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Qianmen (前门)

Silk On Display

Silk On Dis­play at Rui­fux­i­ang (瑞蚨祥)

Qián­mén (前门, “the front gate”), stands at the south end of Tianan­men Square. It was for­merly the front gate of the Impe­r­ial City and it sym­bol­ized Beijing’s grandeur. Not sur­pris­ingly, Qián­mén is one of the most cen­tral dis­trict of Bei­jing. No mat­ter what you look for, you will find it there, either in one of the busy hútòng or on Qián­mén street itself: Bei­jing Duck at Quan­jude, shoes at Neil­ian­sheng, silk at Rui­fux­i­ang… these century-old estab­lish­ments were pur­vey­ors to the Impe­r­ial Court and still exist today. You are in the heart of the his­tor­i­cal Beijing.

Qián­mén is also famous for its labyrinth of ancient pas­sage­ways and alleys, formed by lines of tra­di­tional court­yard res­i­dences, plen­ti­ful around his­tor­i­cal dis­tricts: the hútòng. But since 1949, many of the old hútòng started being replaced by the high rises and wide boule­vards of today’s Bei­jing. As the city was get­ting a facelift for the 2008 Olympics, many more hútòng were demol­ished, and peo­ple began to mourn the loss of Beijing’s cul­tural heritage.

Yet, many roman­ti­cize the way of life of the old hútòng. Hun­dreds of res­i­dents shar­ing one toi­let, no heat­ing sys­tem (or a pretty bad one), no pri­vate bath or shower (com­mu­nal baths were still the norm in Bei­jing just twenty years ago!) and entire fam­i­lies packed under one roof, in a sin­gle room, 四世同堂(Four Gen­er­a­tions under One Roof). Life was tough… yet a sense of com­mu­nity was lost when Bei­jing started developing.

But Qián­mén still offers a glimpse of old Bei­jing and there is a lot to see.

Qianmen, Main Door

Qian­men, Main Door

Old Architecture

Old Archi­tec­ture

Qianmen Street

Qian­men Street

Qianmen Street

Qian­men Street

Smallers Streets And The Crowd

Smaller Streets And The Crowd

Packed Alleys

Packed Alleys

Cultural Revolution Memorabilia For Sale

Cul­tural Rev­o­lu­tion Memorabilia

Traditional Paintings

Tra­di­tional Paintings

Qianmen At Night Qian­men at Night
The Back Of Tiananmen At Night

The Back Of Tianan­men At Night

13 comments

  1. if i had to share the toi­let with hun­dreds of peo­ple, i’d lock the door. seriously.

    Seraphines last great read…Who Can Say NO to Drugs, Sex and Oil?

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