The city of Beijing(3): Guijie (snack street)

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Jun 1, 2012 18:50 china food travel
Over the last few days I have talked with some native English-speaking friends several times. They are all so kind and patient to listen to my poor expression. I asked them to correct not only my grammatical mistakes, but also any unsuitable words and expressions. I hope you can do so too, thanks.

I heard that some friends in lang8 are planning to travel to China during their summer vacations. Maybe my journals could help. This time I would like to write something about food.

There are so many famous foods in Beijing that one can not list them all. However, if you ask me for one good place to eat, I would answer you immediately without hesitation: Guijie.

In Chinese "Guijie" is the word "簋街", which is very difficult to write. The character "簋(gui3)" is not used very much since it means an ancient utensil containing food which is hardly ever seen today. Why does the street have so strange a name? It has a story.

Guijie is located on Dong Zhi Men street. In the Qing dynasty, each gate of the Beijing City has its own special purpose. For example, soldiers going out to a battle must use the "DE Sheng Men(德胜门)" which sounds like "得胜"(win a victory). And "Dong Zhi Men(东直门)" was used to transport wood into the city and the dead bodies out of the city.

There is vast cemetery opposite the gate not very far, and coffin stores could be seen everywhere in the gate. People looked down on the area and the rich would never consider coming here. So the area was very poor and people had to become lawless vendors to earn a living. They stayed indoors and came out at night. Soon a market was formed and bacame grown. More and more people came to the market at night. Some smart businessmen went there to open a shop. But very soon they discovered: all kinds of shops would go out of business except restaurants. Old people said it was the ghosts coming back to eat. So in the end the street was full of various restaurants.

There was nobody in the street at daytime while it was full of people at night. The shop owners lit on red lanterns which were thought to bring good luck and ward off evil spirits. From far away it looks like a sea of red.

For the reasons given above,the street was called "鬼街(gui3jie1)",which means "the ghost street". However as time went on, the street was getting famous and became a special scenic spot. One day the government thought the name was too terrible and decided to change it. But the decision was violently opposed by the people living there and the shop owners. They though the name could bring luck and money for them. At last, they choose the character "簋(gui3)" instead of "鬼" since they sounded the same.

Nowadays people almost have forgotten the source of the name and few of them are able to write it. But this has no effect to its great reputation. Thousands of people come here to eat delicious food in restaurants which are open 24/7.

Unfortunately, many kinds of snacks are lost today but you can also get some special dishes here. Most of them are spicy, such as grilled fish, Hot and Spicy crayfish, and so on.

Pay attention to whether or not the restaurant is hygienic and choose a clean restaurant. Do not order too much before you are sure you like it. There is a saying in China "眼大肚小", which means "you get too much but have enough after eating a little ".

PIC: the night of Guijie