And giant robots

And to continue with my visit to the 798 Arts Zone...

I visited some of the same galleries as I did years ago, but of course the art works were different now.

This artist had a whole series of blurry grey works that didn't do much for me.

Here's one that I did like. A massive warplane is surrounded by a mass of celebrating people. Not too hard to decipher the social message there.

Some of the old buildings have been modernized more than I remember.

Here's a courtyard that had a lot going on.

There are some reminders of the area's industrial heritage.

When I visited before, I saw groups of photographers posing a model in various places. Some of that was going on, but it seems the area is very popular for wedding photos.

Notice the photographer's assistant and how she's holding him in place. Nice.

A little further along was something really interesting.

A giant robot made of parts of cars. It had a Transformer logo on its chest.

This photographer had a whole series of staged scenes.

And I'll finish off with a look ahead into the future. Are you the leader or the follower?

For the wolf is hollow and I have touched the tiger

Not long after I moved to Beijing, back in 2006, I visited the 798 arts district, which I wrote about in the post you can get to by clicking on these words. I always figured an "arts district" would be something that would change constantly, so I've wanted to return for a long time. I finally got that chance on 10 October, 2010, when one of my local friends suggested it as a good Sunday alternative to visiting a park, since it was raining.

Rather than taking a taxi, I managed on public transport, taking the subway to Dongzhimen and transferring to a bus. It was still a fairly long journey, and I arrived there some time after my friend.

I'd say the Zone has greatly expanded since my first visit. I saw many of the same galleries, and many of the large outdoor sculptures I saw before were still around, though not necessarily in the same places.

Nice looking but terrible MPG.

One recurring theme is modern adaptations or interpretations of traditional Chinese techniques, subjects, and styles.

A lot of works are clearly symbolic, but it's not always clear what the artist intended as the meaning.

I'm particularly fond of art with a sense of humor, like this double portrait with Cones of Shame.

A whole gallery was devoted to the work of a painter who deals in incredibly realistic, details oil paintings.

The girl just right of center was in every painting - I believe it's the artist's daughter.

Some sculptures have signs that say to keep off; some don't.

This is a massive display that was just going in. There were workers assembling wolves and placing them all around the square.

Some of the galleries had artists present, and this Korean artist was actually working.

His work is dedicated to peace and unity on the Korean Peninsula, so we all signed a petition to show our support. He posed for a few pictures, then got back to the large painting on the floor.

Well, this post is getting kind of long, so I'll pick up the story in the next entry.

When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping

This post covers 5-8 October, 2010.

One of the things on my to-do list for the trip was some shopping. Books, CDs, some musical accessories (like strings for my Chinese instruments), and clothing were on the list. The Xidan area west of Tiananmen Square features one of the city's biggest bookstores as well as several buildings filled with clothing shops. Plus it was two stops away on the subway.

It being a national holiday, lots of people were off work and had the same idea I did.

The big sign there says 民族大世界 (Great Ethnic World, I suppose), so you might expect to find a bunch of craft shops and ethnic food stalls inside. You would be wrong. It's a huge area filled with vendors hawking clothes, shoes, bags, and so on, all for prices low enough that you have to suspect counterfeits. I wandered around in there, but didn't buy anything. Across the street is a newer, more reputable shopping center.

That's a giant video screen across the front of the building. It shows nothing but advertisements. I took this picture standing on the pedestrian bridge over the street, so we're at the second floor level. That's the place where I bought all my Astro Boy gear. There are about six levels of shopping in the building, then a level that has a gaming arcade, and then a few floors of offices above that. I have a friend who works upstairs there. Note the interesting design of the next building on the left.

Also notice that the air doesn't look nearly as clear as it did in the previous pictures. Those were taken on Tuesday, and by Thursday the air was getting a little thick.

Standing in the spot where I took that last picture, I turned to face south and snapped this one.

Yeah, it was a pretty hazy day. At the right side of the frame you can see the edge of the Bank of China headquarters, where I attended a few meetings when I was working in Beijing. Further south are more banks and office buildings - the shopping district is all to the north.

One of my favorite restaurants is near here, a short walk into the old residential area north of the bookstore. One evening I met a couple of friends for dinner there, and I swear the head waiter remembered me from the many times I've been there before, even though it had been over a year since my last visit.

We had 香锅 (Fragrant Pot), which is kind of like hotpot except that they do the cooking for you and serve it dry. You choose your ingredients from a big list. We had chicken (the other choice is fish) along with a couple different kinds of mushroom, noodles, tofu, carrot, and 山药 (shanyao, literally mountain medicine, a kind of root vegetable). Plus a pile of hot peppers and a few other things that make up the "fragrant" part. It's pretty spicy, and my stomach always punishes me the next day for eating it, but it's soooo tasty.