Tag Archives: Beijing

Cute & Kawaii / ,

Terribly Cute Beijing Marriage License Photos

I know this is mildly goofy, but many of Beijing’s photo labs will still produce classic Marriage License photos. And they’re just about the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.


The Polaroid framing, the flowery carved edges, it’s all too cool. And the pose was rigorously enforced — we were molded into those positions over a period of five minutes.

If we got married in Beijing, this would definitely be the picture we’d use. From the large China Photo Studio at 8 Jiaodaokou East, Beijing, China. (And kudos to Tony and Charlene for suggesting it!)

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Historical Wonders / ,

The Ten Great Buildings of China, and Their Gruesome Pasts

In 1959, Mao was one hell of a proud man. As the new Emperor of China, he’d led an unbelievable boom in food production, completely eliminated the need for medicine and science, and “enticed the snakes out of their caves” with a hundred flowers — all in just ten years!

So he decided to erect ten great buildings to honor his grand achievements. They would represent the people, the peasants, the army, the minorities — each building had a great semantic purpose. He would name them The Ten Great Buildings!

And for 18 months I’d been talking with the Professor about hosting a 十大建筑 bike tour. 40km of self-guided Beijing history in 4 hours. (I put up a map here.) This was going to be historic.

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Extraordinary Eats, Top Stories / , ,

Beijing’s Single Most Horrific Meal

The Beijing Penis Restaurant, officially known as Guolizhuang, doesn’t just serve cock. You can get absolutely anything there.

Stewed Deer Face. Sheep foetus in brown garlic sauce. Peacock claws. It’s like a Guangzhouren’s wet dream.

And the peacock’s name was as poetic as the plating. It was called A Set of Palms from Heaven and Earth.

I almost gagged.

“Do you have any regular food,” I asked, nervous.

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/ by Dean Pickles / 13 Comments
Strange Tourism / ,

Peking Opera Dreams

I’ve long dreamed of full Peking Opera costume and makeup. After five hours and far too much money, it finally became a reality.

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Historical Wonders / , , ,

Bizarre Old North Korean Stamps Celebrating Regal Excess

On my way out of Deshengmen Tower — where you’ll find a strange collection of ramshackle museums crammed in together — I noticed the most remarkable thing for sale: old North Korean stamps, celebrating European regal excess!

There was the Versailles stamp, which reeks of excessive opulence…

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Chinglish, Extraordinary Eats / , ,

On Eating “Old Beijing Fried Enema”

“Why not start today with a plate of freshly-fried old enema,” I thought. It was bright, garish, and advertised on the wall. “It must be good.”

It wasn’t.

Dripping in oil and yet crispy enough to snap a molar, it tasted like a bad plate of pork cracklings. The dipping sauce — chopped garlic in water — left it with a flavor and me with a breath from hell.

I’d assumed “enema” was a gross mismangling of “sausage” — 灌肠 can mean either. But I was wrong.

The name was an augury of what you’d need after lunch.

/ by Dean Pickles / 1 Comment
Chinglish, Events, Extraordinary Eats / , ,

On Eating a Steaming Hot Bowl of Sweet AIDS Soup

“I’ll have the AIDS soup,” I said.

It wasn’t officially called AIDS soup. Not now. Shortly after I’d blogged about their deviant menus, the restaurant had crossed out every appearance of the word “AIDS” with a sharpie. Now it was simply “Strong Tibetan Sheep Placenta Nourishing Soup [XXXX].”

Still a mouthful.

But I’d had a few beers, and scraped at the sharpie with my fingernail. The AIDS came back. Now I knew what I was getting. Strong Tibetan Sheep Placenta Nourishing Soup AIDS.

And this was what I’d come for.

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/ by Dean Pickles / 2 Comments
Offbeat Museums / ,

Rediscovering Beijing: The Ancient Observatory

The author of the the 1897 guide book charts the Astronomical Observatory as one of the must-sees of Old Peking. It’s his first stop on any three-day tour.

