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Beijing - China
Beijing has a flourishing art scene. Contemporary painting enjoys a certain popularity in the city's art galleries. For current exhibitions, try the Court Yard Gallery and the China Art Gallery. The Da Shan Zi art district centers at 798 Space and the 798 Red T Space, a must see for art lovers. Internationally recognized Ullens Center for Contemporary Art has regular exhibitions. Photography buffs should check out the Three Shadows Art Centre, the first gallery in China exclusively devoted to photography. You will also find traditional art, such as landscape painting and calligraphy, but this work often tends to be overlooked in favor of more modern styles. If you are visiting Beijing during September be sure not to miss the annual art events Art Beijing and the Da Shan Zi International Art Festival where you can see the works of cutting edge artists from all over the world. Dangdai International Art Festival is also held in the fall and features a new theme each year. Closer to the center of town are BANG Beijing Art Now Gallery and Red Gate Gallery. For a pleasant day trip visit the Song Zhuang Art Community's Artists Village Gallery.
Designed to expose foreigners to Chinese cinema, Cherry Lane Movies features Chinese films subtitled in English. Alternatively, why not join an eclectic audience at the Sculpting In Time Cafe and catch a subtitled foreign film on movie nights. If you are willing to stray from the city center, you can also visit the China National Film Museum. This enormous 63 acre museum is truly a film buffs fantasy, featuring 20 permanent collections and 1500 films.
The city of Beijing has played host to various international dance troupes such as the Joffrey Ballet. The Central Ballet is the premier ballet company of China and gives annual performances of Western classics such as Swan Lake. Venues for these performances include the Poly Plaza International Theater and the brand new National Center for the Performing Arts.
Beijing offers a full quota and wide diversity of museums—some museums are educational, such as the Beijing Museum of Natural History (infamous for its pickled human specimens!) and the high-tech China Space Museum. For those eager to learn more about Chinese history and culture, why not visit historical museums such as the Confucian Temple and the Former Residence of Soong Ching Ling? For the ultimate history lesson, though, venture over to the Forbidden City where the Palace Museum resides. Once the home of the emperors, this gigantic museum is the largest in China featuring a collection so vast that it cannot all be seen in one day. The National Museum of Modern Chinese Literature houses folios, manuscripts and photographs in a variety of languages and holds regular exhibitions. The Beijing World Art Museum houses a fantastic old and new technology collection and some black and white Picasso prints.
Classical music concerts are held at various locations in Beijing. The most impressive auditorium is the Beijing Concert Hall which seats up to 1,000 people. The upscale Century Theater is another major venue for a classical music fix. Various hotels across the city, such as the Palace Hotel and Jianguo Hotel also host soothing musical performances. For a taste of local culture, try the San Wei Bookstore and enjoy traditional Chinese music played with such instruments as the erhu and pipa. Cultural complex Imperial Granary has transformed a district of ancient buildings into concert and theater space that is often used for small non-traditional music and performance art.
Music is everywhere in Beijing. Big international names often perform at the MAO Livehouse and Workers' Stadium. For those interested in alternative music, D-22 hosts both national and international acts by popular and up and coming artists. Across from the Workers Stadium is live music venue Yu Gong Yi Shan, often featuring exciting acts. Live jazz has also found a few welcoming homes in Beijing. In Qian Hai check out the East Shore Live Jazz Cafe or in San Li Tun the Japanese Restaurant and jazz club Jazz Ya.
The city has a burgeoning nightclub scene that caters for all tastes. Most clubs are concentrated in the downtown area but you will find a few in the Hai Dian student district, such 180. Downtown clubs are naturally more expensive but they have a slicker atmosphere. Club Nightman and Destination cater to an underground gay scene. The Kai Club hosts music for a young hip crowd playing indie and electronic music. For those who want to groove to South American sounds, drop in to Havana Cafe has a live band and offers salsa dance lessons. Conversely, the chic and trendy loft Lan, and the incredible World of Suzie Wong Club have raised nighttime decadence to new heights! Also inside Chaoyang Park is the ever eventful Block 8, recipient of the 2008 Best Poured Drink award.
Characterized by vivid costuming, face make-up and a vocal pitch akin to caterwauling, this traditional form of performance art dates back to the 16th century. Beijing Opera proves extremely popular with tourists and is performed in various tea houses and theaters such as Lao She Tea House and Liyuan Theater. You will enjoy the experience more if you make sure to see a piece that features subtitles.