A woman rides her bicycle in a hutong in Beijing. The narrow alleyways are Beijing's traditional form of residence which is thought to have first appeared in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368)

Gu Chen has slept and worked in the same one-room apartment in Beijing's ancient 'hutong' neighbourhood of Beixinqiao all his life.


Most mornings he rises from a twin bed that he shares with his wife and walks a few feet to pull aside drapes covering the windows on the doors facing the street.


Then the 58-year-old settles onto the concrete stoop fronting his shop and gets to work repairing electronic appliances for his neighbours.



Many hutong houses were originally built as spacious homes for ancient Chinese residents but they were converted into tenements to accommodate multiple families

Rent has increased five fold in the past decade but Gu still charges customers as little as £4.8 for each repair.


'It is still affordable here compared to the modern apartments and the one-story level means ... I don't have to pay additional rent for a separate shop' Gu said.


Gu's home is located on the outer edge of a courtyard dwelling with curved tiled rooftops hundreds of which form networks of 'hutong' alleyways in the heart of China's capital city.


Beijing's hutong alleyways offer a glimpse at a communal way of life that is fading. Since the beginning of 21st century gentrification has begun in many of these traditional neighbourhoods in Beijing

The narrow streets bustle with activity from food stalls shops and the constant flow of bikes and motorcycles. Pictured is the wife of Gu Chen an electrical appliance repairman residing in hutong. She stands in front of the one-room apartment where she and her husband have slept and worked in all her life

The narrow streets are filled with vendors selling breakfast snacks from small stalls - crisp-fried egg crepes steamed dumplings and warming bowls of millet porridge. These stalls are usually right outside residents' families

Vendors playing badminton in an indoor farmers' market as they wait for clients. Hundreds of families would live in the same hutong alleyway during China's hard-core Communist era. Nowadays many of these alleyways have been demolished

Residents of Beijing's ancient hutong alleys form a tight-knit community. Uncles and aunties would chit-chat show off their pets and play chess outside their house in the cluttered lanes

With a large number of people sharing the same space social events are important. Residents are pictured playing mah-jong a traditional Chinese board game in their hutong home

With space scarce in the city of 21.5 million most hutong courtyards in Beijing are filled with makeshift wood-panel shacks or higher-quality concrete rooms. Many Beijing families who used to live in hutong have moved into newly built flats to improve their life quality leaving the city's migrant workers to occupy the old buildings

An elderly resident walks in a typical hutong alleyway. Hundreds of years ago the lane would be lined with stately red doors which led to spacious courtyards decorated with carved roof beams and painted pillars

Many hutong buildings have also been turned into dormitories to accommodate migrant factory workers. These dorm rooms can be extremely packed with up to 60 workers sharing the same bedroom (pictured)

'There is no privacy here everyone sees your comings and goings and overhears your conversations' said Luo Pu a young man living in an alley near Beijing's historic Drum Tower area

Many of the refined old homes are now rundown but gentrification has begun to transform some of the neighbourhoods into havens for hipsters since the beginning of 21st century

It's believed that the word hutong came from the Mongolian language about 700 years ago when the majority of modern China was ruled by the Mongols. Hutong or 'hottog' in its original language means a water well

Young and old modern and traditional happiness and frustration intertwine in these small streets forming a theatrical scene of daily life in the heart of central Beijing

Today numerous craft breweries boutique hotels and art galleries can be found under these tiled hutong roofs - due to a gentrification brought on by young generations and expat residents

A group of elderly people gathering to talk in Beijing's Luoche Hutong near Beixinqiao subway station. The beauty of the alleys lie in the contrast between fashion and tradition noise and tranquility new trends and old-school gossiping

Workers collect cardboard boxes in a hutong. Hutong residents have the habit of recycling used goods from furniture to glass bottles by selling them to rubbish collectors

Although gentrification and demolition works are underway the changes have made residents optimistic about their neighbourhoods' future - many surviving hutong have recently been targeted for historic preservation effort

