Traditional Residential Houses (Siheyuan) of Beijing
The siheyuan is a typical form of ancient Chinese architecture, especially in the north of China. They are designed to make it as comfortable as possible to live in a climate that is at times inhospitable. For instance, the siheyuan are enclosed and inward facing to protect them from the harsh winter winds and the dust storms of spring. Their design also reflects the traditions of China, following the rules of feng shui and the patriarchal, Confucian tenants of order and heirarchy that were so important to society.
Housing is now one of the most difficult problems facing Beijing, a city that is growing both spatially and in terms of population at a fast rate. As such, one siheyuan now often houses several families and many yards have been taken up with additional rooms. This contributes to the "rabbit-warren" nature of the hutongs. The living conditions in many siheyuans are now considered squalid, especially as very few have private toilets or washrooms. To solve the apparent problems of overcrowding, the siheyuan are being torn down and replaced by modern blocks of flats. There are, however, still some grand siheyuan in Beijing that have been preserved in all their former glory. Mainly built for nobles and high officials before the turn of the century, many have been turned into museums, and others are being lived in by present-day governmental officials or used as government offices.
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