Tuesday, December 31, 2013
China 2009: Beijing - 798 Art District, Military Museum
Whenever we visit a new city, after hitting the main tourist attractions, we always like to find a couple of hidden gems that are off the beaten path and sometimes only known to the locals. The 798 Art Zone and the Chinese Military Museum both qualify for this distinction.
The Military Museum of the Chinese People's Revolution is not usually on the radar for foreign tourists visiting Beijing, but it was definitely a hit with the Chinese tourists from the villages. We found out later that this site was popular for operators of tour groups since the museum is free for Chinese residents. Just like at the Great Wall of China, we made the mistake of thinking that it would be less busy right when the building opened. When we showed up, we found the lineup wrapped around the block. We almost decided to give up and leave, or at least go get a snack and try again later. But once again the allure of the Caucasian saved the day. While we were walking past the front of the line, multiple people spotted Rich and said that it would be their honour if they could let us get in line in front of them.
For me, one of the most interesting exhibits was the set of portraits of a young Mao Tse Tung. Since I've only ever seen the traditional images of the older, plumper Mao, this was like the first time I saw the comparison images of Fat Elvis vs Thin Elvis. The way young Mao was depicted was reminiscent of religious portraits of Christ–portrayed as a reverential figure with all his "disciples" gazing up towards him with an expression of rapture on their faces. In one painting, you can even see a glow above his head.