I’d always planned to pay a visit. This is what you see from the highway:

Almost identical, but…

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Historical Wonders, Strange Tourism / , , ,

Rediscovering Beijing: Finding the Elephants

On using an 1897 guidebook to explore modern Beijing…

My adventures begin with the elephants.

A few hundred yards westward of (the Shun-chih-men) is the place for the Imperial elephants, the Hsün-hsiang-so, a large enclosure in which the elephants of the Court are kept… The intelligent animals are taught to salute the Emperor by kneeling down, and receive a kind of adoration.

A central-Beijing stable with kneeling elephants? How much cooler can you get?! I had to find this place.

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/ by Dean Pickles / 3 Comments
Historical Wonders, Strange Tourism / ,

Rediscovering Beijing with an 1897 Guide

Did you know that Beijing has a dozen or so elephants that kneel as the emperor passes by? Seriously.

At least that’s what my book says. It’s a Beijing travel guide from 1897, author unknown, that Charlie Custer found on archive.org. The copy originally belonged to Herbert Hoover, China expat and one-time US President.

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Copyright Carelessness / ,

Bootleg Wikipedia-Brand Bread

Why buy generic no-name Beijing loafery when you can pay just a few extra kuai for the sweet wheat of Wikipedia-brand bread? Oops, sorry, Wekipedia-brand.

That’s right! The Free Encyclowheatia That Anyone Can Edit! Now all that’s left to do is pair it with some McDonald’s Eggs for a copyright infringing Egg in the Hole. Mmmyeah.

Known locally as 维百客, or Wéibǎikè, it could translate as “Feed 100 Guests.” Hate to say, but I think we’d need Jesus to make that happen here. Waitasec! Is that Jesus right there???

Courtesy of Beijing Wekipedia Foods Co Ltd.

/ by Dean Pickles / 3 Comments
Offbeat Museums / ,

The Chinese Businessman Museum

With only ten days left in Beijing, I’m realizing how many things I’ve left undone. The Summer Palace… Fragrant Hills… the Chinese Businessman Museum!

It’s ugly, so you might not notice it. It’s in Sihui, so it’s hell to reach. It’s expensive, so who wants to enter.

And it’s also a lie.

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Extraordinary Eats / ,

Ice Cream Flavored Soda, the Perfect Summer Treat

Headline says it all, if you ask me.

Michelle’s first words after a pull were more like shrieks.

“Oh my god,” she cried. “It’s like an ice cream float in a bottle!”

Softly vanilla-scented and creamy, barely carbonated, sweet but not too sweet, it was just lovely.

I added a strong pour of Mongolian vodka, and a twist of lime.

Now that’s a Beijing summer.

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Extraordinary Eats / ,

Badminton Theme Restaurant

The Professor just cycled by this brand spanking new Wangjing eatery. “Shuttlecock shaped plates?” he offered. “Badminton-racket-strained spaghetti?”

As long as they allow hairpin net shots, I’m in!

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Offbeat Museums / , ,

Castration Classes at the Beijing Eunuch Culture Exhibition Hall

The first time I ever met The Professor, he told me about the eunuch museum. He didn’t say much. Just that there was one. In West Beijing.

“You really should go,” he said. “It’s… well, it’s interesting.” He adjusted his glasses the way a professor should, but he wouldn’t say more.

A few weeks later, I found myself staring through smudged plexiglas at the only remaining inhabitant of the Beijing Eunuch Culture Exhibition Hall. He was, of course, dead.

Covered by an imperial yellow sheet, this junkless monk apparently died of lead poisoning. 400 years later, he was dug up and stuck in a case. His name wasn’t recorded, but I doubt it was Tian Yi.

Tian Yi (田以) was the most famous Chinese eunuch that ever lived. He served a series of three Emperors, and carried his genitals in a jug. His 1605 funeral was insane: the government shut for days, hundreds of eunuchs attended, and he was buried like a king. And just like any other Chinese royal, his grave was robbed.

“I’m too scared,” said a Chinese teenage girl. “Can you come with me?”

