Undoubtedly, Beijing is the cultural center of China. Beijing has endowed too many connotations for culture. Beijing is just like the thickest encyclopedia, containing the cultural heritage of 5,000 history of China, absorbing the exploding knowledge of the current society, and foretelling the scenarios of the future development. If you are an out-comer, you might find it hard to locate a portal for merging into the melting pot of Beijing culture, as the culture in Beijing is so complicated and elaborate that it deserves a life time to probe into. As the capital for several ancient dynasties, Beijing owns plenty of royal elements in its cultural system. Beijing people are elegant and proud, but they seldom look down upon people from other regions. Beijing has never repelled outside cultures and fashions. Beijing shows a patient and considerate attitude for any culture so long as it is logical or reasonable to some extent. So you can easily find the traces of a great variety of cultures nationwide or even worldwide. Nevertheless, Beijing has never given up its noble taste for elite culture. Beijing is never stingy in offering compliments for the true talents. No matter you arise from the lowest grass-root level, or descends from a royal family, you are always respected in Beijing if you stand out uniquely and brilliantly. While the leaves on the trees in the Beihai Park are falling every year to record the fast-changing history, Beijing’s deposits of culture are getting more and more profound and charming. The process of merging into Beijing culture might be a slow process, however once your mindset mingles with some genuine element of Beijing culture, you will find that you can never separate your soul from this captivating metropolis.
If you label yourself as a literature elite, you are in the right place to evaluate your learnings. There’re many VIP writers in Beijing both in history and at present, such as Lao She, Wang Shuo, Liu Xinwu. Some of China’s top universities, such as Peking University and Qinghua University are located in Beijing. Beijing pools the biggest crowd of scholars, experts, and cultural VIPs of China. “Let One Hundred Flowers Blossom and One hundred Schools of Thought Contend” is a vivid description of Beijing’s cultural market.
If you label yourself as a fan for art forms such as opera, traditional crosstalk (Xiangsheng), acrobatics, etc. you will indulge your eyes and ears to the ultimate here in Beijing. Guodegang’s crosstalk performance is very popular in Beijing at present. If you want to watch his cheerful crosstalk, you have to book the ticket several days in advance. Another well-known folk performer Zhao Benshan has also opened a theater in the Qianmen region, where you can enjoy the classic Northeast China song-and-dance duet. Spectators can watch world-class operas and other music performances at Grand National Theater, which was built up in 2007. Music troupes both at home and abroad are lining up to offer their best performance at Grand National theater. Lots of famous singers and film stars are living in Beijing. In some top-notch night clubs, it is quite possible for you to meet your idols frequently.
If you label yourself as a lover for antique, there are many antique bottom-fishing places in Beijing for training your eyes and accumulating your knowledge in this field. Beijing is a well-known historical and cultural city, which is among China’s top six ancient capitals. It owns abundant historic and cultural relics. So Beijing can be called a supermarket of antiques to some degree. Numerous old artworks in Beijing’s antique, old-article and collectibles markets are demonstrating China’s traditional cultural features over the past decades of centuries, and witnessing the evolvement of Chinese civilization history. There are some well-known antique markets in Beijing such as Panjiayuan, Baoguosi, Liulichang, and Lugouqiao. Panjiayuan is a must place for your experience. Panjiayuan is especially known for its “Ghost Market”: The official operation time for Panjiayuan is 8:00 a.m. to 18:00 p.m. from Monday to Friday. However on Saturday and Wednesday, the open time is 4:30 a.m. What’s the secret? Insiders and frequent customers to Panjiayuan all know clearly that the genuine antiques are only presented at weekends. So if you want to buy the truly valuable antiques, you must come over in the early morning before sunlight at weekend. The name of “Ghost Market” is a saying of the old people. As the market opens very early in the morning, sellers and buyers would wander in the darkness just like haunting ghosts, and they have to rely on lanterns (in the old time) and torches to appreciate the antiques. Thus people give it the nickname of “Ghost Market”. If you go to Panjiayuan on weekdays, what you see are basically high-emulational products. Just as some insiders comment, “they are still hot from the forgery shop”.
If you want to appreciate the most traditional ancient architecture, Beijing is the ideal place as the most splendid ancient buildings avoided the destruction of war fires before the establishment of new China. The Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, the Temple of Heaven, the Ming Tombs, the Lama Temple, etc. can serve as a living book for your in-depth appreciation of the beauty as well as your learning of the techniques of ancient architecture.
If you want to experience the fascination of China’s top-notch time-honored brands, Beijing can satisfy your wish. When walking in Wangfujing or Qianmen Street region, you can find many time-honored shops such as Tongrentang, Neiliansheng, Quanjude, Ruifuxiang, Zhangyiyuan, Rongbaozhai, Daoxiangcun, Donglaishun. You can go to Tongrentang to buy Chinese medicine; go to Quanjude buy traditional-flavor roast ducks, go to Daoxiangcun buy delicious cakes, go to Liubiju buy pickles. These time-honored shops offer you the absolute quality guarantee.
If you label yourself as a martial arts master, you can always find your match here for mutual learning. China has many martial arts factions, such as Shaolin, Wudang, Emei, Tanglang, Xingyi, Baji, Taiji, Xinyi, etc. Many top players in these factions would travel to Beijing, testing their skills and strength through open combat, or secret mutual learning from their counterparts. Many of them stay in Beijing to teach pupils. If you meet with an ordinary-looking old man in the park, do not ignore him. Maybe he is a top-notch martial arts player, who can knock down several young men easily.
If you just want to show you are somewhat a figure, simply come to Beijing and try your luck. There’s only something that you cannot think of, and there are always something that challenge your biggest imagination.Well, if you want to get access to the profound and colorful culture of Beijing at zero distance, let’s appreciate them piece by piece in the coming chapters.