Hutongs & Sanlitun

Nan Luogu Xiang

New friend Jiayu, who introduced herself on the subway using the English name Jessie while I was going to art openings my first weekend, offered to be my guide to see the oldest hutongs in Beijing on my last day in the city. Believing she was also my host meant she tried to pay for everything we ate despite our recent acquaintance, a courtesy pressed by many Chinese friends during the month as “the Chinese Way.”

We met at Nanluoguxiang subway station then crossed to the north to enter the hutong of the same name. From there to Guluo Dong Da Jie, past the Drum Tower, then to Dashibei Hutong and Houhai Hutong. Or something like that. Hutongs are narrow alleys that run one into the next in dense neighborhoods. They contain a mix of private courtyard homes and specialty shops. Fear of getting lost was one reason I was glad not to go alone. At restaurant street counters Jiayu knew which distinctive Beijing foods to look for and the best place to buy them, including skewered roast lamb, hot baked rolls, yogurt with mango, and steamed buns at a Qing Feng chain favored by President Xi Jinping.

In the evening we crossed the city by bus to Sanlitun Soho to see the newest glass and steel brand name malls, the type of construction that has almost completely obliterated centuries-old architecturally unique Beijing hutongs in the name of modernization, economic development, and plumbing.

Dashibei Hutong

four beams above the front door indicates higher social status

Drum Tower

Drum Tower, a time keeping facility along with the Bell Tower to the north, built 1272

Drum Tower

Dashibei Hutong

roast lamb on skewers

Hutong

Dashibei Hutong

rolls hot from the oven

Dashibei Hutong

best cookies, each with a different filling

Sanlitun Soho

international brand stores full of foreigners

Sanlitun Soho

Sanlitun SOHO — the newest Beijing

artist residency, day 28

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Houhai Hutong

Qianhai Lake

Beihai North subway station entrance was the first place I stepped outside in the city the first week in Beijing on my way to art openings further down the line. Across the street an imposing antique building made me wonder what it was. Plastic wrapped young women sold tours in the rain. Identically hatted tourist teams disappeared into worryingly maze-like narrow alleys.

On the last day after a month in the city, now I understood the location as the hub between Beihai Park and the scenic lakes of Shichahai, bordered by one of the oldest remaining hutongs in Beijing. The distinctive architectural urban warrens of Houhai Hutong, densely constructed neighborhoods of courtyard residences, have been refashioned as contemporary shops, restaurants, bars and cafes. Crowds of locals and tourists visit, swim and rent boats. This place will be a lot nicer when smoking decreases and cars are banned from parking anywhere and everywhere on the formerly beautiful imperial lakeside walkways.

Qianhai Lake

Qianhai Lake

Qianhai Lake

Qianhai Lake

Qianhai Lake

Qianhai Lake

window shopping

Qianhai Lake

Yinding Qiao — Sycee Bridge or Silver Ingot Bridge, Ming Dynasty

Qianhai Lake

Qianhai Lake

Beijing signs, often bilingual

Qianhai Lake

each bar has a different style of couches on the sidewalk

Qianhai Lake

Qianhai Lake

Qianhai Lake

Lake Houhai

Qianhai Lake

artist residency, day 28

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Beijing Fashion

Beijing fashion

China has had a developing market economy since reforms led by Deng Xiaoping in 1978 following the death of Mao Zedong in 1976. There is a wide variety of individual color and style in women’s fashion. Clothing is plentiful and inexpensive. There are several trends in the city. Formal occasion dresses show up at all times of day in unlikely public places, made with sheer white flowing and layered translucent fabric. Tall soled modified sneakers and high heels are worn while sight-seeing or bicycling. Umbrellas and hats that are big or practical are popular for sun protection. Frequently seen are black and white, hot pink, stripes, polka dots, and English language graphics. The days of comrades wearing dull colored formless jackets and pants is long gone.

Beijing fashion

vivid pink & green

Beijing fashion

Beijing fashion

sightseeing outfits

Beijing fashion

translucent fabrics

Beijing fashion

friends in black and white

Beijing fashion

Beijing stripes

Beijing fashion

Beijing fashion

tutus on kids

Beijing fashion

polka dots

Beijing fashion

mothers & daughters

Beijing fashion

Beijing fashion

short shorts, cut out shoulders, tall soled shoes at the bus stop

Beijing fashion

sparkles & short shorts office outfit

Beijing fashion

modified sneaker with sequins

Beijing fashion

white irregular thread fringe dress & grey silk scarf

Beijing fashion

all white dresses, sheer & layered translucent fabrics

P5159800

Beijing fashion

all white dresses in layered translucent fabrics, hat & pink handbag

Beijing fashion

just a day in the park

Beijing fashion

white translucent layered fabric, tall soled polka dot shoes, big hats

Beijing fashion

Beijing fashion

red & white

Beijing fashion

Beijing fashion

mixed patterns on older folks

Beijing fashion

Beijing fashion

group in pink

Beijing fashion

matching hats

artist residency, may 2015

 

