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Heritage Trail project

Heritage Trail: Ju’er Hutong 菊儿胡同

Ju'er 3

An introduction:

Ju’er Hutong runs east to west, connecting South Jiaodaokou and Nanluo Guxiang. To its south lies Hou Yuan Ensi Hutong, and to its north lies Shoubi Hutong. It is 438 meters long and 6 meters wide. Street numbers on the north range from 1 to 107, with most quadrangles having already been remodeled into courtyard-style low-rise housing. On the south, numbers range from 2 to 22 with an absence of number 6. The hutong formerly belonged to the Zhaohui Jingong administrative area (fang), and was named Ju’er Hutong (with the character ‘局’) during the Ming Dynasty. It was under the jurisdiction of the Bordered Yellow Banner during the Qing Dynasty, and was renamed Ju’er Hutong (with the character ‘桔’) during the Qianlong Era and later named Ju’er Hutong (with the character ‘菊’) during the Xuantong Era. This name lasted up until the Republican Era. Following Liberation, it would again undergo several name changes until 1979, when the alley – together with the so-called “Xiao Ju’er Hutong” – was again designated as Ju’er Hutong (with the character ‘菊’). Numbers 3, 5 and 7 quadrangles were the former mansion of Rong Lu, Qing Grand Secretary and Viceroy of former Zhili Province (a municipality encompassing modern day Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, western Liaoning, northern Henan, and Inner Mongolia). The quadrangle at number 3 contained both residences and a shrine, number 5 functioned as the garden, and number 7 held western style buildings. After 1949, the quadrangle at number 7 became the embassy of Afghanistan. Today, it hosts the Beijing Industrial Technology Research Institute.

Remodeled low-rise courtyards:

The new low-rise courtyards in Ju’er Hutong – known as the Ju’er Courtyard Housing Project – were built as part of the Beijing Old Building-Remodeling Project, begun in 1988. The project was co-designed by the Department of Architecture and the Architecture Design and Research Group of Tsinghua University, and carried out under the leadership of Mr Wu Liangyong, prestigious architect and urban planner, member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, and chairman of both the Urban Planning Society of China and the Institute of Architectural and Urban Studies.

To begin the project, Mr Wu divided Ju’er Hutong’s buildings into three categories based on their existing conditions. Buildings constructed after the 1970s were still in good condition and therefore remained intact. Some buildings needed to be renovated, and decrepit quadrangles had to be remodeled. The design of the new residential buildings was based on the layout of the old Beijing siheyuan quadrangles, yet also inspired by the design of many traditional residences in Suzhou, Fujian and Guangdong, which are composed of a set of enclosed courtyards. The new architectural design not only inherited the features of old Beijing siheyuan, but also worked to meet the requirements of modern times, particularly in terms of heating, plumbing, and other amenities. Similarly, the complex, while ensuring privacy, also connected residential courtyards via corridors, thereby emphasizing and enabling communication between neighbors. The typical hutong aesthetic was further maintained by keeping long-standing trees at the center of each courtyard and using traditional grey bricks. Overall, the complex has been able to create a cheerful aura and intimate atmosphere, blending seamlessly with the surrounding Nanluo Guxiang cultural heritage protection zone.

The construction process was divided up into two phases. The first phase began in October 1989 and officially ended in August 1990. It required the destruction of seven residences and 64 dangerous and dilapidated homes, and resulted in the construction of 46 new homes that increased the average per capita living space from 5.3 m2 to 12.4 m2. The second phase began in March 1991 and ended around December 1992. This phase required the destruction of 32 residences and 344 dangerous and dilapidated homes, and resulted in the construction of 160 new homes that increased average per capita living space from 7.3 m2 to 33 m2.

From May 30 to June 4, 1994, the British Building and Social Housing Foundation held a conference in Beijing recognizing Wu Liangyong and his Ju’er Hutong Courtyard Housing Project and awarded the project its renowned World Habitat Award. Thirty-four internationally-renowned architects from 20 different countries all professed their agreement, stating that the project “reflects Chinese values, creatively maintains urban Chinese culture, possesses a high degree of social and economic utility, and represents the future of urban architectural development”.

Ju'er

The Former Residence of Rong Lu

Numbers 3, 5, and 6, Ju’er Hutong

History of the Courtyard:

The courtyard known today as Rong Lu’s former residence was first owned by Rong Lu’s father, a Qing Dynasty general named Guwalgiya Changshou. Rong Lu himself was born in this mansion in 1836, a member of both the Plain White Banner and Guwalgiya (Gua’erjia) clan. In the early years of the Guangxu Emperor’s reign (1875-1908), he first worked as Peking Land Troop Commander (jian bu jun tongling), later getting promoted to minister of the Board of War (gongbu shangshu). He was soon accused of bribery, however, and consequently sent to work as general in the western city of Xi’an. In 1895 he returned to Beijing to work as Defense Minister (bingbu shangshu).

