Heritage Trail: Beibingmasi Hutong 北兵马司胡同
Beibingmasi Hutong runs east to west, connecting Jiaodaokou Street with Nanluo Guxiang. To its south lies Dongmianhua Hutong and to its north lies Qinlao Hutong. It is 446 meters long and six meters wide, with addresses numbering from 1 to 29 on one side and 4 to 24 on the other. Number 2 is missing.
During the Ming Dynasty, Beibingmasi Hutong belonged to the Zhaohui Jingong administrative area (fang) and was called Beichengmasi, translated roughly as “northern city cavalry department”. Following the restoration of Beijing as capital during the reign of Emperor Yongle, the city constructed five bingmasi (troop departments) – north, south, east, west, and central – to help maintain public security and catch thieves. Located very close to the northern (bei) cavalry department office – located west of what is today Jiaodaokou South Street – the street took its name accordingly.
After the arrival of the Qing, the area fell under the jurisdiction of the Bordered Yellow Banner. A name change followed this change in governance, with the street becoming Bingmasi during the Qianlong era and Beibingmasi during the reign of Emperor Xuantong. The latter name would remain until 1979, when the word “hutong” was officially added, making it Beibingmasi Hutong.
The former official residence of Zhao Erxun – historian and Qing governor-general – is located in this hutong but has functioned as an office for the Ministry of Transportation since 1949. In addition, it is said that during the years of Japanese occupation, the easternmost part of the alley was home to the director of the China Joint Preparatory Bank. After that, it played home to Xiao Zhenying, Mayor of Tianjin. Today, one can find the Dongcheng District Center for Disease Control and Prevention there.
According to Beijing Simiao Lishi Ziliao (Resources on Beijing Temple History), Beibingmasi Hutong was formerly home to a small temple dedicated to the god of the earth (tu di miao). Built during the reign of Qing Emperor Yongzheng (1722-1735), it was repaired in 1857, the seventh year of the Xianfeng Emperor, and operated by a man named Zhang Mashi. The main hall is still structurally stable, and inside the temple one can find a clay statue of Guanyu and a porcelain statue of Guanyin.
Hu Yuyuan, Rixia Huimou: Lao Beijing de shi di minsu
Zhong Jianwei, Beijing shi dongcheng qu diming zhi
Chen Wenlang, Beijing chuantong wenhua bianlan
Beijing City Municipal Archives, Beijing Simiao lishi ziliao
Liu Zhaoning, “Wo yinxiang zhong de Nanluo Guxiang,” Jiyou bolan, Vol. 7, 2006