Yet again we slept late and before we'd eaten breakfast it was almost
lunch time. We walked north, it was cold and fairly sunny, but we were wishing
we'd bought some warmer clothes. We took a taxi and headed for Factory 798, a
massive art complex about 10km outside Beijing on the way to the airport.
Art Zone 798 or Factory 798 is a series of galleries dedicated art of all kinds
- painting, sculptures, photography and video. The galleries have been
integrated into desolated factory halls built by the East Germans and Russians,
and starting in 1957 churning out electronic articles. The complex is massive -
500.000 square meters, two-thirds of which were allocated to living quarters for
the workers, at the tme the best housing conditions for workers in Beijing.
The factory and it's many sub-factories underwent a gradual decline up through
the 80's and early 90's and the first artists moved into the area in 1995. By
2003 the area was thriving with galleries, publishers, design companies,
restaurants and cafes - leaving the buildings as the were on the outside, but
refurbishing many of them on the inside. The most spectacular is still Factory
798, where arch-supported sections of the ceiling curve upwards then fall
diagonally along the high slanted banks or windows; a pattern repeated several
times giving the roof its characteristic sawtooth-like appearance. All the
windows were all to face north as the light from that direction would cast fewer
shadows. Many of the halls still had the communist slogans painted on the walls.
We spent most of the day at the factory, wandering from gallery to gallery. I
can easily imagine that the place is packed during summer - we arrived at lunch
time on a cold morning March morning - many galleries were closed, but we still
managed to see a number of interesting exhibitions - not least of Danish artist Erik Frandsen,
who was exhibiting massive stainless steel flowers, large stainless steel sheets
with flowers etched. Very Scandinavian - but their sheer size was impressive.
We spent 3 or 4 hours wandering around before taking a taxi back to Beijing and
Ritan Park in the Eastern part of Beijing. The taxi took ages, school was just
stopping and the park is in the embassy area, so the roads were packed with cars
picking up children after school. Yanmei and Daji headed straight for the
exercise park and we marvelled at the Chinese playing ping pong - no matter the
age, they all played extremely well.
We walked back towards the centre of Beijing via the Russian district, passing a
number of the new hotels that had been constructed for the Olympics. We eat at a
large Chinese restaurant in Oriental Plaza and ended up sitting close to a
family we had shared a table with the previous day when we'd stopped for coffee
- even in Beijing you can bump into the same people twice!
We bought cakes and shopped in the local (and expensive supermarket) before
walking back to the hotel. It was the plan to leave for Pingyao the next day,
but we still hadn't received any tickets for the Chinese travel agency, so we
spent some time in contact with them - but still no news! We went to be early -
only to be woken again by our noisy neighbours arriving home at 2am.
Daji had walked 38.000 steps - again!