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The Smoke-bag Slanting Street (Yan Dai Xie Jie)

Updated: 2012-11-12 14:10

The Smoke-bag Slanting Street (Yan Dai Xie Jie)


North to the Di An Men, right in front of the Bell Tower, lies one of the oldest slanting streets in Beijing, the Smoke-bag Slanting Street.This street sprawls in all directions and is around 300 meters in length. Over a century ago, pipe, or hookah (water pipe), smoking was a common habit for most banners, or Qi Ren, in the northern part of the city. Since cigarettes were then little known to most Chinese people, apart from the production of shredded tobacco, a booming tobacco business gave rise to a popular demand for fashionable long-stemmed pipes, or more commonly known in China as "smoke-bags". Residents of the street were obviously quick at spotting the business opportunity and opened smoke-bag stores one after another, making the name "Smoke-bag Slanting Street" increasingly famous.

An interesting coincidence worth mentioning is that the shape of the slanting street itself resembles a smoke-bag! With the 300-meter street taken as the stem of the pipe, the east end is shaped like the pipe bowl while the west end, leading to the Yinding Bridge in the south, resembles the mouthpiece. In addition to smoke-bag stores, many antique and jade shops appeared one after another, supplemented by restaurants, clothing shops, public bathhouses and barber shops, etc. The street, albeit short, was blessed with a booming business. This, combined with its plain yet elegant architectural style and distinctive Beijing flavor streetscapes, made the place a center of affection in the hearts of elderly Beijingers.

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