China/Beijing (Beautiful old Beijing Hutongs 3) Part 39

By: Nurettin YilmazPublished: 10 months ago

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Beijing Hutongs:
Skewed Tobacco Pouch Street
Know as Yandai Xiejie in Chinese, the Skewed Tobacco Pouch Street is one of the oldest hutongs in Beijing. Located in the Xicheng District, it is close to the Shichahai which are famous attractions in Beijing. It is 232 meters (253 yards) long with its east end on the Di'anmen Street and the west to the Silver Ingot Bridge. Stepping into the street for about 50 meters, one would come to the south end of the Dashibei Hutong, which goes to the Drum Tower West Avenue (Gulou Xidajie). Passing over the Silver Ingot Bridge one can reach the Houhai Bar Street.
According to a book that was published during the reign of Emperor Qianlong of Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the Skewed Tobacco Pouch Street was initially named Drum Tower Xiejie and was changed into the present at the end of Qing Dynasty. It is recorded that there were many smoking pipe stores on the street in the Qing Dynasty, among which there was one named Shuangshengtai. The store owner put a 1.5-meter-high (5-feet-high) wooden smoking pipe in front of the store as a sign. As time went by, the street was known by the whole city for its giant smoking pipe, hence its name. Some people also say that the street looks like a smoking pipe.
After the 1911 Revolution, the Qing Royal Family was overthrown, the banners (Manchurians that were fed by the Qing government) lost their incomes and many of them had to sell their properties, such as antiques, to make a living. Gradually many antique markets were formed in Beijing, among which Skewed Tobacco Pouch Street was a large one. But after 1949, the antique trading on this street gradually declined.
The Skewed Tobacco Pouch Street lost its commercial position in the 1950s and many buildings were changed to residential buildings, including the Taoism Temple--Guangfu Guan. In 2007, the street was redeveloped to recover its historical features. Guangfu Guan has become a tourist site and many reproductions of classic architecture were built on the street. In the buildings are stores of Indian clothes, Miao costumes and accessories, Tibet costumes, Lijiang crafts, Shaanxi pottery, badges and quotations of Chairman Mao, etc. If you want to experience Chinese commercial culture, the best way would be to buy some souvenirs and bargain with the shopkeepers.
Besides these featured stores, there are also many restaurants along the Skewed Tobacco Pouch Street. Here you can go to traditional Chinese restaurants--roasted lamb of Master Ji, stewed pork liver (a traditional Beijing snack) of Master Yao, the Meiyuan Dairy, baked wheaten cake with donkey meat of Mr. Wang and wonton of Master Hou.
There are more than 20 cafés and bars with different styles on the Skewed Tobacco Pouch Street, among which there is the Night of Yinding, the largest café in the Shichahai area. And others like the Red Mansion, the Sea Bar, the Show Place Café, the Wenshi Café, etc. One can have a cup of coffee when tired and enjoy the beautiful scenery of Houhai Lake. Tasting the delicacies of traditional Beijing style and those of other places, shopping in the widely varying stores, one would best experience the uniqueness of the city.

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