Exploring the 798 Art Zone in Beijing
Coffee, Craft Beer & Murals
The Fall Semester is finally upon us. With school about to start Adam and I took the extra time to spend the day in Beijing exploring a new neighborhood. We decided to visit the 798 Art Zone. I didn’t know too much about this specific neighborhood before visiting. Only that it was an artistic hub filled with galleries, art museums, and home to a few iconic murals. (See Below)
Beijing is a pretty grand city. With Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and many more traditionally historical and cultural activities, it’s easy for an area like 798 to pass you by. This neighborhood offers a new sort of vision for China. When I walk through the forbidden city, I’m in awe of the history of China. It’s illustrious past. The craftsmanship and art. I can appreciate the beautiful Buddhist statues and solemn temples. These historical landmarks are wonderful, but don’t give me a feel for the current culture of China.
798 is a place for the vibrant and creative youth. It serves as great contrast to the ‘copy-paste’ style apartment communities and office buildings that are common here in China. The aesthetic is maximalist in nature. Brimming with color, thoughtful architecture and unbridled nature landscaping. It felt like an unplanned natural outpouring of Chinese creativity. It echoes a new era of Chinese style Capitalism, where young people are spending six dollars (US) on coffee drinks, using their the days to walk through art galleries, and their evenings drinking craft beer with their friends.
Here is where designers are creating thoughtful work, and combating the harsh stereotype of ‘Made in China’.
I’ve spent most of the last year primarily uninterested in a personal future in China. But visiting a place like this made me feel like a future was more of possibility in. Overall, the neighborhood was enriching, and felt like a true creative hub. A place where someone interested in making things, could meet likeminded people, and establish a community. Clearly, I’m no expert after a few hours weaving through the streets. But I left feeling inspired and intrigued, and reinvigorated to explore more of China.
Art isn’t the only thing to be found in this district. Boutique shops full of handmade goods line the streets. There are more coffee shops than I could count, each more beautiful than the last. Filling me with FOMO as it was literally impossible to visit each of them. There’s also a pretty big a craft beer scene on this side as town as well.
So much so that before heading back to downtown Beijing, Adam and I stopped by a local craft brewery we found online before visiting. I had an awesome Oolong Infused Beer and Adam a Raspberry Sour Beer. Both were delicious and if we had the time we definitely would have ordered another each.
Adam and I both left wishing we had more time to explore. We’ll definitely be back, and I for one, can’t wait!