A Chinese research center invited me to a conference on "Cultural and
Creative Spaces" in Beijing in October, 2006. I gave a paper on the history
of SoHo in New York (click here
if you would like to see the paper).
Before (and separate from) the conference I gave a lecture to anthropology
students at Beijing's
Central University of Nationalities
an impressive campus with this beautiful new building surrounded by older buildings.
(The woman on my right is my host, Professor Shi Lin of the School of Ethnology
The Cheung Kong Centre conference was in an ex-manufacturing space now
devoted to contemporary art, the "798" or "Dashanzi" art neighborhood. This
is an ex-industrial area now devoted to contemporary art, with over 100 art
galleries and studios.
These galleries show contemporary art as good (or as bad) as you see in New
York or anywhere else.
I was impressed to see my old friends from Arte Continua, a far-out contemporary
art gallery in San Gimignano, Italy, here in Beijing as well.
In Beijing we first stayed at a more traditional hotel in a Hutong, or alley,
reminiscent of old Beijing.
The hotel was the Lu Song Yuan hotel.
We then moved to the official conference hotel, a high-rise contemporary
luxury hotel such as you can find anywhere in the world.
While in Beijing we of course ate Peking Duck. Our favorite restaurant in
the Washington DC area, the Peking
Gourmet in Falls Church, VA, does a better
job--less greasy--than the most famous restaurant in Beijing, the Quan Ju De,
established over 130 years ago. Score one for the New World!
We also looked at a traditional shopping street in Beijing.
We went to the Great Wall from Beijing. Fantastic!
From Beijing we went to Xian, to see the famous archaeological site of the
Terra Cotta warriors
While this site is impressive, the crowds of tourists diminish the experience.
Now that I've see the real thing, I like the silence of the photographs.
Xian is a beautiful old city. We only spent one night there, which was too
We then went to Shanghai, the biggest and most modern city in China.
The display of neon on the main shopping street, coupled with the cleanliness
and feeling of safety, make this outshine New York's Times Square.
We saw the classical Chinese garden in Shanghai. This is very large and beautiful.
If you can't get to Shanghai, the
Classical Chinese Garden in Portland, OR is pretty nice too.
You may have noticed that the sky was pretty gray in all three cities.
China is terribly polluted, and we rarely saw a blue sky in any city, although
everyone said that October was the best weather month. The traffic was terrible
everywhere--solid gridlocked traffic mixed with many bicycles. This will only
get worse with China's fabulous rate of economic growth--all those newly middle-class
families will want their car, and be able to afford it too. China's central
government can be ruthless in acting to ameliorate problems, but I really don't
see what they can do in the long run. In the short run, for the Beijing Olympics, I
guess they will put some tough traffic laws in place for the period of the games.
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