Up-and-coming area, Doncheng, Beijing
The Dongcheng district has long been home to some of Beijing’s most treasured and historically important cultural landmarks. The Forbidden City, Tian'anmen Square, Drum Tower & Bell Tower, Beijing Ancient Observatory, even Mao Zedong's Old Residence are staples in most people’s general knowledge of the precinct.
Lesser known are the hutongs, or traditional Beijing courtyards, and the recent revival that lies beyond.
Not so long ago, hutongs were fast-declining trademarks of traditional Old China living. Thankfully because of the Chinese government’s recent hutong protection policy, they are now being restored.
One thing we discovered during our time in the capital, was the seamless co-existence of traditional hutong life and the surprising number of bars, cafés and shops that sprang up to greet us in the most unlikely of places. Nanluoguxiang, or NLGX as it is now more commonly referred to, is one such hutong enjoying a cultural revamp at the ripe old age of 800 years old.
Shops such as NLGX Design & Café and Plastered 8, a local Beijing T-shirt store, sit alongside traditional tea shops and wholesale stores selling industrial-sized woks and cooking paraphernalia. Then there is Gulou Dongdajie, a busy traditional street where we found it a pleasure to unearth shops like Spoon House, which stocks quirky Chinese design goods such as the iconic Li Lei and Han Meimei stationary and wares from other design collectives, not to mention the street’s mix of vintage shops, trendy trainer stores, boutiques and cafés. Everything here feels like it has grown organically, and in running with the history and culture of the city.
Read our Q&A with Cho Chong Gee
Read more about Cho's favourite haunts in Doncheng