In 2008, just following the Olympics, I spent 11 days in Beijing.
While I won’t say it was my favorite trip (I will list why below), I did come across some surprises that I still find visually inspiring.
First, the bad:
- I knew maybe 4 words of the language. Everyone else knew 0 words of my language.
- They don’t use addresses, just descriptions of locations. Even pointing at a map doesn’t necessarily get your taxi to where you want to go.
- I got the sense that not only the designer bags are knockoffs, but some of the retold history is fabricated as well.
- Squat toilets. ‘Nuf said.
Now, the good:
- There is a thriving artist community in and around the city. 798 Space is a more touristy venue, but great to visit, nonetheless. I actually spent 2 days here. It’s a converted factory property, now hosting work spaces, galleries, and cafes. I also took an adventure to Yi Hao Di (I think!) and was the sole patron in an international collection of gallery shows. It was beyond the 5th ring road, and I was lucky enough to catch a ride back to town with a kind local woman.
- Artifacts and history dating back thousands of years. It’s pretty amazing.
- Great architecture.
- The food is incredible.
- Getting around is CHEAP!
- Massage and relaxation are valued. Getting a foot or full-body rub-down includes snacks and a private room, and again, is CHEAP.
Anyway, I unearthed a bunch of photos from the trip from which you designers and travelers might glean some inspiration.
I couldn’t *not* put up a picture of the Great Wall at Badaling. I saw everyone head to the right, so I went left. It was a quiet, steep hike, and definitely worth the visit. ©2012, Committed LLC.
Massive model fortress. At the tallest, it was probably about 8 feet high. Every room was occupied by miniature people and furniture. The mural behind it was impressive as well. This was a small part of a massive scale model of a government fortress. While most of the rooms held soldiers, I found this one a little different. ©2012, Committed LLC.
This was a small part of a massive scale model of a government fortress. While most of the rooms held soldiers, I found this one a little different. ©2012, Committed LLC.
Poster for the exhibition. ©2012, Committed LLC.
A cartoonish quality again. I’m not sure who this is parodying, but it seems to be a play off the guardian lion sculptures usually seen flanking a doorway. ©2012, Committed LLC.
I’ve always been fascinated with well-executed graffiti art. This Beijing sample caught my eye. ©2012, Committed LLC.
Graffiti outside 798 Space. I interpreted this as Olympian obedience, but I could be wrong. ©2012, Committed LLC.
798 Space. The child-as-soldier was a common theme. ©2012, Committed LLC.
The ceiling of one of the Summer Palace structures. Again, EVERY SURFACE was decorated. ©2012, Committed LLC.
Some of the artistic commentary on the Communist party. 798 Space. I was surprised at what seemed like transparent dissent. ©2012, Committed LLC.
Some of the artistic commentary on the Communist party, and perhaps the Olympics. 798 Space. ©2012, Committed LLC.
“Don’t feed bears your fingertips or they will start talking.” At least, that’s how I read that. ©2012, Committed LLC.
While challenging my direction skills, the hutongs were definitely a highlight to visit. 25 sq. ft. shops and tiny narrow roads that led to some real gems. ©2012, Committed LLC.
This little boy was so excited for after-school snacks, that he was hopping up and down. I saw lots of students shelling out coins to by buns and other afternoon snacks. ©2012, Committed LLC.
©2012, Committed LLC.
I was amazed that each element: tile, painting, mosaic, was unique. ©2012, Committed LLC.
Every surface was covered with decoration. Even the tips of the roof tiles had a beautiful pattern or illustration ©2012, Committed LLC.
Pretty moat outside the Summer Palace. ©2012, Committed LLC.
No bugles until 5:00. At least, that’s how I read that. ©2012, Committed LLC.
Pebble mosaic on the Summer Palace walkways. ©2012, Committed LLC.
Loved the color and designs on the walls. ©2012, Committed LLC.
Intricate ceramics adorned the walls of the private quarters in the Forbidden City. ©2012, Committed LLC.
Beautiful tranquility awaits.
I loved this moment. And wanted someone to carry me around after walking all day!
I was excited to find this quiet green area just outside the Forbidden City main courtyard. A nice respite from the hard, rigid spaces within.
Okay, maybe it’s not letterpress, but it’s the same idea. I wish I remember when this was from, but I think around 1300 AD, and it was used as a seal for letters coming out of the Forbidden City.
Souvenir stand by the Summer Palace.
It got quite muggy during the day, so there were often groups sitting wherever shade could be found.
A traditional style haircut for the little ones. I wish I could have asked about the history and reasoning for it. It also appeared quite often in the modern artwork I saw at 798 Space.
There were a few versions of these posters in Tiananmen Square. This one shows the workers as strong and proud.
A few groups of young boys were marching around the area. I found this intriguing and intimidating at the same time.
“The Egg” opera house. There was some controversy over this style of architecture, but I found it serene and stunning at the same time.
I saw babies and toddlers with just a slit in their pants. Apparently, they don’t wear diapers, just get potty-trained quickly! I don’t know that this could work in the US, but it certainly cuts down on landfill matter.
Doesn’t really look it from the outside, but maybe it’s glamorous inside?
Yi Hao Di sculpture. This cartoonish style was common throughout the exhibits I visited.