and around XuanwuMen, where South
Cathedral is slowly suffocated. Other plans for the "New Beijing" of
2010 AD are as yet unknown to us or under research by this website.
One thing is certain however, the rich athmosphere of former times will be increasingly modified, wiping out much for eternity.
Hutong while they last ! What will be next is anyone's
In line with this advice, we give you our last tip on the Xuanwu District and its celebrated Hutong. That being , the best and most authentic Hutong Hotel Experience can be found at the Far East International Youth Hostel, located inside a traditional SiHeYuan (Quadrangle) House on Dashilan West Street, smack in the middle of the Hutong.
Hidden way in the Hutong on the far western stretch of Dashilan West Street, the Yin Jishi Hostel offers clean housing in an authentic SiheYuan (Square Courtyard) House. Clean and equipped with internet, the Far East Hostel gives the Best Hutong Experience
Temple & Altar of Agriculture
Although in the original lay-out of the rebuilt City of the Yuan- and
Ming Dynasties strictly reserved for the poorest citizens of the Imperial City, not every historical feature inside the Xuanwu District served the Poor Masses. Due South of the wide belt of ancient Hutong as well as hidden away in remote corners of the Xuanwu District so far left undiscussed, there are many more
historical relics, great and small.
If you have the chance, go visit other lesser known sites such as the Taoranting Park, a delightful place which happens to be in the vicinity of a number of excellent restaurants. Inside the Park is a classic Chinese Garden with Pagoda's, rockeries and plenty of Green to enjoy in comfortable shade during the hot summer season.
At only some distance walking due West of Taoranting Park along Yongdingmen Xi Dajie' (West Street) stands the XianNongTan Sports Stadium originally built in 1936 AD. Today a large traditional Gate only gives a small reminder of
Head out to the Far South-East corner of the Xuanwu District and find the remnants of one of the 8 ancient Imperial Holy Altars dating from the Ming Dynasty Era. Today largely hidden from view by the Altar of Agriculture Sports Stadium, the Temple of Agriculture and its Altar of Grain once rivaled the Temple of Heaven, which still stands adjacent and was connected.
the Glories of the Past, but the grounds of the Stadium once served as a highly Important Imperial Temple of Agriculture which held the Altar of Grain. As such, the Temple fulfilled
a crucial role for the entire Nation maintaining ritual communciations of the Emperor with the Heavenly Powers from which he derived the Mandate to Govern as a Benign Despot. This Temple was the Twin Temple of The Tiantan or Temple of Heaven, and although much of the Temple has been destroyed, a full tour of the Xuanwu District cannot lack a visit to this place, in the South-East Corner of the District. The South-East corner was reserved for Imperial use only. Head out to XiannongTan Stadium to see the original left-overs, or walk around the North End via historic Tianqiao Theater and Cinema Street to the recently restored Altar of Grain Temple Halls and the Museum of Ancient Chinese Architecture which is housed inside. Anyone interested specifically in bracket-systems, building of roofs and wooden halls or stone pagoda's, head there and find a Treasure Trove of Information and fine displays.
From The XianNongTan Stadium and the Altar its only a short walk down to the restored YongdingMen, the Southern-most Gate of the Qing Dynasty Era Imperial City. Marking the Southern End and starting point of the ancient Cities' Central Axis it also marks the Eastern Border of the Xuanwu District. To reach The Temple of Heaven inside Chongwen one still has to hike quite a distance.
Two Xuanwu locals in service as rickshaw men joke around while waiting for customers at the intersection that divides Dashilan East and West Street (Photo: Juli 2010).
in 2010 is the Nanluogu Xiang, a recently popular bar- and restaurant street in the shichahai area, where Hutong are making place for -of all things- a parking lot. In 2011 there are major plans to reconstruct the ity Axis and break down many shoddy hutong surrounding the Palace Museum and the Imperial Ancestral Temple. Many Hutong have been destroyed and other drastic changes have been made altering the historic face of the Imperial City, which was virtually
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