To me, the best in Beijing is Old Beijing that you can find in narrow hutong alleys. Most of the time you only get a tiny glimpse of how Chinese live in these old one storey grey brick stone houses. But there is one to visit!
I posted a while ago that I have visited Beijing Opera star Mei Lanfang's former residence, that is a museum, open to public since 1986. I want to give you more details today.
The courtyard is located in Huguosi Lu, a quiet lane in the Western District of Beijing.
A courtyard house has an atrium garden in the middle of the house as you can see from the two layouts, that I scanned from the beautiful book Chinese Houses.
My book shows pictures from the interior, but when you visit, you only can sneak a glance through the windows.
However you can learn more about Mei Lanfang (1894-1961). His biography is illustrated with pictures and you can see two traditional Chinese Opera costumes. There is also a TV that plays scenes from Chinese Opera featuring Mei Lanfang on stage. As the Opera Star also liked to paint and collect Chinese painting, his collection is on display as well.
It is a peaceful atmosphere and definitely worth a visit when you are interested in the traditional style of living in Beijing. For me, the hutong alleys and grey brick stone courtyards are the most authentic and charming part of old Beijing. It worth to stroll around or rent a bike to discover the real China in a city that is changing daily and transforming more and more to one of these modern international exchangeable cities.
This is a view from one room into the courtyard towards the entrance. It has been raining the day before and the whole night. The air was washed out and clean and so were the trees and everything else. The first sunshine tried to break through and the wind blowed some white blossoms from the tree on the ground.
In one of the corner courtyards I got this view through a typical Chinese round gate and took that picture of one of the 'Nine Million Bicycles in Beijing'.
Open Tue - Sun, April - November 9am - 4pm (10 RMB), 9 Huguosi Lu, Xicheng District, tel. 6618 0351
More info at Mei Lanfang Website
Picture source: all mine, except the layouts of the courtyard that are from Chinese Houses: The Architectural Heritage Of A Nation