There is a Hutong somewhere in the old part of Beijing that is hard to find. Only certain people know about it, people with deep Beijing roots. This is the Secret Hutong, lying at the center of a maze of other streets, embedded inside one of the neighborhoods north of the Forbidden City. If you ask someone about it they might say, “Oh yes, that is by so and so place, or if you see the Bell Tower, you are nearby, just walk south”. Is it in Dongcheng? Or Xicheng? Or straddling the middle, somewhere between both? But if you don’t know where you are looking for, you will never find it.
In the Secret Hutong the weather is always as it should be. In autumn the air is cold and fresh, winter icy and brittle, spring. . . summer hot and sweltering. Always the ideal of how the seasons should be in the Northern Capital.
The Tang Hulu is always sweet, perfectly candied. There are always snacks. History permeates. There is grass on the roofs. Old families. Pigeons and crickets. There is the call of the man collecting trash, of other men selling wares.
There are no tourists, no rickshaw tours. No cigarette shops. No . . .
It is the present day, and every day in the Beijing stretching back to the Yuan Dynasty, to old Yanjing.
Every season there are old Nai Nai’s and Ye Ye’s sitting on small stools, passing the afternoon away.
At night the stars always shine, and under a vibrant moon
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