Feature

This week’s dream:

A new Beijing rises amid the old

This week’s dream: A new Beijing rises amid the old

Beijing today is more dazzling than Paris, said Susan Spano in the Los Angeles Times. Just 10 years ago, children would giggle at the sight of an American visitor, and the city itself was a smog-ridden morass of “pollution, xenophobia, strange food, and a host of other unflattering clichés.” A decade later, Beijing has been transformed, both physically and psychologically. Streets are filled with skyscrapers, shopping malls, and flower-bedecked parks, and next August Beijing will play host to the 2008 Summer Olympics. The Chinese government has gone on a $40 billion building spree to turn Beijing today into “a world-class capital.” My three favorite places to wander are Dongcheng, Chaoyang, and the West End. Dongcheng, on the outskirts of the Forbidden City, is justly famous for its alley-like streets, with some passageways only 2 feet wide. Its three most famous attractions—the Imperial Palace, Meridian Gate, and Hall of Supreme Harmony—are being extensively renovated. The district also contains the National Art Museum of China, notable for its “stunning collection of contemporary Chinese art.” Chaoyang is the “new China,” on the eastern side of the city, home to upscale chain hotels, multinational corporations, several embassies, and the China Philharmonic Orchestra. The neighborhood’s newest and most noteworthy edifice is the 755-foot CCTV Tower, designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas. Located in the Central Business District, it “looks more like the Starship Enterprise than an office building.” The West End is a “high-energy” district that’s easy to love. Peking and Tsinghua universities, “the Harvard and Yale of China,” are here. The campus of Peking University “is one of the loveliest places in the capital”—a quiet, scholarly oasis filled with greenery and painted buildings dating to the Ming Dynasty. Another must-see is the Old Summer Palace, “a neglected treasure” built in the 18th century, whose interconnected gardens and pavilions have been called the “Versailles of the East.” In Purple Bamboo Park, a visitor can also join the old folks in their weekend singalongs, “imagining what they had seen in their long lives in China.” Contact: Cnto.org

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