[Nepal] Pradeep Subedi, Beijing Normal University
My stay in China has already enabled me to understand and get used to many aspects of the country. Although my lifestyle, culture and custom, mode of thinking and way of communication are all different from Chinese people’s, there are no obstacles for me. If I get into a different culture with a positive mindset, my life will have much more fun.
Someone once said, “Our life shows no lack of beauty but a lack of eyes that can find beauty.” Beauty can be found everywhere in our lives, and architecture is an important component of it.Traveling around the world, we can admire various buildings that are telling us different histories, cultures and customs hidden in them. A building with traditional features stores the memory of a city or a country and the quadrangle dwelling is such a typical example of Chinese architecture.
For many foreign visitors, hutongs and quadrangle dwellings are two spots you cannot miss when you are traveling in Beijing. The quadrangle dwelling, a courtyard surrounded by buildings on all four sides, is a symbol of old Peking in many foreigners’ eyes.A visit in a quadrangle dwelling once made me feel that I was traveling back to old Peking. In the courtyard, people often keep their doors open.
Since they share the kitchen and bathroom, they can have many chances to interact with each other when getting in and out of the house. Meeting at dinnertime, the neighbors can also share their own special dishes with each other in a joyful atmosphere. By contrast, people living in high-rise buildings where doors are always tightly closed, can hardly meet their neighbors. The warm and happy feeling radiated from quadrangle dwellings unconsciously make you feel at home, feel protected and cared, even if this is a strange place.
Most of quadrangle dwellings in existence were built up in the Ming and Qing dynasties. Living there gives people a feeling that they are living the history and guarding their ancestors’ heritage. Isn’t that a kind of blessing? For me, such kind of building can not only shorten the distance between man and nature, but also strengthen communications between family members, which surely also brings about family harmony.
However, in such a modern society, as the living standard has improved and temptations increased, many people left hutongs and quadrangle dwellings where they had lived for a long time and moved to luxurious high-rise buildings. I am afraid that some time later, quadrangle dwellings may disappear and leave no trace. I do hope that the Chinese government can preserve this traditional memory as best as they can.
Taking a series of measures to protect quadrangle dwellings in hutongs can not only give foreigners an extraordinary channel to further their understanding of Chinese culture, but also develop Beijing into an international metropolis with well-preserved cultural heritages.
Like a treasure box, a quadrangle dwelling enshrines some ancient tales that are unknown to me and is filled with mysterious beauty. I hope I can have more opportunities to understand it, and building on this to have a deeper understanding of the history and culture of Beijing and China at large.
The story is from "My Beautiful Encounter with China" Essay Competition organized by the Chinese Service Center for Scholarly Exchanges (CSCSE).