alleys formed by lines of courtyard houses
Hutongs are narrow streets or alleys, most commonly associated with Beijing. In Beijing, hutongs are alleys formed by lines of courtyard houses (siheyuan), traditional courtyard residences. Many neighborhoods were formed by joining one siheyuan to another to form a hutong, and then joining one hutong to another. The word hutong is also used to refer to such neighborhoods.

Since the mid-20th century, the number of Beijing hutongs has dropped dramatically as the courtyard houses are torn down to make way for new roads and buildings. But some hutongs have been designated as protected areas in an attempt to preserve this aspect of Chinese cultural history.

Hutong represents an important culture element of Beijing city. Almost every hutong is associated with interesting stories, and some even with historic events because of Beijing's long history and superior status as capital for six dynasties. In contrast to the royal culture represented by the Forbidden City, Summer Palace and the Temple of Heaven, hutong is a culture of grassroots Beijinger because hutong used to be and still is residential neighborhood for "old Beijinger".
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