[US to China ’15] Lauren McLean: “In the Hutongs”

05-27-2015 posted by Acypl
The delegation in front of the Great Wall of China
The US delegation visiting the Great Wall of China. Lauren is pictured second from the right.

I thought I might be alone when hitting the streets at 5 a.m. for a run today. Instead I find them filled with people, children, bikes, scooters and cars. In the Hutongs, people buy and sell dumplings from storefronts and food-bikes, women open their market stalls, and people bike through the narrow alleys on their way to work while others walk in their pajamas, hands filled with wads of toilet paper, to the toilets shared by the many residents of these ancient alleys.

A bike vendor in the hutongs
A bike vendor in the Hutongs in Beijing

I enter the Hutong, a neighborhood of “short buildings” that were once traditional courtyard homes and the center of Chinese family life for thousands of years, one block south of Tienanmen Square. Arriving at the square around  5:10 a.m, I had already missed the flag ceremony for which hundreds were milling about in this vast public space that can hold 1 million people.  People are very proud of the square, happy to be able to visit the hallowed buildings and shrines to China. I cannot, as much as I try, wrap my head around the history that isn’t told here—the people who gave their lives for China but aren’t honored where they died. I want to understand, but just as I am the only runner on the Square, I am the only foreigner, and I know it is that very foreign-ness that makes this something that I can’t grasp.

Buns at a night market in the Hutongs in Beijing
Chinese buns at a market in the Hutongs in Beijing  

Meanwhile, back in the Hutong, the locals are talking about the American who runs in her blue dress, takes photos of doors and bikes, and stops to eat some buns with them in an attempt to better know this place before heading home to write about them.

Lauren McLean is a member of the Boise City Council 

Latest Post

Post types: