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What to Do in Beijing-Part 2

Suburban Cool | 3 p.m.

郊区的艺术酷地 | 下午3点

红砖美术馆 Red Brick Art Museum.jpg

The sprawling 798 Art District is still the hub of Beijing’s contemporary art scene, although the last decade has brought commercialization in the way of souvenir shops, boutiques and cafes, distracting from the galleries. Head farther afield — literally in the dusty suburbs beyond the Fifth Ring Road — to see experimental art in less-crowded spaces. Designed by the provocative Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, the Three Shadows Photography Art Center, a stark, gray brick and concrete space, is said to be the first gallery in China devoted to photography, exhibiting works that, at times, explore the grittier side of modern Chinese life (free admission). At the new Red Brick Art Museum, near an outlet mall in the countryside, the focus is on video and installation works — think of charred New Zealand milk cartons as a comment on China’s food safety concerns — though the real draw may be the tranquil Chinese garden and angular, modernist red brick building itself (20 renminbi).


Duck Dressed Up | 8 p.m.

精心制作的烤鸭 | 晚上8点

全鸭季 Duck de Chine.jpg

Duck devotees face a tough choice in Beijing — with so much kao ya (roast duck) to choose from, how to pick the right place? Duck de Chine succeeds in elevating the dish to a higher plane. Set in a renovated factory with exposed beams and elegant red lanterns, this is the kind of place that has Bollinger on ice and a gong to announce the arrival of your bird. There’s even an art to preparing the duck: First, it’s crisped in an oven with date wood to enhance the flavor, then carved tableside and wrapped expertly in a pancake with a swirl of house-made tian mian jiang (sweet bean sauce) and radish, celery and leek slivers. Fortunately, the high production value doesn’t come with steep prices — a whole duck costs just 268 renminbi. Reservations are a must for a table and duck; it takes over an hour to cook.


Hutong Hooch | 10 p.m.

胡同烈酒 | 晚上10点


Before a government-enforced austerity drive killed all the fun, banquets in China used to be riotous affairs fueled by copious shots of the blinding grain alcohol baijiu. With baijiu producers now seeking new markets, the liquor has moved from the banquet table to the low-lit cocktail bar. At Capital Spirits, a hutong speakeasy with antique wooden furniture and no sign on the door, a mostly young crowd sips shot glasses of the rocket fuel from a menu that varies by strength (from the lighter, rice-based Guilin Sanhua to the 106-proof Maotai Prince) and flavor (the bar infuses its own pomegranate, garlic and Sichuan peppercorn baijius.) An “intro flight” of four types is 40 renminbi. The ultimate challenge is the intimidating Five Snake Liquor (20 renminbi per glass) — a baijiu containing, yes, five dead snakes that’s supposedly good for arthritis and male virility.


Parks and Recreation | 8 a.m.

公园和消遣 | 上午8点

颐和园 The Summer Palace.jpg

The Forbidden City, the former imperial palace at the center of Beijing, can feel overwhelming with the sheer number of courtyards and rooms, not to mention the pushy tourists. A far more peaceful alternative on the weekend is the imperial family’s former country escape, the Summer Palace (30 renminbi admission). Yes, the park gets its fair share of tour groups and Jazzercising grannies, but it’s easy to ditch the crowds by hiking the pine-shaded hill behind the palace and taking in the view of the lake below. As you wander, follow the sounds of music; you might find a choir of hundreds in their Sunday finest belting out patriotic Communist tunes with a brass band, or a Peking Opera soloist performing in a pagoda for an audience of one.


Designer Dumplings | 1 p.m.

高档饺子 | 下午1点

瑜舍酒店 The Opposite House hotel.jpg

The Opposite House hotel, with its green glass facade and soaring atrium draped in steel mesh, exemplifies the bold new architectural aesthetic taking root in Beijing. While staying at the hotel might be pricey (rooms start at 1,850 renminbi per night), the dim sum menu at Jing Yaa Tang restaurant (118 renminbi per person) is a real bargain. Feast on fluffy barbecued pork buns, pan-fried turnip cakes and homemade walnut milk (it tastes like a sweet soup) and then take in the Japanese architect Kego Kuma’s futuristic design in the lobby-cum-gallery space. The showstopper is a 19-foot-tall, 5,000-plus-drawer modern take on a traditional apothecary cabinet — a fitting symbol of how the traditional continues to influence the new in a city with thousands of years of history.



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