In the blink of an eye, it’s our last day in Beijing 😦
As we did not want to waste our day and had a relatively short morning (we had to check-out of “The Emperor” (北京皇家驿栈) at 2 PM), we decided to wake up early this morning so that we could go check out 南锣鼓巷 (nán luó gǔ xiàng), which is highly recommended by J’s girlfriend, Yue You, who lived in Beijing for 2 years.
南锣鼓巷 (nán luó gǔ xiàng) is among one of the oldest 胡同 (hú tòng) around and has a history of over 800 years. This 800-meter long North-South alleyway is filled with bars, cafes, restaurants, artsy little shops, souvenir shops and cute boutiques. It is worth spending an hour of two walking around the little alleyways around it.
As 南锣鼓巷 (nán luó gǔ xiàng) was a mere 30-minutes/2.5 km walk away from “The Emperor” (北京皇家驿栈, we decided to walk there; the weather was also good – sky was clear and the sun was out (hence not so cold!).
This is the 宣仁庙 (xuān rén miào / Xuanren Temple), where we had walked past on our first night:
“Established in 1728, Xuanren Temple was a special place where people could pray to the God of Wind for favourable weather, thus colloquially called the “Temple of Wind God”. It was renovated in 1804.”
As we walked on, we reached an intersection and though we did not need to get to the opposite side of the road, we still crossed over because an interesting sight caught our attention:
We saw a few elderly men practising their calligraphy using a brush and water on the ground.
Isn’t it lovely?
And because water is used, the ground becomes a new canvas when the water evaporates.
1.8 km more to get to 南锣鼓巷 (nán luó gǔ xiàng) but we’re enjoying our morning walk and savouring as much of Beijing as we can!
Children having fun with their mothers:
Yay, we’re almost there at 南锣鼓巷 (nán luó gǔ xiàng)!! 😀
We were told to (must-)try 文宇奶酪 (wén yǔ nǎi lào), and so will definitely look out for it:
Here we are at 南锣鼓巷 (nán luó gǔ xiàng)!
“South Luogu Lane is 786 metres long and 8 metres wide, connecting Gulou East Street (鼓楼东大街 gǔ lóu dōng dà jiē) on its north and Di’anmen East Street (地安门东大街 di ān mén dōng dà jiē) on its south. South Luogu Lane was built in 1267 when Yuan Da Du was constructed and was a component of the market area in Yuan Da Du’s urban layout, which has the imperial government built in the front, the market area at the back, the imperial ancestral temple on the left, and the sacrificial altar on the right. The lane was part of the Zhaohui Community in the Yuan Dynasty and served as the diving line between the Shaohui Community and the Jinggong Community in the Ming Dynasty. It was under the jurisdiction of the Xianghuan Banner during the years of Emperor Qianlong, and belonged to the Left III Community in the late years of Emperor Guangxu and during the years of Emperor Xuantong. During the Republic of China years, it belonged to the Inner V Community.
The lane was called “锣锅巷 (luó guō xiàng)” in the Ming Dynasty due to its “luo guo” feature, with the middle part higher than the two ends. In 1750, the lane received a hmonymic name of “锣鼓巷 (luó gǔ xiàng)” and was divided into South and North (now withing the Andingmen Community). The name of the lane remained “South Luogu Lane” / “南锣鼓巷” (nán luó gǔ xiàng) during and after the years of the Republic of China. The 胡同 (hú tòng) was briefly called “Huihuang Street” during the Cultural Revolution and later regained its current name.
South Luogu Lane was built under the architectural concept of “residential blocks” – with the lane serving as the central line dividing 8 parallel 胡同 (hú tòng) on each side, hence forming the outlook of a fish bone. South Luogu Lane is the only remaining traditional residential area in China that still fully preserves the chess-board style layout of 胡同 (hú tòng) typically found in the Yuan Dynasty, with its scale, quality and historical value unmatched by any other lanes.
South Luogu Lane was among the first 25 areas listed for historical preservation by the Beijing Municipal Government in November 1990. Currently, within the South Luogu Lane area, one site has been listed for national level preservation, 11 sites for municipal level preservation and 9 sites for district level preservation. With its impressive historical and cultural legacy, South Luogu Lane has become an attractive area for tourism and cultural creativity in the ancient capital Beijing.”
