Weekly Photo Challenge: Beyond

Do you have a photo which invites the viewer to look beyond? Are there hidden depths in the background? Is the focal point just a framing for the rest of the picture? If it’s not clear why we should look beyond, tell us! “

Hutong Doorway

Hutong Doorway

Last summer, I traveled from Shanghai to Beijing by myself and spent five days visiting the ancient sites. My favorite tour was in the Hutong area, the ancient neighborhoods of narrow streets and courtyard residences. Stop for a moment with me and look beyond the worn threshold.

Ancient Homes Amidst Progress

When we were walking after dinner one evening, we came upon this small street that seems out of place amidst the new construction in Feicheng. The street reminds me, in part, of the Hutong Area in Beijing.

At first I thought that many of the apartments were empty, but I’m not so sure. An old woman who came out of one of the doors eyed us suspiciously and returned to her home behind the wall. Oh I wanted her picture, yet felt as if I would be imposing.

I wonder if these homes will remain or if they will fall in the path of progress and high-rise apartment buildings. Why allow 20 families to live in a space that could house 200 or more?

Click on an image to see it full size.

Doorway into ordinary lives

Hutong Door

This is a typical entrance into a courtyard in the Hutong Area of Beijing, with the symbolic red door and frame and the worn threshold. Red, the emperor’s color, is used for good luck. The ancient threshold, now worn to almost ground level, was believed to keep out evil spirits. Look inside. Can you imagine the people who make this small courtyard their home? Can you see the bicycles, the mop, the stool? Deep inside, there’s another door, leading to yet another living space.

Hutong

I was enchanted by the hutongs of Old Beijing. These narrow alleyways/streets are created by courtyards (siheyuan) that house several families (nine where I visited). Walls of the courtyards add privacy and keep out evil spirits who are unable to turn corners. Hutong is a Hun word meaning “water well” The story is that during the Hun occupation, as they took their cattle down the narrow alleys for water each morning, the Chinese asked where they were going. They responded “to the hutong.” The Chinese, misinterpreting, took that to mean the narrow streets.