Visit to 798 Art Zone, discovering the Ullens Center

On Sunday 28 June I had to go to 798 for the opening of the Israel Center. I hadn’t been there since long as it is too far by bike. I arrived well ahead of time to walk a little around the Art Zone that has become a real small city. One needs more than one day to go around and explore the many corners, with galleries, shops, cafés, restaurants and even offices.

So I finally visited the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA), set up by the Belgian couple Ullens in 2007. It is pretty well known around the world by now. The outside is rather “factory” as the Art Zone actually is, but the inside is pretty modern and nice. I also liked the shop.
The sky was grey, the weather like a sauna but I did take a few pictures along the 798 road, like of the coffee shop hidden within a huge tree and the railway museum part (great old locomotive).
I will really need to visit the area more, I probably need first to buy a better bike…

Not all Chinese weddings are alike! The history of Quanjude Peking Duck

I have been to quite a number of weddings and some blog entries on my other site show pictures.
A wedding is a big thing in China and normally also complicated and very expensive. Especially the bride has to change the dress several times during the banquet. Red envelopes and other presents are brought by the guests. Most of the banquets are held in hotels with intrinsicate decorations, large wedding posters, video showing the young couple, a tower of glasses to pour the champagne, etc. The crowd can be … huge.

Well, not always. This wedding of a close friend was simple but very genuine. The couple is in the first picture: the bride had a nice dress but covered it as she felt cold. No fancy decorations. No flood of presents and “hong bao”.
The location was also unusual: the famous Peking Duck Restaurant at Hepingmen, “Quanjude”. I remember that building from the eighties, it seemed a bit “far” from my Beijing Hotel. The restaurant is huge, see below. The corridors are decorated with historical pictures of famous guests. There are many floors with private rooms. The large public restaurant is usually packed and people wait patiently to get a table.
The Peking Duck is of course, delicious. I still love the dish and always eat too much.

Some history of Beijing Quanjude:

Established in 1864, with a history of 150 years, Quanjude has survived the ordeal of time. Quanjude has eight direct branches in Beijing. The original location operates in Qianmen with several other branches in other locations in Beijing.
There is a seven story restaurant on Hepingmen Ave., a location that was hand-picked by former Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai. Serving up to 5,000 meals a day, this restaurant covers a floor area of 15,000 sqm with over forty private dining rooms and can simultaneously seat 2,000 guests.
Having established a history and affiliation with the Chinese government at the municipal and central state level, Quanjude has often been used to hold state banquets and to receive celebrities, dignitaries, and important government figures from over 200 countries as distinguished VIP guests.
Per year the restaurant chain (50 affiliates across China) sells over 2 million roast ducks served in 400 different styles to over 5 million customers. Annual sales reach 500 million yuan (US$81.5 m).
With its long history, Quanjude roast duck enjoys a high reputation among domestic and overseas consumers for the peculiar roast technique and outstanding quality. It ranks the first not only in Chinese Famous Dishes, compiled by all-China famous chefs under the organization of Ministry of Commerce in 1958, but also in Elite of Chinese Famous Dishes, published by China and Japan in 1982.
In China, the well-known All-Duck Banquet is headed by Quanjude roast duck and supported by over 400 dishes with Quanjude characteristic flavor. Government leaders, officials and VIPs from nearly 200 countries and regions had dinner here.
About Quanren Yang, the establisher and the first manager of Quanjude:
Quanren Yang (1822-1890), the first manager came to Beijing from a famine-stricken area of Hebei Province. After arriving in Beijing, he was firstly engaged in buying and selling raw chicken and duck. In 1864, he rolled the dice with a grocery on the verge of bankruptcy. He renamed the firm QUANJUDE. Due to his extreme smartness and painstaking management, QUANJUDE developed from an ordinary roast duck shop front to a real restaurant characterized by roast duck done by hanging in the oven. This laid a sound foundation for the roast duck to become well known throughout Beijing.

Beijing CBD lights up for the holidays

Another “China Views”.

Pretty interesting to explore CBD (Beijing Central Business District) at night. Except for “The Place” (shimaotianjie), with its giant overhead LED screen, the area is pretty deserted.

The lights are pretty nice and it makes a kind of romantic stroll to visit the area of The Place, World Trade Center (the 3 units) and China Hotel.

Worker’s Stadium in icily holiday spirit

In my series, “China Views”, see here night views of the north side of the Worker’s Stadium in Beijing.

Festive spirit, Chinese style with ice sculptures exhibition inside the stadium.
Opening time: looks like December – January period at least.

The year 2014 in Sanlitun, Beijing – part 1

Beijing can be a health hazard because of its dreadful pollution, and horrible traffic.
On the other hand, living near Sanlitun offers us easy access to the many vibrant aspects of a very much modern and diverse world city. So many things to see and do. So many restaurants to try out, basically whatever food you want you can find in Beijing.
Here I show pictures taken during the period April to August 2014, to give some idea. Part 2 is September to December 2014. It is not supposed to give a full overview, just some snapshots. Up to you to explore yourself. I will post more in the future.
The Village, now named Tai Koo Li (dreadful name; also known in Chinese as Taiguli) is probably the epicenter with many shops like Apple, Godiva, Adidas, UNIQLO, Hollister, Swarovski, etc. Plus a long list of restaurants, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Union Bar and Grill, supermarket, shops and more shops on all levels. And the big Movie house, Megabox. The South Area is very animated, the North Area is much more quiet and also sits next to The Opposite House, a boutique hotel with well-known restaurants and exhibitions. Also in the same area is Nali Patio (full of restaurants and a disco too, Migas).
On the square close to the Apple shop there is life throughout the year. In summer the water fountain attracts kids and adults to play around. Or there is a variety of promotional exhibitions with Jaguar, Audi, Mercedes, Lexus, plus indoor exhibitions around the FIFA World Cup, art, consumer goods, …
The shopping and restaurant mall 3.3 also features regular activities, see here vintage cars coming to Beijing.

With the name of the picture you find the date it was taken.
Of course along 3.3 and The Village we have the Sanlitun Bar Street, with the local bars; most have live bands, cheap drinks, heavy smoking and fake booze.
Winter is also special when the whole area is adorned with lights to make it feel like Christmas. It always attracts masses of people to shoot pictures and the unavoidable selfies.
Close also is the small street where some pretty well-known restaurants and bars are located, like Luga’s, Taps, First Floor, Biteapita, and many more in Tongli Studio. Also home to the food stalls and some creative vendors selling whatever, cute postcards, cigars, DVD, … A good place to sit outside and watch the crowd pass by. Most places have waterpipes (hookah).
Next door is Yashow Clothing Market, now closed for renovation (see previous post).
South is SOHO Sanlitun, another huge area that I have not explored well. It has not yet attracted the huge crowds of The Village.