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Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Center (CHP) is a small grassroots, legally-registered NGO working to protect cultural heritage across China.

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Heritage Trail project

Heritage Trail Project Phase II

The Nanluoguxiang area

Nanluoguxiang District

The area known as Nanluoguxiang began to take shape during the Yuan Dynasty, particularly during the years 1267 to 1290. At this time, Nanluoguxiang sat near the center of Yuan Dadu (Beijing) in the Zhaohui Fang administrative area, one of more than fifty such administrative fang. By the Ming Dynasty, following the city’s general migration southward, Nanluoguxiang found itself sitting at the city’s north, at the borderline between Zhaohui Fang and Jingong Fang administrative areas. During the Qing, the area fell under the jurisdiction of the Bordered Yellow Banner, and by the Republican period it became part of the fifth district of the Inner City. At present, the Nanluoguxiang area sits in the northwest part of the city’s Dongcheng district, and falls under the jurisdiction of the Jiaodaokou neighborhood sub-district. It begins in the north at East Gulou Street, ending in the south at East Di’anmen Street.

Geographically, Nanluoguxiang is the central axis of the area, around which sixteen hutong were constructed (eight on each side). Moving north to south on the west side, one finds hutongs Qiangulouyuan Hutong, Heizhima Hutong, Shajing Hutong, Jingyang Hutong, Mao’er Hutong, Yuer Hutong, Suoyi Hutong, Fuxiang Hutong; while on the east side lay Ju’er Hutong, Hou Yuan’ensi Hutong, Qian Yuan’ensi Hutong, Qinlao Hutong, Beibingmasi Hutong, Dongmianhua Hutong, Banchang Hutong, Chaodou Hutong. The sixteen hutongs are arranged in order and form a centipede pattern, thus earning it the nickname “Centipede Street.” According to legend, there were two ancient wells at the north end of Nanluoguxiang that formed the eyes of the centipede. Such a layout – comprised of both hutong and quadrangle compounds – exists as a perfect example of the “chessboard” urban planning design employed in the Yuan Capital.

The Nanluoguxiang area is adjacent to the Imperial City and is noted for its extraordinary feng shui. The ancient nobility used to live here in order to gain easier access to the Imperial City and to have audience with the emperor. Because of this, the Nanluoguxiang area turned into one of the most massive and comprehensive collection of siheyuan courtyards in the city. Empress Wanrong, Mongolian Prince Sengge Rinchen, as well as various interior ministers from the Qing Dynasty all lived in this area. Notable figures of the Republican era, such as Sun Yat-sen, Chiang Kai-shek, Duan Qirui, Feng Guozhang, Zhan Tianyou, Mao Dun, Qi Baishi and Ouyang Yujing, also lived in this area at some point in their lives. There are more than 40 places of interest within the area, including Ke Yuan, Qi Yuan, carved brick gateways, and stone monuments. The area has seen many changes over the years yet has still managed to maintain its original style and appearance. It is currently home to Beijing’s most well-preserved siheyuan courtyards, in which one can find a plethora of heritage sites, former residences, and other places of historical significance. As of 2007, there were 28 sites under special preservation at the national, city or district level.

Because the Nanluoguxiang area is extremely crucial to the preservation of old Beijing, it has been selected as one of the sites under special preservation by the Beijing Municipal City Planning Commission. In 2002, following an announcement made by the Beijing city government regarding cultural protection, a number of  Nanluoguxiang’s important historic areas were placed on a list of heritage sites.

Today, the Nanluoguxiang area is not only a window into Beijing’s history, but also home to a rich array of modern cultural attractions, such as the theater of the Central Academy of Drama, the Experimental Theater, and the Penghao Theater, as well as a great deal of unique shops, bars, and restaurants.

Recently, our dedicated team of interns have documented areas around Nanluoguxiang.

See CHP’s Heritage Trail Project Phase I

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