When you arrive in Beijing, the first thought of many people about renting an accomodation is to rent a traditionnal Chinese home, something that would be exotic and attractive.
In northeastern China, the treaditionnal housing is located in small alleys of the old cities and are called the Hutongs. This are a maze of little streets where you can easily get lost, with grey walls and sometime doors that led into magnificient courtyards with sophisticated housing on the four sides.
These are the Beijing courtyards many are eager to rent.
They are called Siheyuan in Chinese.
Thye courtyards in Beijing are those of the Ming and Qing dynasty, the period from 1368 to 1911, a quite long period of time where the rules driving the building of these houses where designed, with Chinese traditional Feng Shui.
Some courtyards can be dream places, with fishponds, carven doors and windows, above the gates you can see subtle carved stone designs some centuries old.
What is great about living in such a courtyard is the protected environment from the city. Beijinbg is such a gigantic megalopolis that is gives a feeling of pure calm to have such a haven to rest and enjoy China.
Be aware this can be a complicated dream. Now there is basically two types of courtyards: the nbon-renovated ones and the renovated ones. The non renovated ones can turn away foreigners very easily, poor accomodation, cold in winter and hot in summer, not confortable; But these places are fewer and fewer, either they are demolished or renovated.
When they are renovated the standard changes and the rent can skyrocket. It is beyonbg the means of most of the people coming to Beijing to live in such a place and after a generation that vtried to leave them, Chinese people are fighting to live there.
The Beijing municipal bureau estimates there are 400.000 courtyards remaininbg in Beijing, most of them are located within the second ring road, around the Forbidden City, so this is still possible to find beautiful ones to rent.
Another problem with life in courtyads is car parking problems, most of the courtyards are deep inside the Hutongs and almost impossible to reach by car. You ll have to think about a parking solution, and sometimes public transportation is not easy to reach.
Still, the truth about courtyards is that those who live in them love them and never want to leave. A fine renovated courtyard is the best type of accomodation you can find in Beijing, something that will make your dream of China come true.
The areas you find the most courtayrds are Yonghegong (Lama Temple) and Dongsishitiao, as well as some places around Wangfujing. The courtyards located around Beihai and the closest to the forbidden city are often reserved and unavailable to foreigners. In some remote areas, you might fnd some avilable places to rent with courtyards.
Some apartments inside courtyards do exist. As for the full courtyard, you can find the best as well as the worst there, but do explore !