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History Of Beijing City

History Of Beijing City

The city of Beijing has as its center the imperial Palace. On the east and west sides of the Palace, not far from it, are concentrated the regular hutongs. Almost all the principal architectural structures along them are quadrangles (SiHeYuan), which are courtyards surrounded and enclosed by houses on the four sides. They are arranged in an orderly pattern from south to north like warp and weft. The dwellers formerly were, as a rule, kin to the emperor or families of the aristocracy. The crude and shabby hutongs are at a distance from the Palace to the south and north, inhabited by merchants and common people.

The Beijing city is laid out according to the design that the outer city encloses the inner city and the inner city encloses the imperial city. In the space in between the outer and the inner cities crisscross the numerous hutongs of various sizes. This pattern of architecture is unique in the world. It can be said with assurance that the hutongs are the main special feature of our Beijing metropolis. Without the hutongs there would not be the traditional Beijing and, moreover, Beijing would not be in a position to fulfill the promise that it holds out to new visitors to it of affording them a special relish.

The overall characteristic of civilian residential housing in the northern part of China is that it takes the courtyard (or patio) as the nucleus and, on the principle of having the exterior substantially built and the interior made enormous in vacant space, deploys the houses used for various purposes in an orderly pattern symmetrically on the two sides of a longitudinal axis. Of this type of architectural construction, the quadrangles (SiHeYuan) of Beijing are the highest in technical level and most typical in design. They are the excellent representative of the civilian residential housing of the Han nationality of China.

The quadrangle has a quite long history in China. On the basis of analysis of extant data about cultural relics, architectural structures of the quadrangle type appeared in China even earlier than two thousand years ago.

Why do people naturally think of the quadrangles (SiHeYuan) of Beijing city whenever mention is made of this type of dwelling house in general?

The reason is not far to seek. quadrangles (SiHeYuan) of Beijing, being highly regular and systematic in patterns of

Beijing SiHeYuan quadrangles

construction, are remarkable for their typicality. Of all the quadrangles (SiHeYuan) in China those of Beijing are representative of the salient features. The four houses of a Beijing quadrangle facing east, west, south and north respectively are independent of each other. The eastern- and western-wing houses are not connected architecturally with the principal house and the opposite house. What is more, all these houses are one-storied. They have no upper floors. They are connected with each other at the corners by a verandah placed at the point where two houses join. Consequently, a bird’s eye view from the sky of a quadrangle of Beijing will see it as if it were four boxes surrounding and enclosing a courtyard.

In short, a quadrangle of Beijing has a commodious courtyard with independent houses on the four sides connected by verandahs---all being conducive to the convenience of members of the household in their daily life.

That the quadrangles (SiHeYuan) of Beijing could have existed for several hundred years in the history of China is due to the advantage they have which no other types of residential architecture could hope to equally possess. Today, however, with the acceleration of the pace of urban modernization and the springing up of high buildings in a rash, people, particularly those with a history of residence in the city of Beijing that goes back several generations, will look at the quadrangles (SiHeYuan) with a clinging love which they may cherish for ever.

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