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Qianliang Hutong's Prosperous Past


The entrance to No. 19 Right: Susu, the Vietnamese restaurant [Photos: Yin Yeping/GT]

Located east of Dongsi Beidajie in Dongcheng district, Qianliang Hutong is quite unique. Its name, Qianliang, means money and grain, which gives people a clue about its past. During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Qianliang Hutong was the official department in charge of money and finance.

Apart from money, the hutong also enjoyed connections to power due to several high profile people living there. For example, Qi Ying (1790-1858), a top official who allocated positions like first minister and general commander of the royal army, lived and worked in the mansion at No.19 and 21.

Sadly when you ask residents about all of this, few are aware of the lane's history, which is a testament to how fast it is changing and with that, memories are being erased. We decided to venture to the lane and dig out stories in a quest to keep the memories alive.

The life of the official Qi Ying is certainly worth more mention. For a time, he was the right-hand man of the emperor Xianfeng. However, trouble within the court and the signing of treaties with foreign powers led to the emperor forcing Qi Ying to take his own life.

For a long period of time, hardly anyone of note dwelled here. Then in the early 20th century Zhang Taiyan (1869-1936), a democratic revolutionist, was imprisoned at No. 19. From 1913 to 1916 Yuan Shikai banished him here after he failed to persuade him to be his follower. His every move was under the supervision of Yuan's watchdogs. He was only set free when Yuan died.

Today No.19 has become the dormitory of the Beijing Institute of Technology. The solemn horse-shaped statues on either side of the door and the elegant screen wall are the only indications of its former glory.

Another impressive residence, on the west side of the hutong, which is large in scale and has wire mesh protection on the top of the building, it said by local residents to have been the residence of Liu Bocheng (1892-1986), the former founder and commander of China's Liberation Army.

Now behind the big red door people can find the headquarters of the government of Dongcheng district.

Qianliang is not just a good destination to check out some amazing courtyards, but also to grab a bite to eat. The lane contains two Muslim restaurants, great Japanese cuisine and other small eateries for diners. Two places especially draw in the crowds. One is the Vietnamese restaurant called Susu, which is located on Qianliang Xixiang, a small alley off Qianliang Hutong in the south. This restaurant has a lovely courtyard, a terrace and minimalist decoration. In fact, it is like a little Eden where visitors can enjoy great food in modern, clean surrounds. After finishing a meal at Susu, No. 32 is worth a visit. This small café is often crowded, but lovely and quaint.

So the years have passed and the people have changed, but Qianliang Hutong still remains a commercially thriving area to this day.

Global Times