New friend Jiayu, who introduced herself on the subway using the English name Jessie while I was going to art openings my first weekend, offered to be my guide to see the oldest hutongs in Beijing on my last day in the city. Believing she was also my host meant she tried to pay for everything we ate despite our recent acquaintance, a courtesy pressed by many Chinese friends during the month as “the Chinese Way.”
We met at Nanluoguxiang subway station then crossed to the north to enter the hutong of the same name. From there to Guluo Dong Da Jie, past the Drum Tower, then to Dashibei Hutong and Houhai Hutong. Or something like that. Hutongs are narrow alleys that run one into the next in dense neighborhoods. They contain a mix of private courtyard homes and specialty shops. Fear of getting lost was one reason I was glad not to go alone. At restaurant street counters Jiayu knew which distinctive Beijing foods to look for and the best place to buy them, including skewered roast lamb, hot baked rolls, yogurt with mango, and steamed buns at a Qing Feng chain favored by President Xi Jinping.
In the evening we crossed the city by bus to Sanlitun Soho to see the newest glass and steel brand name malls, the type of construction that has almost completely obliterated centuries-old architecturally unique Beijing hutongs in the name of modernization, economic development, and plumbing.
four beams above the front door indicates higher social status
Drum Tower, a time keeping facility along with the Bell Tower to the north, built 1272
roast lamb on skewers
rolls hot from the oven
best cookies, each with a different filling
international brand stores full of foreigners
Sanlitun SOHO — the newest Beijing
artist residency, day 28