China has long fascinated Western tourists, and it’s no surprise. The land is rich in culture, art, and tradition. Your China or Beijing photography collection can’t be completed without a visit to Chinese most photographed Beijing attractions, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall. However, the hutongs are often overlooked, and ideal for slower days.
When you see China’s Guilin or Hangzhou’s mountains, you’ll know why so many ink painters copied their peaks onto parchment over and over again. The variety of flowers and cultivated gardens seem to stretch on endlessly. Everyday life varies from village to village, and it’s so fun to discover all of the different celebrations in each region. It’s no wonder why American tourists make up a huge number of China’s inbound tourists. Number one on everyone’s list is, of course, Beijing, China’s bustling capital.
It’s a huge destination for photographers who want to snatch a piece of history with their lens and take it back home to prove just how amazing the sights were.
The only issue is, if you want truly unique pictures, you might feel the city is a bit over-photographed. So consider the hutong.
It’s time to learn about a Beijing photography secret – the Hutongs. Beijing’s old alleys and lanes are known as Hutongs, these are perfect for wondering, editing photos and slowing down and watching life go bye.
History Of Hutong
While China has, naturally, been around for thousands of years, Hutong is snuggled within the sprawling march of time.
When the emperors were laying out the capital city during the dynastic era, they arranged residences according to social classes.
It’s here that the phrase “hutong” first appeared. The word hutong originally meant “water well” but came to be the term for the little neighborhoods around the city. The hutong district’s alleys and narrow lanes are the veins and arteries that pulse with the lifeblood of the city, it’s people.
What better place to find a rich source of inspiration for Beijing photography?
What’s In A Name?
While the word originally meant water well (due to the many wells dug in the district as the city grew), it now means something like a neighborhood.
And just like many neighborhoods around the world, although they might look alike, they each have their own flavor and personality.
Take the names, for example. When the people were naming the Hutong district, they gave it folksy, down-to-earth labels.
It’s said these everyday names reflect the purity and honesty of the people of the city, and it’s hard not to agree.
There are streets and alleys named after functions, like Meat Alley, where there’s a butcher shop, or Harbor Area, close to the water. As you can imagine, there were few signposts and these names were passed through word of mouth.
But there are other charming names too, like Rain Hutong or At The Depth Of Flowers Hutong.
Take along a translator, try to find the most interesting names, and takes pictures of them. You won’t see a unique shot like that in any boring Beijing photography book!
Remember how the emperors of the capital city were also the ones that laid out the Hutong area?
Think of how the region has grown and changed over the thousands and thousands of years.
If you want to capture the true essence of China’s history through Beijing photography, Hutong is the place to do it. This is a history that isn’t often written down, the everyday struggles of everyday people.
Even if their lives have passed into the fog of memory, you can feel the rich culture etched on every brick.
And like we said before, even if every brick looks the same, each little nook and cranny has a slice of Chinese life. The Chinese themselves feel very proud of this area because they know that this is the seat of Chinese life.
Imagine the beautiful photographs you can take in this culturally rich area!
Interesting And Diverse Street Scenes
Hutong itself is full of shops purveying a variety of fascinating goods.
Of course, this is completely out of necessity; they all started as neighborhood specialty shops, serving the people of the area.
Nowadays, while they still sell what residents need, there are other shops that seek to capture the essence of history.
Wander around Hutong and you’ll find shops selling very old fashioned pipes or a gorgeous flower shop, exploding with color.
There are many souvenir and novelty shops, too, catering to tourists. You’ll find antiques but also red badges and red books.
Once your eye starts wandering and you notice the myriad of interesting shops, you’ll be inspired to snap the best photos.
No neighborhood is complete without adequate nightlife, so get ready to snap some of the best of Beijing photography.
Yinding Bridge is an excellent place to capture the setting sun, so start by setting up there.
Once dusk has settled and you’re satisfied, head to Lotus Bar Street. Just as the name suggests, there are plenty of places catering to those who need to unwind after a long day or just celebrate.
The glowing neon lights stand out against the darkness of the tight alleyways, making for some of the best Beijing photography opportunities.
Don’t forget to take pics of the boats with their red lanterns that come down the waterway.
Hutong: The Best Place For Beijing Photography
There’s much more to see in Hutong let alone Beijing, so what are you waiting for?
Pack up your camera and book your flight to China today!
If you’re interested in more hidden gems of this amazingly beautiful and diverse country, keep us bookmarked so you’re always in the know.
We’ll keep you updated with the rarely seen sights that will bag you a unique shot and show you where tourists hardly go.
Come visit China – and let us be your guide!