The center of Beijing once consisted of an extensive network of narrow alleyways known as hutongs. Linking the capital’s traditional courtyard homes, these residential neighborhoods were a hive of activity and everyday life. While the city is still dotted with these traditional residences, Shijia Hutong Museum is unique in that it’s specifically designed to preserve the history of hutong culture.
The museum spans 1000 square meters, with various exhibition rooms showcasing items depicting hutong life as it was decades ago. Among the items are labor contracts from the 1920s and 1930s, old faded bus tickets, and baskets used by traditional Chinese households. There are also rooms fashioned according to the typical domestic furnishings of Beijing family homes from the 1950s through to the 1980s.
One of the exhibition rooms has been transformed into a mock up studio, where you can listen to recordings of the various sounds of hutong life, all at the touch of a screen. Sounds vary from birds tweeting and the calls of various street peddlers, to the sound of workers sharpening their tools and knives.
Insider’s Tip: It’s worth listening to all of the sounds in the museum’s studio until you get to the sound of the time being called out, which occurred every two hours after nightfall during the Qing dynasty.
The Shijia Hutong Museum is located just a few hundred meters north of contemporary Jinbao Jie and the Dongdan shopping area. It's around a 10-minute walk from Exit A of Dengshikou Station on Line 5 of the subway.