 

 

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Beihai Northwest

Beihai Northwest

Still with a lengthy list of unseen places in Beijing despite a month in the city, on my last day I returned to Beihai Park to be outside in a garden. The northwest section contains temples, pavilions, memorials, and a large lake-front walkway. Restoration produces a mix of ancient and contemporary sensibilities. People sing and dance in the pavilions. The Buddhist Temples are active sites of worship. The lake is full of boats even on a Monday at midday.

Beihai Northwest

Beihai Northwest

Beihai Northwest

dragons, lions, gate — yellow, green, red — repeat

Beihai Northwest

Beihai Northwest

high-roofed dark interiors are comfortably cool despite temperatures outside in the mid-90s F

Beihai Northwest

giant bronze urns with paper money and rain water

Beihai Northwest

Beihai Northwest

Nine Dragon Screen, 1756, 635 dragons total, one of three walls of this type in China — defense system against evil spirits

Beihai Northwest

Beihai Northwest

Beihai Northwest

Beihai Northwest

Screen of Iron Shadow, Yuan Dynasty, intermediate volcanic conglomerate, clouds and chimera patterns

Beihai Northwest

Beihai Northwest

Beihai Northwest

Five Dragon Pavilion, 1602, with yellow duck boats

artist residency, day 28

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Beihai Park

Beihai Park

Imperial gardens, temples, and pavilions of the 171 acre Beihai Park began to be built in 1163. Located on one of three interconnected lakes adjacent to Imperial City in the center of Beijing, it has been a public park since 1925. People spend a Saturday afternoon playing music, reading newspapers, strolling, and boating. The earthquake ravaged but still standing Tibetan Buddhist White Dagoba, original construction 1651, is on the central island of Qionghuadao, Jade Flower Island. It can be seen like a beacon from many surrounding locations in the city.

Beihai Park

Beihai Park

Miniature versions of this lantern style were given to customers and children by Joyce Chen restaurant in Cambridge, Mass where my family frequently ate and where I learned to use chop sticks in the 1960s. Joyce Chen emigrated with her family from Shanghai in 1949. Her restaurants and cookbooks popularized northern-style Chinese cuisine in the United States.

Beihai Park

Beihai Park

Beihai Park

Beihai Park

Beihai Park

Beihai Park

Beihai Park

monk with Neiliansheng-style shoes, wall painting

Beihai Park

climbing the stairway to stupa

Beihai Park

White Dagoba, shrine for sacred relics, built 1651, renamed Yongansi in 1743

Beihai Park

Beihai Park

White Dagoba, north side

Beihai Park

I was surprised and honored when a Tibetan monk touring the dagoba indicated his colleague wanted a photograph with me. No arms draped around each other this time. Despite the usual absence of common language, the much friendlier assistant willingly let me photograph him before running to catch up with his straight-faced boss who had initiated the transaction.

Beihai Park

Beihai Park

Beihai Park

Beihai Park

Beihai Park

dragon glazed tile roof from top of stairway

Beihai Park

Emperor Qianlong’s Stele of the Jade Islet in Spring Shade, Jin dynasty, 1751

Beihai Park

Beihai Park

Beihai Park

Beihai Park

Beihai Park

Beihai Park, one of the oldest and best preserved former imperial gardens in the world

artist residency, day 26

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Tian’anmen

Tian'anmen

The front entrance to the Imperial City in Beijing is Tian’anmen, or Gate of Heavenly Peacemaking, first built in 1415 during the Ming Dynasty, where Mao Zedong’s portrait is centrally hung. Forbidden city is within the Imperial City north of Tian’anmen.

The immense open area called Tian’anmen Square is on the opposite side of a busy street from Imperial City gate. Tunnels are used to cross under the street. On either side of the square are the Great Hall of the People — the capitol of China, and the National Museum of China. The iconic Monument to the People’s Heroes and Mausoleum of Mao Zedong are in the center of the square at the south end. The square can accommodate 600,000 people. Security cameras, check points, barriers, uniformed and plain clothes policemen, and vendors offering to take photographs abound.

South of Tian’anmen Square are shopping streets, both authentic recreations and real; to the west is the National Center for Performing Arts.