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/ by Dean Pickles / 3 Comments
Chinglish / ,

Kakka-Style Meat, and More Uighur Menu Mishaps

Local Xinjiang menu doubles as undiscovered Situationist/Dada manifesto…

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Chinglish / ,

Beijing Toilet Demands Seat Belts and Defence Masks, and Still Warns Against “Daop Down”

He was desperate to cover all his bases.

Or maybe this was just a really twisted shitter.

/ by Dean Pickles / 2 Comments
Copyright Carelessness / ,

Another Gem of McDonald’s Piracy

A few weeks ago I found these gorgeous McEggs at the local supermarket…

McAwesome! But Jade Garden Jewelry has also jumped on the McBandwagon.

Clearly, there’s a new Beijing logo-piracy McMovement.

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Chinglish / , , ,

A Sweet Series of Chinglishy Gift Fails

Christmas wrapping paper always works well. Especially for Papa Pickles’ belated birthday present…

But the wrapping paper turned out to be a little more generic than we’d expected.

And the greeting card, which Woo bought in Bangalore, turned out to have a rather unexpected adhesive.

That’s right, as in the maxi pads.

At least we didn’t have to lick it, I guess…

/ by Dean Pickles / 4 Comments
Offbeat Museums / ,

Speaking of Revolution at The Beijing Police Museum

“Have you heard about the coup?”

“Only that there may have been one.”

The Professor and I were making our way through Beijing’s Police Museum, a few blocks from where a coup would have happened. We’d already broken the door of a fake interrogation cell, and almost knocked over a motorcycle. We shouldn’t have been talking about such sensitive matters as well. But we seemed to be the only visitors, and the few guards weren’t paying attention.

“I have a friend who works for a Chinese newspaper,” he continued. “I rang to ask her about it. See if she knows what happened.”

“So what happened?”

“Well, when I said the word ‘coup,’ music started playing. We’d been cut off.”

In China, you hear these things all the time. Phone calls go dead with the spoken word “jasmine.” Internet connections terminate with a search for “1989.” My blog will be blocked again in China. Certain topics don’t exist.

Sometimes the cultural revolution doesn’t exist. But at this museum, it was a cause to be championed. Over 100 Beijing police officers were wrongly executed for “counter-revolutionary” crimes. Thousands more were tortured, or sent down. The chief of police died without ever being cleared of his weak accusations.

Alongside the uniforms and badges of the executed officers, there were also horrific photos of mass executions. The photos showed men tied to stakes at the Worker’s Stadium, prepped for bullets to the head.

I felt sick. The Worker’s Stadium is a few blocks from my home. Beijing GuoAn have weekly soccer matches there. I’d seen Cui Jian, China’s revolutionary rocker, play a massive show there.

“40,000 people witnessed the executions,” a sign read. The stands were packed. For Cui Jian, the stadium had been comparatively empty.

Other pictures scattered through the museum were just as difficult. One showed a flayed woman, held upright by two Qing Dynasty men. They wore queues and skull caps, while her breasts and thighs had been carved off. Another photo showed eight women’s corpses, discarded through a house. A body found in the luggage rack of a train. Temple blasts, serial killers in training, amputations and decapitations and more.

“Look at that,” said a woman, pointing to a murder implement in a glass case. Her four-year-old son wasn’t looking. He was fixated on the Professor and me.

Not surprisingly, for all the gore and crime, there wasn’t a mention of 1989. There never is.

In China, we rarely know what’s actually going on. Take the last few weeks for example. Key politicians have disappeared, others have gone into hiding or comas. Tanks may or may not have driven along major thoroughfares. Guns may or may not have fired in the city center. We live in the capital city, and have no idea if the government is fighting a coup.

Outside on the sidewalk, undercover cops stretched into the distance. They stood innocently spaced out every 20 feet. One held a walkie talkie behind his back. Another held a fire extinguisher. When they walked, they marched. Some couldn’t help but stand at attention.

“So how do you say coup,” I asked the Professor.

“政变. 政 as in government, and 变 as in change.”

One of the undercover cops crossed the street. He signaled to another, who signaled back.

I wonder what’s happening in the city where I live.

Beijing Police Museum 北京警察博物馆
36 Dongjiaominxiang, Beijing

/ by Dean Pickles / 2 Comments