It’s easy to forget, but 68 years ago Beijing was not the capital of China. The elderly people who live in the hutongs surrounding Beijing Postcards’ courtyard gallery certainly remember, and as founder Lars Ulrik Thom and his team of researchers discovered, they are more than willing to share their stories.

The “Layers of Beijing” walking tour charts life in Beijing’s hutongs through the lens of these ordinary people, drawing on two case studies in particular to tell the story of the enormous changes that took place after the People’s Liberation Army entered Beijing in 1949. The tour sets off from the Duan Qirui Former Government Building at Zhangzizhong Lu, before wending its way through the hutongs around Beixinqiao and Jiaodaokou, some of which may be familiar, others less so. 

Along the way, you will learn about some of the vast social changes that have taken place in Beijing since the 1950s, presented through the medium of maps, photographs, and personal memorabilia. Find out how the People’s Republic of China dramatically raised literacy over the course of just a few years, why old temples were cleared to make way for industry, and why Mao was so keen on killing off sparrows.

Lars is as engaging and passionate a tour guide as you could hope to ask for. As opposed to the fact-based format that most guided tours take, Lars and his team have put together a very personal narrative that will make you want pull up a chair and have a chat with your hutong neighbors.

The Layers of Beijing Tour will take place on six dates in June: Saturday June 6, Sunday June 7, Saturday June 13, Sunday June 14, Friday June 19, and Sunday June 21.

The tour costs RMB 325 per person, including a drink at the end. Tickets are available from Bespoke Beijing but make sure you hurry there are only 20 spots available per tour date.

More stories by this author here.

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Photos: Jens Schott

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