I want to start this blog post with my most authentic Chinese dining experience yet. Last week did not include a weekend excursion, so a group of Mudd students decided to get some Peking Duck Saturday night, me included. I was familiar with the dish and how highly esteemed it was, but I didn’t know it would almost be an all-night ordeal. We began by catching a cab from the University to the carefully chosen eatery, a highly regarded Peking Duck restaurant near us according to our native friends. We initially had issues finding a taxi, and basically walked halfway there, but we eventually found one and made it to our destination. At the restaurant we found out that there were many other parties ahead of us waiting to get at the highly anticipated meal and that our wait time would probably be more than an hour, so we chose to wait for our turn outside. Fun side fact, I found out that the Google Beijing headquarters was right around the corner (which was a little confusing since the Google search engine was blocked in China), so of course I went to check it out while we waited. When we were finally seated and our food was ordered, the dishes trickled out in slow progression and would probably have added up to a full duck (as far as meat was concerned, we had ordered two and a half portions to feed 10 people). We were served duck feet, duck hearts and the heads cut in half! The meat was served with a sauce and a wrap that you sorta made into a burrito, and the skin/fat of the duck was served separately fired and juicy! The restaurant was packed but the food was great and I had good company to share it with. I would love to try some again.
This week included our last weekend excursion, which was to the 798 Art zone in Chaoyang District, Beijing. Although it was an extremely hot and humid day, I was excited to visit what was supposed to be a vibrant artistic community. I wasn’t disappointed. When we arrived we walked past many graffitied walls that had all sorts of characters on them, including Chinese figures from different time periods and western cartoons from my childhood. The rest of the art district was a maze of small shops, stands, and galleries all devoted to artistic endeavors. While my group of friends and I wandered around admiring the random collections of art, we stumbled upon a gallery that had the North Korean flag flying above its door. Curious, we went in to investigate, and found a hall lined with beautiful paintings of landscapes and presumably North Korean people. I was very impressed with the art. We stopped to have lunch at a Sichuan restaurant decorated with revolutionary murals and images of Chairman Mao. The 798 art district is located in a 50-year-old decommissioned military factory building complex, with many of the old structures, pipelines, and smoke stacks still left in their original states, abandoned. Artists seeking a place to setup studios and galleries were drawn to the complex because of the cheap rents and the area has grown to become a thriving art community that is one of a kind. I really enjoyed visiting the 798 art district and wish I had time to visit all of the stores and galleries in the area. When we returned home, I succumbed to the sweltering heat and promptly took a nap. Next weekend I won’t have an organized excursion to attend, so I will most likely join some friends in visiting some of Beijing’s famous markets. Until then.
– Jakim Johnson, 纪家盛