Xuemei：We bought so many books today. I’m exhausted. Let’ s take a rest over there.
Colleague：OK. Let’s get something to drink at the teahouse over there.
Xuemei：Look, I bought a book on Chinese architecture. Pretty good, huh?
Colleague：Let me see. It’s not bad. There are lots of pictures inside.
Xuemei：（takes the book）Look at the square courtyard, I’ve always been interested in this sort of architecture. Have you lived in square courtyards before？
Colleague：No, we always lived in high-rise buildings, but I have friends who live in square courtyards.
Xuemei：Speaking of square courtyards, I just remembered something interesting. （starts laughing）
Colleague：What’s so funny？
Xuemei：When I first came to China, I had nothing to do one day and was bored, so I strolled into a little hutong (narrow alley).
Colleague：It must have been very narrow inside, right？
Xuemei：That’s right. There was a yard inside, with the door open. I couldn’t help but go in and have a look.
Colleague：Really？No one came to shoo you away？
Xuemei：No, but somebody did come out and ask me who I was looking for. I left in a hurry.
Colleague：Got knocked back, huh?
Xuemei：That’s all right. It’s just a pity I didn’t get to have a proper look at the courtyard.
Colleague：Since you’re so interested, how about I take you to a place to have a look.
Xuemei：That would be wonderful.
Colleague：The place I’m talking about isn’t far from here. How about we head over there now？
Xuemei：OK, let’s go.
（at the site）
Colleague：Xuemei, this is the place I was talking about.
Xuemei：There are so many hutongs here. wher do we start, Miss Tourguide？
Colleague：（clears the throat）Hmm, the saying goes, Beijing has three thousand six hundred hutongs, there are more nameless hutongs than a bull has hairs.
Xuemei：Haha, you’re really getting into the spirit.
Colleague：Xuemei, go this way. Look, these are all square courtyards.
Xuemei：Let’s take a closer look. Hey, is this a doorstop？
Colleague：Yes, different doorstops mean different things. You can tell from the doorstep what sort of work the family did.
Xuemei：Oh, is that so. Does a square courtyard accommodate four families？
Colleague：Not necessarily. In the old days wealthy families would live in one or more square courtyards. The people who weren’t so well-off shared a square courtyard.
Xuemei：Are the square courtyards here like the ones before？
Colleague：No, they’re vastly different now. Most square courtyards have changed their layouts.
Xuemei：Look, there’s even an air-conditioner. Looks like life in the square courtyards has been modernized too.
Colleague：To me, no matter how it changes, this is the most important part of Beijing living.
1）忍不住 can't resist
Roast duck tastes too good. Although I'm afraid of gaining weight, I couldn't resist having a few extra bites.
When we saw how he was trying to pretend, we couldn't help laughing.
2）碰钉子 to run into a problem
When you ask someone for help, you should be polite. Otherwise, you might have a problem.
I ran into a problem today. He obviously knew Xiaowang’s phone number, but he wouldn’t tell me.
You can come tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. I have time either day.
No matter whether it's windy or it's raining, he keeps exercising every morning.
Let’s talk a little about hutongs in Beijing. As we explained earlier, these refer to the narrow alleyways in the older parts of Beijing. They date originally from the Yuan Dynasty, although at least one hutong can be dated back to the Liao dynasty before that, over 900 years ago. It is estimated that there were approximately 6000 hutong around 1950. Recent development has changed the face of many hutongs, but often the modern streets retain their historical name. For example, goldfish hutong 金鱼胡同 is now a wide street and home to 5 star hotels, but it still retains its name as a hutong. Some of the most significant hutongs are now protected as cultural relics, so any modern development has to preserve the nature of the hutong.
The hutongs and the courtyard homes 四合院 that they link are the foundation of traditional family life in Beijing. They also provide the structure for harmonious neighbourhoods. Often, several families would live within one hutong, so the courtyard was a public space for all to share. Other times, several courtyard homes would share public facilities like washrooms and bath houses. The family has always been the foundation of society in China, but there is a saying in Beijing that 远亲不如近邻 distant relatives are not as important as close neighbours. So these neighbourhoods were vital in providing a living space that everyone could share.
Many people nowadays prefer living in the hutongs than in modern houses and high-rise apartments, even though the hutongs often do not have modern plumbing or heating systems. After all, the hutongs and courtyard homes were built to reflect Chinese philosophy and fengshui, which is a Chinese term that is becoming more common in the west. For example, most courtyard homes have their main entrance on the south side, so that you can 坐北朝南 sit in the north and face south, just as the Emperor does in his palace. There are 门墩, as we learned in this lesson, to guard the entrance and a 屏风 screen wall just inside the entrance to deflect evil spirits. Trees are planted in the courtyard to enhance the qi or spiritual energy. Of course, these also have a practical side. The screen wall also blocks the view inside from passers-by, and trees provide shade from the summer sun. But in all, hutongs were designed as a comfortable place for families and neighbours to live, and at least some of this lifestyle still survives to this day.
Substitution and Extension
1）在……看来 in one’s view
In my view, watching Peking Opera at a teahouse is very interesting.
In his view, it's more comfortable to live in a courtyard home.