Shichahai consists of three continuous lakes, Qianhai, Houhai and Jishuitan. Lying in the central area of old Beijing, and possessing natural beauty, Shichahai was a good place for living and entertainment. It is said that there used to be nine nunneries and one monastery here, thus it got the name 'Shichahai'. In Chinese, 'shi' has the same sound as 'ten', and 'Cha' means temple. Scores of trendy restaurants, bars and boutiques have sprouted along the shores of this old Imperial Lake, north of Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.
The greatest point of interest in Shichahai today is its residences, Hutong and courtyard-Siheyuan. Hutongs are where life has been going on for the last 700 years since they first appeared in the Yuan Dynasty. In these small lanes, you'll find many Siheyuan, or quadrangles which are the living quarters of ordinary Beijing people. Nowadays, new modern high-rise buildings and apartments are fast replacing these traditional dwellings, but some Hutongs in this area still remain well preserved. Nowadays visiting Hutongs by rickshaw has become a popular activity for visitors from China and abroad. The most famous Hutong is Jin Si Tao, which actually includes 18 Hutongs and keeps the original layout of Hutong Area. Another one is Yan Dai Xie Jie, meaning an oblique street which looks like a long-stemmed pipe. This street used to be a famous street selling long-stemmed pipes.