I've been in China for less than a week, but I've already seen some amazing places. Yesterday, as part of our orientation, we did an activity called "mystery Beijing" where we had to find various locations throughout the city. My team chose to go to the 798 Art District, otherwise known as "Qijiuba". Getting there was tricky--it took three different subway transfers and a twenty minute walk--but I learned how to navigate the subway system and practiced asking for directions along the way.
I didn't know what to expect from the Art District in Beijing, but I was surprised by how similar this current art scene in Beijing is to art movements I've seen across the United States. The district is set up like a little village. There's a brick wall surrounding the entire complex and individual streets with a mix of cottage-like houses and shops and larger apartment-style buildings with art galleries and restaurants. The best part is everything around is decorated and has a "put-there on purpose" feel, unlike the crowded and more practical streets right outside of campus. Most of the restaurants and coffee shops have an outdoor patio and all of them have cute, handmade signs.
We didn't have a ton of time to spend at 798 (I could easily spend a day there--and plan to!), so I didn't get a chance to go in the art galleries, but I did see some amazing street art. There were grafitti/new school styles of art that I had thought were specific to urban western cities, large scale sculptures made out of recycled materials and even smaller print posters.
What I found the most interesting were the subject matters of the art I did see. I've attached some pictures to this blog entry for examples, but the two that struck me the most were the giant globe and the "Look Up" poster. The globe is made of colored bottle caps which to me sent the message about the importance of recycling and conserving resources. I feel that in America, China is seen as a "bad guy" when it comes to pollution, but art like this proves that global warming and pollution are important issues for Chinese citizens the same way they are for Americans. The "look up"' posters' clever design reflects a concern with the overuse of technology, a belief that seems to be increasingly common in art. Both of these examples reminded me of the importance of art in society, but also showed me some surprising similarities between modern American and Chinese culture.
I'm sure you'll hear more about this place when I go back to visit (there are so many cool shops I didn't even have time to walk into!), but for now I'll leave you with some pictures of one of my new favorite places in Beijing!
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<p>My name is Kelly Cunningham and I am a Chinese Studies and English major at DePaul University. I love everything about languages-reading them, writing with them, speaking them, etc. I'm studying abroad to improve my Chinese and learn more about the culture.</p>