Beijing Courtyard, a traditional unique folk house in the hutongs, has a long history in Chinese architecture. It is called ‘Siheyuan’ in Chinese, ‘Si’ means ‘Four’, which here refers to the four sides: east, west, north and south. ‘He’ refers to the surrounding, meaning the four sides circle into a square. Due to its special layout, it is compared to a box with a garden in the center. There is only one gate leading to a hutong, so when the gate is closed the courtyard loses touch with the outside world. Therefore family members can fully enjoy tranquility and share the happiness of a peaceful family union.
Most of the existing courtyards are relics of the Ming (1368 – 1644) and Qing (1644 – 1911) Dynasties. They are the shadow of old China. The ancient furniture, fish pond, wooden doors and windows, and cane chairs remind you of their flourishing past. Those flashed bricks, Chinese eaves and cornices, fine brick designs, and wood carvings, reveal a strong classical tone of old Beijing.
Hidden in the forest of armored concrete, it presents an aching beauty of decadence, waiting eagerly for you to explore its past. You cannot fully understand Beijing until you live in the courtyards.
Owners of the courtyards often grow flowers and trees in the garden to decorate their happy life. Generally speaking, they love planting date trees, locust trees and cloves. The pomegranate tree is also their favorite because it has many seeds. In Chinese, the pronunciations of ‘seed’ and ‘son’ are the same, and old people believe that the more sons, the more blessings. This is the reason why we can see many pomegranate trees growing in the courtyards. Living in this elegant and harmonious environment, they must enjoy a peaceful and blissful life!
The Hutongs and the Courtyards reflect the ritualistic and traditional ideas of China, and contain rich cultural connotations. They are the archetypes of the royal architecture. It’s a great pity that these traditional heritage sites are being replaced by high-rise buildings during the remodeling and new construction of the city. People from home and abroad are concerned that the historic and cultural value of Beijing will certainly be reduced if the Hutongs and Courtyards are destroyed and lost forever.