and nightlife scene is presently experiencing something of a revolution,
as modern Beijingers, who have recently acquired some disposable
income and living through fairly liberal times, search for new outlets
for having fun. During the 1990s, many new nightclubs opened up
to serve a chic and wealthy clientele and new ones continue to open
all the time. The music at these Western-style
clubs covers a wide spectrum, with techno
and house being very popular with both locals and
tourists. Many nightclubs are open nightly until the early morning
and charge an entrance fee of RMB100-200.
The most popular bar area ( frequented lots of
by foreigners) is Sanlitun, situated in the northeast
of the city. All the bars here serve draught beer at Western prices,
and are usually much livelier than any of the hotel bars. Other
places are located on Xinjiang Kou, a street full
of restaurants, which is a great place to go on hot summer nights.
Most bars stay open until around midnight but are liveliest around
Specifics of events (including gigs) are published in the city’s
guide Beijing This
Month or on the Xianzai
Beijing. China Now also lists clubs, bars,
and live music venues and the Beijing entertainment guide, City
Weekend, has information and is published every two weeks.
Located in Tuanjiehu Park is the ever-popular Old
Poachers Inn, 7 Sanlitun Lu. Deservedly
Beijing’s most popular bar, this ex-pat watering hole is more
English than most pubs in England, but, it is accessible, casual
and comfortable. It is quite popular on Thursdays, when a jazz band
plays, and also on Friday and Saturday when the attached club holds
a disco. Durty Nellie’s is a friendly Irish
pub on Sanlitun Lu offering live music and excellent beer.
Sgt Pepper’s, located at the west gate of Chaoyang
Park, is a layed back place to relax on a rooftop beer garden and
pool table. Very popular with ex-pats is the Goose
and Duck Pub, also at the west gate of Chaoyang
Park, with a beer garden out front. The Pig and
Thistle, Holiday Inn Lido, Jichang
Lu, is another English-style pub.
Casinos are illegal in China.
Among the newest nightclubs in Beijing is the Heaven Star,
Jianguomennei, with a huge dance floor and a quieter bar. Beijing’s
most chic club is JJ’s, Xinjiekou Bei Dajie,
a cavernous club with lasers, a sci-fi theme and scantily dressed
Russian dancing girls; imported British DJs play a mix of techno,
house and reggae. Kiss Super Club, 35 Xue Yun Lu,
is a huge club boasting two dance floors and a booming sound system
pumping out techno and house.
2-10 Xingfu Yicun, across from the Workers’ Stadium north
gate, is a fairly new club popular for its retro interior. Resident
and guest DJs play mostly techno and trance with some hip hop. Neo
Lounge, 99 Xingfu Cun Zhong, Chaoyang District, is a slick,
elegant club with minimalist decor playing house, trance and hip
Live bands play nightly at the May Flower Bar,
Chang’an Boulevard, playing mainly pop songs in Chinese, sometimes
English. The CD Café, East Third Ring Road,
was at one time dedicated to jazz but now offers more underground
music. For a more authentic experience, the Sanwei Bookstore,
60 Fuxingmennei Dajie, offers light jazz and Chinese folk music
and is popular with ex-pats and arty Chinese.
The Beijing Concert Hall, 1 Bei Xinhua Jie
(tel: (10) 6605-5812), just off Xi Chang’an Jie, is devoted
to classical music, staging regular concerts by Beijing’s
resident orchestra, and also visiting orchestras from the rest of
China and overseas.
Beijing Opera is still quite popular and the best place
to see it is Zhengyici Theatre, 220 Qian Men Xi
He Yan Jie (tel: (10) 6303-3104), an easy walk from Heping Men subway
station. Constructed in the 17th century, the theatre was originally
a Ming Dynasty temple prior to being converted by the founding artists
of the Beijing Opera company. Performances are also held nightly
at 1930 at the Liyuan Theatre in the Jianguo Hotel, 175 Yongan Road.
Spoken drama was only launched into Chinese theatres this century.
The People’s Art Theatre in Beijing became
its most well-known home and, prior to the Cultural Revolution,
presented European plays that had a clear social message. The last
ten years has seen a total turn around, with the People’s
Art Theatre, reassembled in 1979, making its reputation with a performance
of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. They
and additional companies perform at the Beijing People’s
Art Theatre, (in the Capital Theatre), 22 Wangfujing Dajie
(tel: (10) 6513-5801).
Theatre will receive a big lift in Beijing in 2003 when China’s
first National Theatre is due to open at Xi Chang’an
Jie, just west of the Great Hall of the People.
Traditional theatre, such as story-telling to musical accompaniment,
acrobatics and magic shows, are staged daily at the Lao
She Chaguan, 2nd Floor, Da Wancha Building, 3 Qian Men
Xi Jie (tel: (10) 6303- 6830), and also at the Tianqiao
Happy Teahouse, 113 Tianqiao Nandajie (tel: (10) 6303-9013).
Many cinemas in Beijing are devoted to satisfying a seemingly insatiable
appetite for kung fu movies, although there is ample opportunity
to see the serious and fairly controversial films emerging from
a new wave of younger film-makers. Foreign films are usually dubbed
and meticulously censored by the Government prior to being released.
A well known, central cinema is the Capital Cinema,
46 Xi Chang’an Jie (tel: (10) 6605-5510). The Sun
Dong An Cinema City, 138 Wangfujing Dajie (tel: (10) 6528-1988),
screens major films from the USA.
Beijing’s appeal for film directors as a sweeping, cinematic
panorama was most exquisitely presented by Bernardo Bertolucci in
his renowned 1987 epic, The Last Emperor. Set in
an old Beijing bathhouse, which is now under threat by developers
who would like to turn it into a shopping complex, Zhang Yang’s
1999 film, Shower, depicts the tension between
tradition and the dictates of commerce in modern Beijing. Farewell
My Concubine (1993) is an amazing epic covering 50 years
of modern Chinese history including the Cultural Revolution and
is a story about the relationship between two friends coming of
age in the world of Beijing Opera. It was an international success
for the director Chen Kaige. A very funny movie set in modern-day
Beijing is Sorry Baby (1999) directed by Feng Xiao
Gang, about a feud between a rich businessman and his chauffeur.
The Chinese New Year, which is celebrated either
in late January or early February, is the most important holiday
of the year. The anticipation and build-up to the festival is as
frantic as Christmas is in the West, with parties, the exchanging
of presents,, and houses and streets decorated with lights. Most
Chinese celebrate the beginning of the New Year
with their families.
The Mid-Autumn Festival takes place in September
or early October and is celebrated by displaying lanterns in various
shapes, such as animals, and by eating the traditional moon cakes
made of ground lotus, sesame and egg.