Kitai Gorod, with its winding streets, is the oldest section of Moscow outside the Kremlin. The literal translation of Kitai Gorod is "China Town," but there has never been a Chinese settlement here. The origin of the word kitai is disputed; it may come from the Tatar word for fortress, but most likely it derives from the Russian word kita, in reference to the bundles of twigs that were used to reinforce the earthen wall that once surrounded the area.
Kitai Gorod begins to the east of where Red Square ends. Settlement of this area began in the 12th century, around the time that the fortified city of Moscow was founded on Borovitsky Hill (the site of the present-day Kremlin). By the 14th century Kitai Gorod was a thriving trade district, full of shops and markets. At that time it was surrounded by earthen ramparts, which were replaced in the 16th century by a fortified wall, remnants of which still remain. As Moscow grew, so did Kitai Gorod. At the time of the Bolshevik Revolution it was the city's most important financial and commercial district, with major banks, warehouses, and trading companies concentrated here. These days the multitude of shops, restaurants, and banks demonstrates the area's reasserted role as an energized commercial center.