2005 - Tǔ er Hútong - 土儿胡同
In March 2005 a long brainstorming session, deep in the hutongs of Beijing, led to the foundation of Hutong School. With the first location near the Gulou and Zhonglou towers, the logo was easy to decide on. In the following months, Hutong School moved in to its first office in Tǔ er Hútong and welcomed its first ever student, Julien Beaufreton from France. And so Hutong School was born!
2006 - Shuāng sì Hútong - 双寺胡同
"Double Temple Hutong"
In 2006 Hutong School founder Jeremie Rossignol led the renovation project of an old, traditional courtyard at Shuangsi Hutong. Upon completion, the courtyard also housed two other start-up companies, which helped us with our growing internship program. Word was beginning to spread overseas about the bold foreigners making life in China that much easier.
2007 - Dàshí Qiáo Hútong - 大石桥胡同
"Big Stone Bridge Hutong"
In its third year of existence, Hutong School expanded to also offer intensive Chinese language courses in addition to the internships. The courtyard was now brimming with intellectual (and less intellectual) activity from early morning until late evening. It was at this point that our founders observed the extraordinary correlation between beer consumption and Chinese language ability. The 'Píjiǔ to Fluency" ratio, since dubbed the "Hutong Equation" has been in common parlance ever since.
2008 - Àoyùnhuì Hútong - 奥运会 胡同
"Olympic Sports Meeting Hutong"
2008 was the year of the Olympic Games in Beijing, and we felt the Olympic fever as much as the rest of Beijing, especially due to stricter visa regulations and tighter security within the city which caused more than a few inconveniences for our students. This, however, was soon forgotten as we all went to the games to witness athletes compete to eat the most scorpions, leap over the great wall on horse back, and swim the Yellow River. We shouted "加油!" with more ferver than any of the locals!
2009 - Dōng Gōng Jiē Hútong - 东公街胡同
"Eastern Public Street alley"
In 2009 Hutong School reached a milestone: 1000 participants! It was also the year we opened a second office in Beijing to accommodate our growing team. This was the beginning of the expansion that would see Hutong School slowly conquer the globe, one Hútong at a time.
2010 - Bāshí zhōngxué Hútong - 八十中学 胡同
"80th Middle School Hutong"
The first Sanlitun branch was opened in 2010 to make room for increasing numbers of students and teachers. This was also the year we reached another great milestone: 200 partner companies!
2011 - Sānlǐtún Hútong - 三里屯胡同
In 2011, due to growing numbers of students and teachers, Hutong School moved to a bigger office space where we shared the premises with a 3-floor European business center set up by Hutong School founder Jeremie Rossignol. Hutong School began well and truly going places!
2012 - Shànghǎi Hútong - 上海胡同
Hutong School took a big step in 2012 when we opened our Shanghai branch. Since then we have welcomed many students to the school and set up a strong local partnerbase. The name Hutong School was briefly drawn into question at this time, since hútongs are exclusively a Beijing phenomenon, but one look at our new Shanghai office and we were reassured: our office is located in a small Shanghai alley with a definitive hútong feeling. We are an integrated part of this micro-community with its children playing outside, laundry hanging to dry from windows, and lunchtime gatherings in front of people's front doors - it doesn't get much more "hútong" than this.
2013 - Bùlǔsài'ēr Hútong - 布鲁塞尔胡同
In 2013 Hutong School marked the beginning of an international expansion with the opening of our Brussels branch. With this new branch, Hutong School became the first private Chinese school offering classes in both China and in the West.
2014 - Lúndūn Hútong - 伦敦胡同
2014 continued where 2013 left off with more new European branches: Milan and London. We also concluded partnerships in Paris and Sydney giving us even more opportunities to provide Chinese language learning to students around the world.
2015 - Shí Zhōu Nián Hútong - 十周年胡同
This year we celebrate our 10 year anniversary and the amazing people, staff and students, who have been a part of this journey. We're taking the time to look back on some of the stories that we've accumulated over the past decade, whilst staying focused on the future and the exciting things that Hutong School will accomplish over the next 10 years and beyond.
Our first student apartments in Beijing were on the 6th floor of the same building. Unfortunately, to visit each other students had to take the elevator down 6 floors, walk to the other side of the building, and then take the elevator up again!
Deciding that this was Bǐjiào máfan - too much trouble - our enterprising students took to climbing over the balconies to visit each other - risking life and limb to share a Pijiu or two with new found friends.
Fearing for their tenants safety, the landlord eventually got the message and built in doors to connect the neighbouring apartment.
Lái lái jiāo gè péngyǒu, 来来交个朋友.
In the early days of Hutong School, many of our founders and first staff were dedicated smokers. This fit in nicely with Chinese business culture at the time, and early visitors to our school were warmly invited to "Come in and make friends" with the expression Lái lái jiāo gè péngyǒu, always accompanied by a friendly exchange of whatever Chinese cigarette was fashionable at the time.
Since then our partners have given up the smoking habit and committed themselves to a healthier lifestyle, and of course we encourage our students to do the same!
A mere 2 weeks before the Beijing Olympics the government decided that they didn't want foreigners - Wai Guo Ren - in certain districts. With that decision made, 12 Hutong School students were summarily ejected from their flats, whilst our staff struggled (and eventually succeeded) in finding them a replacement home at the last minute. We all decided that this was Bùxíng! Just not OK!
Hutong School students were invited in November 2006 to be the foreign faces present at the opening of a huge new French Style building called “山水La Vie (Mountain-Water-The Life). They all tried their best to look like really important French VIPs. However, they organizers had mistakenly used the Russian flag instead of the French flag, making it all an even more surreal experience. Chàbùduō!
Méi bànfǎ 没办法 / Méi wèntí 没问题.
After an inspection of our first school in Beijing, a Chinese official decided that having a second floor above our courtyard was completely unacceptable. There was no way - méi bànfǎ - that we could keep this critical part of our building.
When that same official's son began an internship with Hutong School, however No Way! turned into no problem (méi wèntí) and the second floor remained standing.