Map of 南锣鼓巷 (nán luó gǔ xiàng):
Interesting sights at 南锣鼓巷 (nán luó gǔ xiàng):
There was a lot of traffic in and out of No. 89 and so we decided to check it out:
There was a signage to invite everyone in:
“品南锣人家小吃，免费参观老北京四合院。”; directly translated to, “Try South Luogu snacks, free entry to check out ‘old’ Beijing’s courtyard.”
More stalls in there:
Even more people!
Very “ancient”/vintage decorations:
Lovely entrance/exit of No. 89:
Bench Mark Stone (水准点石碑 shuǐ zhǔn diǎn shí bēi) in front of Qing Yun Incense (青云香堂 qīng yún xiāng táng) (No. 77) caught our attention:
“Beijing’s bench mark is the datum point to compute and measure the altitude of Beijing. All the topographic maps, buildings, underground structures, pipe networks and vertical control points are designed on the basis of this bench mark.
Made of Han white jade, this Stone is a cuboid which is 1 metre in height and 0.2 metre in width, and bears the Chinese characters “实测北京水平” (shí cè běi jīng shuǐ píng), which means “For the measurement of the water level of Beijing” and on the other side, “京都市政公所” (jīng dū shì zhèng gōng suǒ), which means “Capital Engineering Bureau”. The original characters of “实” (shí) and “京” (jīng) are worn out because of weathering action. The stone was discovered in the road works in South Luogu Lane in August 2006.
According to historical records of Beijing Institute of Surveying and Mapping, the height of the peak is 49 metres above sea level. Four metres higher than the north-east corner of the Imperial Palace, which was then the highest point of Beijing Inner City. This stone was built during the early period of Republic of China (1914 – 1916). At that time, the Surveying Department of the Capital Engineering Bureau set up 80-odd stones for the measurement of the water level of Beijing and the corresponding precision was up to 1%. At present, there are no more than 3 such stones left in Beijing.”
The signages of this shop caught our attention:
They’re all placed upside-down!
万庆当铺 (wàn qìng dàng pù), Wanqing Pawnshop:
“According to the ‘Brief Introduction to Pawnshops in Beijing’, issued in 1940 by the Office of Investigation of the China United Reserve Bank, ‘Wanqing Pawnshop’ situated at No. 3 South Luogu Lane was founded in the first month of the Second Year of the Republic of China, with a registered capital of 14,000 Yuan. It had eight staff, headed by Guo Runtian, the manager. At that time, there were five famous pawnshops that were named after the owners in Beijing, namely the 常 (cháng), 刘 (liú), 高 (gāo), 董 (dǒng) and 孟 (mèng) pawnshops. The Wanqing Pawnshop was one of the shops under the Liu Pawnshop and its major clients were the eminent people living on the two sides of South Luogu Lane.
The Wanqing Pawnshop eventually declined and was closed before liberation. In August 2006, the wall of the shop was renovated and the shop’s name “Wanqing” was recovered. The three door holes on the wall used to be doorways of the shop and have been well-preserved. The main iron gate is still sealed in the wall.
The stone on the right hand side was the shop’s pole holder and the round hole in the middles of the stone was used to hold the poles for booths. The holder was found about two metres from the wall during road construction along South Luogu Lane in August 2006 and was moved to the current location.”
No. 59, 洪承畴宅 (hóng chéng chóu zhái), Hong Chengchou Mansion:
“Hong Chengchou (1593-1665), also named Yan Yan and titled Heng Jiu, born in Nan’an, Fujian Province, once lived here. He was a famous general of the late Ming Dynasty but was one of the traitors of that Dynasty and a meritorious minister in conquering Central Plains for Qing Dynasty. In front of the original gate were two iron lions, drawing people’s eyes. Covered with plush gable water ridge roof, the three exiting north houses were built in the middle and late Qing Dynasty called “Hong’s Gate”, where Hong’s ancestral hall was located. A famous Chinese archaeologist Pei Wenzhong (1904-1982) once lived here. He was the first to excavate Peking apeman skull fossil in 1929, making an important milestone in the history of anthropology.”
These are some of the information we got about a few 胡同 (hú tòng):
“板厂胡同 (bǎn chǎng hú tòng) is 457 metres long and 6 metres wide. After China’s foundation, No. 19 became the DPRK embassy in China; No. 27 was listed the district-level cultural relics protection units; No. 30, 32 and 34 were part of Mongolia Khorchin Prince Sengge Rinchen’s mansion in late Qing Dynasty, and now are the Beijing Cultural Relics Protection Units.”