Bicycles and motorbikes are the best ways to get around the disorienting alleyways which can resemble mazes and would confuse any first-time visitors. Pictured is a neighbourhood bike repair shop with a signboard saying 'all for making a living'

A woman and her daughter are pictured in their home. Younger generations tend to prefer new flats to old cramped hutong but some of them who wish to experience the old-school Beijing lifestyle have begun to move back

In Chinese a hutong building is known as 'siheyuan' which means a compound made up of rooms around the courtyard

Fruit vendors butchers and convenience shop owners start their days by setting stools out on the street while residents wrap up their day with a takeaway meal from many of the food stores in hutong

Cuisines from around China can be found in hutong restaurants such as the one in the above picture which boasts to sell traditional dishes from Shaanxi a province in north-west China





smsgt South of North United States 31 minutes from now
I really do enjoy stories like this it is interesting to see how others live and work and go through life.


HaywoodZarathustra Fat City moments ago
LOL. 60 workers to a bedroom in that pic of the guys playing cards. A haze of cig smoke chokes out the background. Imagine the thundering headaches from that.


bluemerleK Phoenix United States 2 hours ago
well I wouldn't want to live there.


Tommytom222222 Newtownards United Kingdom 4 hours ago
Blade Runner.....



Teresa Cape Town South Africa 5 hours ago
DM an "alleyway" is the lane between buildings - you can't DEMOLISH "an alleyway".


pourkay Rushford United States 5 hours ago
I looked at the street scenes - there is NO garbage on the streets. American slobs should take notice. Also with Communist China - do the families own these? Can they sell them?

我看着这些街景,并没有任何垃圾被随便丢弃。美国那些没素质的家伙该检讨下。还有共产主义中国-这些家庭拥有这些吗? 他们可以出售吗?

Bluboyjo Sydney Australia 6 hours ago
Thought it was Sydney for a minute!


Burnt Land of oz United States 6 hours ago
Have you ever been to Sydney


Bluboyjo Sydney Australia 3 hours ago
No I live in the other Sydney sarcasm is obviously wasted on some



STUNNlNG London United Kingdom 7 hours ago
I like it. The place has character.


TheSurfDweller VASHON United States 8 hours ago
It's the 21st century and 50yrs. ago I thought the world would be a utopia by now with flying cars robots and everyone living in Jetson style homes. How wrong I was.


cane toad Hawaii United States 10 hours ago
How most will be living in the future. Only maybe not as well...we have many people living on our sidewalks in San Francisco. Under bridges. In cardboard boxes or nothing at all.


Lottelita An American in Malta 10 hours ago
oh that photo of the alleyway is so reminiscent! i remember some of these places from beijing. kind of in plain sight but tucked behind walls. very quaint. they have public restrooms for each small sections of houses. i'm glad china is keeping these. one of the benefits of not developing too too quickly.



Pineapple Pete Midwest United States 11 hours ago
Reminds me of pictures of the old Kowloon Walled City now demolished. Those were some close quarters and tiny living spaces. This is luxurious in comparison.


Lil Ole Betta Fish Christmas Island Christmas Island 11 hours ago
1.3 billion people. It's called over crowding and lack of space. People make the best of it.


Eve London United Kingdom 5 hours ago
There's lots of space in the countryside China is a very big country.


Lil Ole Betta Fish Christmas Island Christmas Island 4 hours ago
Eve - there no jobs in the city. Idiotic.



DC68 London United Kingdom 11 hours ago
Although not the best place to love it still beats being homeless and living on the streets. They do seem to have a good sense of community there.


Citriolo New York United States 11 hours ago
Breeding ground for all sorts of communicable diseases !


IamtheBossofyou Aarhus Denmark 9 hours ago
Unlike the rat problem in New York. I have lived in the Hutongs and New York and I know which one I prefer.

不像纽约一样,老鼠成灾。我住过胡同和纽约 我很清楚我更喜欢哪一个。