Painting the heart, soul of Beijing's hutongs

Updated 2017-06-22 14:55:21 Xinhua

Beijingers were once proud that their city was home to as many hutongs, or alleyway communities, "as there are hairs on a bull."

There have been hutongs in Beijing since the 13th century, but as residents relocate to improve their living standards and renovations have swept the city, many hutongs have disappeared. In 1944, there were 3,200 hutongs in Beijing, but by the end of last century this had dropped to 990.

The capital's once common residential communities were often built around a communal well, with the phrase "hutong" originating from the Mongolian term for "water well."

"This is where I used to play with my friends," Dong Juncai, 55, said pointing at an alley in a painting.

The subject of the painting, a nondescript, gray brick residential house, was his childhood home. The building was demolished as Beijing sought to solve the housing needs of its swelling population.

The alley is among 40 oil paintings by Fucha Danqing, 30, on show at No. 1 cultural center, Xicheng district in downtown Beijing. The exhibition started on June 11 and will run till this Friday.

Fucha documents and preserves the capital's hutongs through his work.


"Beijing is a changing city, many places are quite different now," Fucha said. "I am so lucky to have captured many in their original form."

The bespectacled young man who is a fan of casual sportswear has lived in Beijing his whole life. His surname, Fucha, is Manchurian in origin. His grandfather, like many of his contemporaries following the end of Qing Dynasty, adopted a Han surname, Fu. Fucha, however, later chose to reclaim his family's original name.

His given name, Danqing, means paint. It is as if he was put on the path toward being an artist from the moment he entered the world.

Fucha grew up in the capital's hutongs. "When I was small, Beijing was a quiet place, full of bird song," he said. "I played with my friends in the alleys, and ate in my neighbors' homes."

He started drawing old residential houses and alleys around ten years ago as a way to refresh his painting skills.

One painting would take around a week. He would not let bitter winds or scorching sun dampen his resolve, and could be found in the same spot for hours capturing the environment around him.

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