Tempted by the rare
rather than the usual, many global travellers overlook what the guidebooks
eagerly suggest, and this can be a mistake; the rare can lay just at the borders
of the usual.
Recording the Disappearing Old
A group of people, take up their cameras and
rush ahead of the bulldozers, trying to save bits of the memories
contained in the centuries-old lanes...
The full text is available on
page 52-57 of
Yandai Xie Jie (Tobacco Pipe Lane) and Liulichang Market are two places that
attract great bands of tourists, both night and day. But by hanging back from
the crowd and lingering a little, letting the cooling breeze of a spring day
draw you from the beaten track, you can experience some unexpected delights.
One of the hotspots of Beijing's nightlife, Yandai Xie Jie has the air of a
briefly vacated party if visited on a weekday morning before the crowds arrive.
Xie Jies are celebrated in Beijing for their human scale and meandering form,
and approached from Di'anmen Avenue this one winds like a broken stream between
two great tourist spots: Yin Ding Qiao to the east and Drum and Bell Tower at Gu
Lou to the west.
Now something of a rarity in Beijing, the Xie Jie recalls a time when the
city was almost entirely composed of narrow winding streets. With the demands of
expansion, and the needs of motor vehicles, Beijing's roads were fully
redeveloped in 1979 using a grid system and the remaining Xie Jie now act, quite
literally, as a path back in time.
Tobacco Pipe Lane (Yandai Xie Jie) dates back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)
and once sold pipes and accoutrements. Street-side research will tell you that
the name comes from its curved, pipe-stem-like shape.
Turning from Di'anmen Avenue, the history of Yandai Xie Jie pulls you down
its narrow, flagstone laneway and throws you in the path of speeding pedicabs
that ferry tourists more inclined to rest than to walk. There are old buildings
that house contemporary "fusion" shops, selling clothes and music and cutting
hair, and newly renovated buildings that display the ancient traditions of
ethnic craft with wall hangings, woodcarving and batik.