Tian'anmen

we’re gonna need a bigger camera

Tian'anmen

Great Hall of the People behind Monument to the People’s Heroes

Tian'anmen

Tian'anmen

selling fans at Mao Zedong mausoleum, south side

Tian'anmen

one of four heroic sculptures at the corners of the mausoleum, all based on the Romantic French painter Eugene Delacroix’s ‘Liberty Leading the People’ commemorating the July Revolution of 1830 in Paris

Tian'anmen

meet the new boss, same as the old boss

Tian'anmen

Zhengyangmen gatehouse with archery tower across the street to the south

Tian'anmen

archery tower, looking south

Tian'anmen

archery tower, looking north

Tian'anmen

Qianmen Street, a shopping street south of Tian’anmen Square

Neiliansheng

Neiliansheng Shoes, Dashilan Street, oldest cloth shoe shop in China, 1853

Neiliansheng

Neiliansheng shoe museum, third floor

Neiliansheng  Neiliansheng

Neiliansheng

handmade for 162 years

P5301333

National Center for the Performing Arts

P5301336

National Center for the Performing Arts entrance with Great hall of the People behind

 

artist residency, day 26

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Mutianyu

Mutianyu

With Forbidden City being the first recommendation in tourist guidebooks for what to see in Beijing, the Great Wall is a close second. Mutianyu is more dramatic and less crowded than Badaling, the most popular section of wall and half-hour closer to city center. After rejecting public transportation options for being too complicated, I hired a car for an 8 hour contract. The driver, who spoke a little English, met me at 7:15 a.m. for the 90 minute ride.

State sponsored crenelated road barriers signal the destination is near. There is a short walk from the ticket booth through a newly built gauntlet-style outdoor mall fronted by an energetic yet easily brushed off battery of hawkers. Small shops overflow with an unbelievable abundance of tourist junk. A short bus ride takes visitors to a gondola that eliminates what would be an approximately twenty minute steep hike from the parking lot to Tower 14.

The weather was in the mid-90s with limited visibility due to haze that thickened in the afternoon. The first thing I noticed in the wooded mountainous region of the wall was the sound of bird song absent in Beijing.

Begun in 500 BCE, the great wall is actually many walls built at different times with different materials depending on the era and region. (See Peter Hessler and David Spindler). An archaeological survey by China’s State Administration of Cultural Heritage announced in June 2012 the completion of a five year measurement of the wall at 21,196.18 km (13,170.69 miles), more than twice the length of previous estimates.

Mutianyu

crenelated barriers on roads near the wall

Mutianyu

gondola to Tower 14

Mutianyu

looking west

Mutianyu

Mutianyu

Mutianyu

Mutianyu

Mutianyu

Mutianyu

last salesman north of Tower 14

Mutianyu

past the last concession things fall apart

Mutianyu

condition of the wall without renovation  

Mutianyu

tower interior

Mutianyu

return trip looking east

Mutianyu

tower concession stand

Mutianyu

Mutianyu

looking east

Mutianyu

face-off

Mutianyu

My good friends and complete strangers, beautiful women who ask me to have our picture taken together on the Great Wall at Mutianyu. I learned to hand my camera to photographers to have a picture, too.

Mutianyu

artist residency, day 24

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IOAM Ink Art

IOAM Symposium

In Riotous Profusion — The New Possibilities of Ink Art opened at Inside Out Art Museum, Haidian, Beijing with a symposium of speeches. President Fan Di’an of China Academy of Fine Art, CAFA toured the show. The exhibition highlights cultural roots of ink art in China with a contemporary lineage dating to 1960s Taiwan and 1980s mainland China. Eight artists working in ink with abstract imagery are represented, all men. The female co-curator, Dr Yingchun Gong, did not attend the symposium. The exhibition is a collaboration of four arts institutions. The show travels in September to De Markten Gallery, Brussels, in November to Research House for Asian Art, RHAA, Chicago, and finishes in March 2016 in Ten-Po Art, Taiwan. A catalog accompanies the show. The symposium was a sequential presentation of ideas by organizers and artists who spoke for two hours. There were many fine examples of work that could not be photographed because they are displayed under glass.

IOAM Symposium

Yuan Zuo, Inside Out Museum Director

IOAM Symposium

Ping Jie, Curator

IOAM Symposium

Shuang Liang, academic adviser

IOAM Symposium

Zheng Yahui documenting speeches

IOAM Symposium

Zhang Zhaohui, a third state of abstract art

IOAM Symposium

Li Gang, ink art elements

IOAM Symposium

Li Gang, detail

IOAM Symposium

Li Gang, detail

IOAM Symposium

Li Gang, detail

IOAM Symposium

President Fan Di’an of CAFA toured the show

IOAM Symposium

Inside Out Art Museum, Haidian, Beijing

artist residency, day 20

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    Couch with Quilt, my original oil painting, is being used to promote the film Temperance

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