Following the Chinese defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895), the Qing government entered into a period of political reform. Rong Lu opposed these changes however, taking a hard-line stance in favor of the old ways. In so doing, he attracted the attention of the conservative Empress Dowager Cixi, who made him Viceroy of Zhili Province, minister of the Beiyang region (modern day Liaoning, Hebei, and Shandong), and commander of the Beiyang Army. Notably, during the Hundred Days Reform movement (June 11 to September 21, 1898), Qing General Yuan Shikai informed Rong Lu as to the plan for reforms, who in turn helped stop the movement. Rong Lu then aided Cixi in her coup d’état, helping her take power. As a reward he was further appointed Minister of the Grand Council. During the anti-foreign Boxer Rebellion (1899-1901), Rong Lu – again following Cixi’s orders – deceived and crushed the Boxers, working instead to protect Beijing’s foreign legation. Nevertheless, upon the arrival of the Eight Nation Alliance Army, he fled to Xi’an. He returned to Beijing again in 1902, becoming both tutor to the crown prince and Grand Secretary.

Ju'er 2

Although Rong Lu is today seen in a negative light, more and more historians have come to view him in a more objective manner. They particularly laud his nine years of service in the so-called Divine Mechanism Regiment (shen ji ying) and his consequent expertise in western artillery. Likewise, many have noted that during his time as Viceroy, Rong Lu helped set-up numerous schools modeled on Imperial Capital University (modern day Peking University), and worked especially hard to develop the study of culture, education, and economics.

The Courtyard and its Architecture

In its heyday, Rong Lu’s mansion was extremely large. Sitting on Ju’er Hutong’s north side and facing south, it extended west to the center of the street and in the opposite direction to the street’s eastern entrance (today South Jiaodaokou). It also reached north into adjacent Shoubi Hutong. At that time, the entire mansion could be divided into three major parts: European-style buildings to the west, a garden at the center, and residences to the east. The residential quarters could be further split into five courtyards, comprised of reversely-set rooms (daozuofang) facing north, corridors (guoting), principal rooms (zhengfang), and two ancestral halls (jiaci).

Today, three of these reversely-set rooms remain, as does a three-room guoting corridor. There are also three principal rooms, each with two wing rooms. To the front of these one finds a platform with three sets of stairs. Further to the east and west one can still find side rooms and their adjacent corridors, as well. All of these buildings are topped with the traditional grey yingshan roof tiles, although the principal rooms are further adorned with hooped ridges. The corridors are also notable for their ornamental brackets (que ti). The windows and the interior of the principal rooms have been renovated in the Qing Dynasty style.

The fourth and fifth courtyards are said to have once been ancestral halls, their principal rooms each containing five rooms. Each was likewise topped with traditional grey tiles. Today these two ancestral halls have been cut off from the front courtyard, and now form part of the number 6 courtyard at Shoubi Hutong. The garden once found at number 5 has since been destroyed, and a number of dormitories have been built in its place. Based on evidence still available – gundun gate stones are still found even today – it is clear that it was once quite large. As for the foreign-style buildings in the western courtyard, they have likewise undergone modification, and today one finds a relatively large building to the south of the quadrangle. The older, two-story steeple is still present, however, and remains a fine example of late-Qing architecture.

In later years, when Rong Lu moved his family to Dongchang Hutong, he would end up selling the courtyard to a host of buyers. These individuals would in turn divide the mansion into a number of individual residences. At present, the area exists as one of Dongcheng District’s cultural heritage protection sites, having gained this status in 1986.

Works Cited:

Zhong Jianwei, Beijing shi dongcheng qu dimingzhi

Xin Jing Bao (The Beijing News), Ed., Beijing dili: Wang Xie men ting

Chen Die, “Ju’er Hutong: Yaoye zai chuantong yu xiandai zhijian – Wu Liangyong zhengzhi Beijing hutong de chenggong fanli,” Xin Cailiao Xin Zhuangshi, Feb. 2005

Wu Liangyong, Beijing jiu chengqu de zhengzhi tujing

Beijing Shi Dongchengqu Guihua Fenju, Ed., Beijing Shi Dongchengqu Guihuazhi

Back to Nanluo Guxiang area

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