This week’s blog post is a bit different. You’ve seen me walking on the Great Wall of China, posing in some Temple parks and being a lonely writer alongside a lake. I do love nature and its beauty.
I do love some other things too. I am a man of the city. I enjoy hiking here and there and lay down in the sun on a golden beach, but I belong to the loud and stressful city.
So, for once, I’ll take you to my favorite district in Beijing. Buckle up! The Art District is a few lines down there!
I’ll take you in this article in a colorful and magical place, my Wonderland.
If there’s one thing I love most of all, it’s to dream. Dream big. Dream wild. Dream as a kid. Art transports us beyond anything else. Out of reach. Art is so many things: cinema, TV shows (#GoT Season 7 released yet?! Haha!), paintings, galleries filled with sculptures
and relics of our History, books, music…. Art has many forms, many shapes, many names.
In Beijing, like every big city, you can find places where people come express their inner thoughts and deepest feelings in some ways. We may not understand them or interpret on our own what they try to tell us; anyway, looking at art (and by looking I imply using yours eyes, no matter the art form in front of you), you dive in an unknown world where you can freely open up your mind to any wild thing you desire. You can, based on a legend written on a small paper attached to the wall or big display, create and imagine a new world with many stories coming from one piece of art.
Have you ever watched a bottle of water on a beach with a sunset on the background? Do it! You’ll see that even that piece of junk will actually transport your mind far from your spot. If it doesn’t, maybe you should see it on picture, as a piece of “art”. Your perspective may change then.
Anyway, Beijing has those kind of places we can call museum or art galleries, where artists, famous or not, can display what they call their artwork. And one huge district is actually called the 798 Art District. This district is located in the Dashanzi area,
northeast of central Beijing. It is the site of state-owned factories including Factory 798, which originally produced electronics. Yes, the scenery looks like an old abandoned factory area! Just that scenery makes it an artistic complex to see. You’ll enter by a modern street style that will quickly change into a vintage style architecture and ghost towers. I have never been there by night, when all the bars and cafés are closed, but I
can imagine it must seem like a horror movie stage set! By day, on the other hand, it is incredible!
A bit of historical facts
七九八 Art District is an old industrial area where they used to fabric electronical stuff. Excuseme for my language, but we are not here to discuss electronics!
The factories, abandoned in the 90’s, where destined to vanish from Beijing. Artists saw in that localization the perfect place to display and let their mind run free. After several attempts, they got the authorization from the government itself to establish their art studios, galleries and other bars. Since 2002, the Art District became their place of freedom. And they have freedom. The Art zone is the only place where the government agreed to let people express themselves as much as they want, through art obviously. From paintings to musical representations, artists from all China is welcome to bring what may fit in those old buildings.
798 (七九八) also has its own specification: it doesn’t only stand for a three digit number: in Beijing these numbers symbolize the country’s cutting edge art movement led by the Chinese vanguard, unchained artistic personalities with alternative life goals. The largest, most influential art district in China hosts world-class international and Chinese exhibitions in the midst of those former weapons factories. (source: http://www.798district.com/en/798_discover/798_about/)
Art and venues
The Art zone grew fast. Everywhere in Beijing, people hear about this cultural district where artists from all over the place decided to share their own touch. Word went out of the town about a free space has seen the light in a communist and preservative country. Nowadays, you can see traditional Chinese art among so many revolutionary or contemporary artists work displayed. It is open to everyone who wished to share some kind of art, no matter what.
Restaurant and lounge bars opened as some souvenir shops. The neighborhood became a
real attraction in the city but remains the same: the Art Zone. Instead of turning into amusement park or big mall, like many places in Beijing, 798 is and will always be a cultural and artistic district in the shape of an abandoned industrial area.
This week, I won’t share to many things about my favorite places. I’ll let that to another article coming soon. I wanted to introduce this amazing place as it is, to me, the best part of the city. You may remember, though, I posted an article about the tradition of tea in China. Linked to this article, the place I mentioned is actually in this district (https://romaingijsensblog.wordpress.com/2017/05/17/trendy-daily-chinese-routine-is-it-tea-time/). You already have a venue to visit while you’ll go walk through the colorful streets of (七九八) 798 Art District.
See you soon guys!