The Tobacco Pipe Oblique Street
The Manchu people indulge in smoking tobacco and water-pipe tobacco. Tobacco Pipe Oblique Street, located to tile southeast of the Drum Building and leading to the Silver Ingot Bridge, is the oldest oblique street in Beijing. The street was originally called “Dayuting (fishing hall)” . Oblique Street in early Ming Dynasty, and later Drum Building Oblique Street in the reign of Qing’s Qianlong. Later, as the tobacco shops on the street increased, it obtained the present name. The shape of the street itself resembles a tobacco pipe. Within the street lies the Dragon King Temple (already ruined) and the Taoism Temple Guangfu Temple, built in 1459, the third year of Tianshun’s reign of the Yuan Dynasty. The temple offers respect to the God of War, God of Wealth and the Dragon King. The temple’s gate is in good condition, but the front, middle and back halls were in ruin. Today, the temple has become a residential compound. Early in the Ming Dynasty, this oblique street was already a prosperous commercial street. In late Qing, tobacco shops stood in great numbers. The owners usually put a big wooden tobacco pipe in front of the shop as a sign.
People living the northern part of the city would mostly go to the streel to buy tobacco leaves and pouches. There were various grades of tobacco pouches sold on this street The top class was finished with a jade cigarette holder, tin tobacco-retaining concavity and a black pipe made of ebony. It’s said that the dowager empress Cixi always had her pipe pouches scraped here. ~
Besides tobacco shops, there were teahouses, bathing houses, and shops selling potteries, bronze wares, stoneware, jade articles, painting and calligraphy and gold and silver ornaments. At the eastern end of the street was a bathing house called Xinyuan, owned by Li Fuqing, a descendent of Li Lianying, the well-known imperial eunuch Cixi in late Qing. In 1950s, there was still a tobacco shop hanging a 1.5-meter-long ebony tobacco pipe outside. Southwest to the street was the Silver Ingot Bridge, linking the Qianhai and Houhai, the front and back part of the Lake near the Forbidden City.