Nanluoguxiang is one of the city's most popular hutong and is filled with cafes, bars, restaurants and boutiques. Yang Gang / for China Daily
Former French Post Office is now a Sichuan restaurant. Mu Qian / China Daily
Located immediately to the east of Tian'anmen Square, the hutong named Dongjiao Minxiang seems worlds away from all the hustle and bustle of the square.
Formerly known as the Peking Legation Quarter, Dongjiao Minxiang was the area in Beijing where a number of foreign legations were located between 1861 and 1959.
During the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), it was called the "Rice Alley" because of its proximity to the river port by which rice and grains arrived in Beijing from the south. In the Ming Dynasty, a number of ministries moved into the area, including the Ministry of Rites, which was in charge of diplomatic matters.
Following China's defeat during the Second Opium War in 1856-60, the Zongli Yamen was established here as a foreign office of the Qing Dynasty and the area was opened for legations of a number of countries, including France, Japan and the United States. Foreign banks, hospitals and hotels also started mushrooming.
After the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, the Legation Quarter became a city within the city exclusively for foreigners. Many Chinese nationalists resented the quarter as a symbol of foreign aggression.
But the area is now home to high-end restaurants and luxury retailers as well as cheap eateries and common shops that are open to public.
You can also find St. Michael Catholic Church, which was built in 1902 on the site of a church destroyed during the Boxer Rebellion.
After the founding of New China in 1949, a number of foreign legations were still situated here, but after 1959, they were moved to the Sanlitun area.
It is a pity that several buildings, such as the former HSBC building, were demolished for road expansion, but the area is still Beijing's most significant collection of Western-style architecture, and is now protected by municipal artifact preservation orders.
With a total length of 1,552 meters, it is also the longest alley in Beijing.