The courtyard house, a residential compound with buildings surrounding a courtyard on four (or sometimes three) sides, has been representative of housing patterns for over one thousand years in China. It has been a historical heritage deeply rooted to the specific Chinese traditions and culture. From the collapse of the last imperial dynasty (1911) to the establishment of the People's Republic of China (1949), China underwent a series of wars which entailed destructive impacts on the development of the courtyard houses. Due to some inappropriate policies after 1949, most traditional houses faced changes and deterioration. In addition, there has been a tendency since the 1980s to excessively replace the traditional courtyard houses by multi-storey buildings. All of this has seriously affected the cultural continuity of the traditional Chinese housing form. From the 1990s, some housing projects have been initiated in Beijing and are called redevelopment and renewal of dilapidated traditional residential areas. Some new types of courtyard houses have been explored in an attempt to balance the house shortage and the social inheritance due to the rapid growth of population. The construction principles of traditional courtyard houses are being utilised to set the new courtyard house system. Having outlined the above, the purpose of this paper is to examine the following issues: (a) the various aspects of the traditional courtyard house and its transitions; (b) the impact of social changes and the influence of national policies on the transition of the traditional courtyard houses; and (c) the identification of the main characteristics of the new courtyard house system.