“东棉花胡同 (dōng miánhuā hútòng) is 448 metres long and 6 metres wide. No. 15 was the private residence of General Feng Shan in the late Qing Dynasty, featured with exquisite tile carving arch, and no becomes the Beijing Cultural Relics Protection Unit, located with Central Academy of Drama in the alley.”
“雨儿胡同 (yǔ er hú tòng) is 343 metres long and 5 metres wide. In Qing Dynasty, the office of the banner on duty among the either banners were located in the north to the Hutong. In Republican period, chairman of Beihai Park Dong Shuping and the former residence of the famous Chinese painter of Qi Baishi’s are both located here, and Mr. Qi’s former residence is now the site of “Beijing Artists Association”.”
“秦老胡同 (qín lǎo hú tòng) is 447 metres long and 6 metres wide. Now, No. 19 and 21 yard on the Hutong are Beijing typical quadrangle dwellings standing side by side. No. 35 was the former mansion of Ming Shan, Minister at Imperial Household Department in Qing Dynasty, and has been listed as Beijing Cultural Relics Protection Unit.”
沙井胡同 (shā jǐng hú tòng):
“沙井胡同 (shā jǐng hú tòng) is 294 metres long and 6 metres wide. No. 15, 17 and 19 was minister of Imperial House, Kui Jun’s, who lived in the Guangxu Reign of Qing Dynasty, former residence and the front house of No. 15 isthe Beijing cultural relic protection unit.”
黑芝麻胡同 (hēi zhī ma hú tòng):
Long queue spotted but we didn’t buy any food because we weren’t keen on crepes and were pretty satisfied with 文宇奶酪 (wén yǔ nǎi lào) (see ‘Food-stpp (2) below):
Gong Cha is here too!
Another thing to love about 南锣鼓巷 (nán luó gǔ xiàng) is the wide array of snacks available and so we snacked to our hearts’ content! 😀
Food-stop (1), JSG Churros (apparently a must-try too):
It was reeeeeally busy:
Chocolate drizzle 😉
RMB 35 for a set of churros and hot milk tea! 🙂
Crispy churros and ice-cream 😀
Food-stop (2), 李记香豆腐 (li jì xiāng dòu fu / fragrant beancurd):
Fresh from the stove and so hot and absolutely soothing to eat in winter! 😀 Only RMB 5. 🙂
We had also seen 长沙臭豆腐 (chǎng shā chòu dòu fu / fermented beancurd), but J refuses to try it:
Food-stop 3, 文宇奶酪 (wén yǔ nǎi lào):
What a long queue!!
“奶酪 (nǎi lào) and cheese share the same Chinese name, but that’s where the similarity ends. Cheese is made with cow milk or other animal milk. The milk is acidified and additional enzymes causes coagulation. The solids are then separated and pressed into final form. Nai lao is made using fresh cow milk and coagulated with rice wine. The milk is then baked in an oven for an hour and then chilled in a refrigerator.”-Beijing Tourism
Introduction of 文宇奶酪 (wén yǔ nǎi lào):
Best translation we can offer of the signage above, “文宇奶酪 (wén yǔ nǎi lào) is an Imperial dessert from the Qing Dynasty and used to be an Imperial delicacy – reserved only for the royalties. It was eventually introduced to the commoners who thought it was high-end food and eventually is a Beijing snack. 文宇奶酪 (wén yǔ nǎi lào) is made using the original Imperial recipe with fresh milk and white sugar then curdled using glutinous rice wine. 文宇奶酪 (wén yǔ nǎi lào) is smooth and soothing to eat.”
A note reminds patrons of its authenticity and warns against imposters:
This is the one and only 文宇奶酪 (wén yǔ nǎi lào):
The queue to pay:
Collection of your purchase upon surrender of receipt:
RMB 15 for Mango:
RMB 13 for Red-bean:
J absolutely loves it!!
She’d thought it was yoghurt at first and was hesitant about eating it – she likes sour stuff but not yoghurt. 😐
We bought queued up again to get a set of 文宇奶酪 (wén yǔ nǎi lào) for Darien, who didn’t join us this morning; shows how good it is huh? 😉
It was soon noon and time to head back. 😦
南锣鼓巷 (nán luó gǔ xiàng) has been a very lovely place that allowed us to really immerse in the Beijing culture and we’re so glad we checked it out! 😀