Beyond the Alleys, is part three of the three-part series "The Fate of Old Beijing: The Vanishing Hutongs."

In the face of China’s rapid modernization, the world’s most populous country is struggling to preserve its cultural heritage, and nowhere is this more visible than in the ancient alleyways and courtyards of Beijing.

Once a ubiquitous feature of Beijing, the hutongs are more than simply housing; they are actually a way of life. Entire families live in single, crowded courtyards, often with no bathrooms. Yet despite the lack of modern amenities, the communal aspect to life within the hutongs means that few want to leave – even as their neighbourhoods are being demolished and redeveloped. UNESCO estimates that more than 88 percent of the city’s old residential quarters are already gone, most torn down in the last three decades.

In a three-part series, filmmakers Jonah Kessel and Kit Gillet explore the vanishing world of Beijing’s hutongs, the realities of life within the narrow streets, and the future for these culturally-irreplaceable areas of China’s capital.

CHAPTER THREE: If Beijing’s hutong areas are to be retained in one form or another, decisions need to be made about whether to invest money in keeping the original structures or replacing them with replicas built in the same style but offering modern amenities – a move that many suggest destroys the soul of the buildings. While for former hutong residents forced or happily leaving their old homes, a new way of life beckons.


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