Monday, May 22, 2017
Beijing May 10, 2017 Visit to a Hutong and acrobatics show
Jack and Mr. Hong picked me up at 8a.m. and I decided I didn't need to go to the Drum Tower that had been planned as it was another of the "lots of walking" sites. Besides, I may have already been there on a different visit although I couldn't remember it offhand. I thought we'd get there and then i'd recognise it and so I said lets just skip it. So off we went to my next scheduled event which was a ride in a rickshaw to a private home in a hutong in the Shichahai area behind Beihai Park.
Hutongs are very old traditional homes with courtyards along the lanes or alleyways in beautiful downtown Beijing.. Some of the hutongs in Beijing are over 700 years old and have been passed down from generation to generation dating back to the Yuan Dynasty in the 13th and 14th century.
The lady of the home I was lucky to visit was named Jing and she was a lovely friendly and very talented lady and an awesome artist. She creates art by painting scenes, animals, flowers, poetry etc. inside tiny bottles through a very tiny opening at the neck of the bottle. She also was a masterful creator of beautiful paper cut art. Jings husband is a calligrapher who was at work and they have a 7 yr old son who was at school when we were there. Jing served me a cup of tea and I was awkward, not sure of my etiquette and if I should take a sip first or wait until she did. Her home was lovely and I was surprised at how neat, clean, quiet, private and peaceful it was in her courtyard. She had decorations on the walls and an overhead frame to add a tarp on to shade the area when it gets real hot in the summer. Also in her courtyard was a big old ceramic egg pot full of water with live fish swimming around in it and a couple of young pomegranate trees which had small fruits forming on them and butterflies and birds were flitting around. Pomegranate trees are in most homes in the hutongs to bring good luck. There was her bike or maybe the sons and her hubbys motor bike as well and other houseplants and items found in any home garden or patio. Jing had her art studio in one wing of the house and there she had displays of her papercut arts on the walls and shelves along with her little painted jars for sale. I also saw that her wall art in the living room was hand painted scenery and the room had been prepared for 30 people who would be arriving on a bus tour later for a home cooked lunch and a paper cutting lesson. Jing spoke no English so Jack translated for us as she taught me how to create a simple papercut that when unfolded was the Chinese sign for double happiness. Although mine was clunky and uneven she praised it and carefully made me up a pkg including my papercut and some extra papers to do more at home; one of which she drew the lines on to help me get the hang of where to cut. She placed them in a cellophane bag along with a stronger piece of cardboard to ensure that it wouldn't get wrinkled. We visited for awhile and she spoke of having good relationships with all the people in her hutong and how they all looked out for each other. They own their homes and take great pride in them and they feel priviledged to be home owners and she was proud to know that her son and grandchildren will carry on living there all their lives. I learned that an uncle and possibly other relatives also lived in her home and that each had their own bdrm. I felt so happy for Jing and her family and their traditions that will carry on. As this was the first hutong home I had ever seen I don't know if they're all designed the same way. Jings house was designed all around 3 sides of the property like a U with the courtyard and entrance in the open section and an opening to entering all three wings of the house from the courtyard. The outside walls were high and the entrance had a big lock on it so they were safe and secure living there. After awhile Jings sister arrived as she was going to help make the lunch for the bus tour people. We then went into Jings studio and she showed me how she paints inside the bottles and it required tons of patience and good eyesight. And then she passed the brush to me and a bottle to paint in. OMG. I was like a clumsy dumpling and instead of painting a delicate flower I painted a huge mud puddle, lol. I bought one of her painted jars and who wouldn't, it was 160 Chinese RMB which was a mere $30. Canadian and I will prize that little jar and the memory of her and her home forever.
I took more pictures; some with Jing painting inside the bottles and my painted flower that looks like a mud puddle but with my IPad and unfortunately I don't know how to transfer them. Jack also made me a video with my IPad which I don't know how to transfer. If I ever figure it out i'll post them sometime.
The hutong houses of Beijing are so old they were made without bathrooms or toilets as they did back hundreds of years ago. Naturally I was curious and Jack explained that when the sewer line went in they skipped putting them in the hutongs, so no bathrooms and no toilets but I didn't get the reasoning. They do have running water. The people living in hutongs have to walk out of the alleyways to the next closest big street and use the pay toilets there which also made me wonder about certain scenerios and so needless to say later I asked Jack a few questions. One was because of what a long distance it was riding in the rickshaw and it was very deep into this particular hutong and how on earth can the people be running back and forth to the pay toilets all the time and especially kids after dark or in poor weather. Well, he said they don't all the time and so what you're thinking would be correct. They have a pot to pee in which isn't dumped just anywhere on top of the garden soil but a hole is dug and it's poured in the hole and covered over. I'm assuming they rotate to cover the entire yard. So then snoopy ol' me had to ask re the "solids" and he told me they have liners for their pots which have a string tie to close it and they're set out in the hutong in a certain receptacle for pickup by the city each week. Later I was thinking they also probably know their own bodies and eat accordingly so as to not have to go often during the day and to avoid going after dark. The Chinese people are all thin and fit and it's no wonder if they live in a hutong. And that my friends is why the Chinese are such strong, active and energetic and smart people.
Now that I understand life in the hutongs I really like it and i wonder if a big developer might come along and buy up several or an entire hutong to build another hotel or whatever. Of course this would make a lot of people very wealthy as they're in prime locations and is possibly why there's already so many wealthy Chinese today. I forgot to ask Jack if this is a possibility or if there's a law against it. I hope so. I loved this hutong and the way of life living in one and hope they can retain this old history of China.
Holy cow, I said hutong 16 times. Couldn't help it but now you know what a hutong is (17)
Later Jack and Mr Hong took me to see an acrobatic show which was awesome, the performers take their lives into their hands to do this show. The acts are well choreographed and the acrobats are top class and it was a fantastic experience and spectacular to watch them along with the sound and lighting effects. Some of the things these performers did were really scary amazing and they're in awesome physical shape. Unfortunately no pictures were allowed so all i could get was a pic of the curtains on the stage before the show started.