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!)

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. Continue reading “The Ten Great Buildings of China, and Their Gruesome Pasts”

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. Continue reading “Beijing’s Single Most Horrific Meal”

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…

Continue reading “Bizarre Old North Korean Stamps Celebrating Regal Excess”

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.

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. Continue reading “On Eating a Steaming Hot Bowl of Sweet AIDS Soup”

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… Continue reading “Rediscovering Beijing: The Ancient Observatory”

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. Continue reading “Rediscovering Beijing: Finding the Elephants”

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.

Continue reading “Rediscovering Beijing with an 1897 Guide”

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.

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. Continue reading “The Chinese Businessman Museum”

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.

Quick Aside on Smoking in China

China just looooooves its smokes.

Convenience stores sell them, grocery stores, supermarkets — and yet STILL you’ll still find dedicated tobacco stores on just about every corner.

Notice how Little Miss Flowers & Fruits squeezes into a tiny nook, while Mr Brand Name Cigarettes sprawls out double-wide. Yep, there’s money in smokes!

Need bridal makeup? Forget that crap! These guys offer SMOKING makeup!

Erenhot even has a Tobacco Hotel.

But every now and then, someone in China decides smoking is bad. And they put up something like this. Continue reading “Quick Aside on Smoking in China”

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?” Continue reading “Castration Classes at the Beijing Eunuch Culture Exhibition Hall”

Nazi Fashion in China

That’s twice I’ve seen guys on my street wearing the Nazi iron cross.

The first was an office worker on lunch break. He was dressed in a handsome suit, but in place of a tie wore a heavy Nazi cross. He saw me staring, and he smiled. I think he thought it looked dapper. The second passed in a blur, but his iron cross was mounted in his suit like a boutonnière. But what’s an iron cross? Just an accessory, a small fashionable touch. It’s nothing like the full Korean nazis we’d met in Seoul.

But it’s a start.

I thought I’d take a glance at China’s top shopping site Taobao, and see what else I could find for the budding Beijing Nazi. (Tomorrow is, after all, Hitler’s 123rd birthday.)

The most popular is the must-have $12 Nazi iPhone4 cover, in your choice of slick distressed styles…

See more after the jump Continue reading “Nazi Fashion in China”