With only the twitter of birds to interrupt the peaceful silence and leafy green vines hanging overhead, this hutong-style home in Shichahai is an exceedingly rare spot of tranquility in the busy urban environment of Beijing. Last year, it had the distinction of being one of the 33 hutong-style homes in Beijing that were officially recognized as the Olympic host families.
Hutongs were built during the age of the dynasties and represents traditional Beijing architecture. Jing Jichang, who lives here, gave a brief introduction of the living arrangements in his hutong home using the English skills that he and his wife practiced especially before the Olympics so they can communicate with foreign guests.
[Interview: Tour around the house, in English]
During the Olympics, host families like Jing’s provided accommodation and hospitality to foreign guests. People from across the world were given the opportunity to experience traditional Chinese folk lifestyle. Jing explained the popularity of hutong-style homes among foreigners, and the value of hutong-homes into opening a window into Chinese culture.
“At the time, a judge came to stay with us and see if the courtyard was suited for living in.
Every time he came, there was an Olympic car to send him so it was always quite convenient. Originally, all these Olympic judges were given free hotel accommodations but he said, "It doesn't matter. Living in one of these courtyards ...that's experiencing the REAL Beijing."
Apparent by the many photographs displayed around the house, Jing was able to share many memories of his various homestays throughout the years. He has eaten together, drank beer, joked around, and made lasting friendships with many of his visitors. The Olympics was a very special time, which he enjoyed with not only his family, but also his homestays. He had many interesting and joyful anecdotes of that time.
“One time, one of my friends gave us a ticket as a gift. My wife took this ticket and took a photograph with it. Because at the time the ticket was so difficult to buy, we just gave it as a gift to a Taiwanese guest. He was so happy, for the ticket was very hard to find, moreover it was for the front row, and doubly hard to obtain, so he was very happy. Our family just watched it on TV.”
Together, the Jing household and their homestays watched and cheered at the events occurring on the modern television set in his living room. Their living room is filled with an intriguing combination of Chinese traditional furniture and Western souvenirs that were gifts to his family. On top the “Olympic Homestay” china plate is proudly displayed.
Even a full year after the Olympics, the cherished and life-changing memories of the Olympics remain.