For centuries, Hutongs have been recognized as one of the most treasured types of vernacular housing in China. Witnessing the cultural and historical transformation in Beijing ever since the Yuan Dynasty (1271 – 1368), the name Hutong is derived from a Mongolian word that means ‘water well’. In fact, this term was given to small streets that originated during the Yuan Dynasty when the emperor attempted to organize the urban fabric in a grid-like pattern in order to manage properly property ownership and to form an efficient transit system. Along these streets, the Yuan aristocracy and high-ranking army officials, granted lands as their estates in the royal city of Beijing, started to build courtyards around the walls. These courtyards are now known as “Siheyuan”. Later during the Ming and Qing Dynasty, the number of Hutongs in Beijing grew exponentially, as their owners kept changing and new additions and renovations were constantly taking place in a haphazard manner.
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