Authentic Chinese culture, in a refined setting

By Lu Na
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, September 6, 2012
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The gate of the Shichahai Shadow Art Performance Hotel is simple but elegant. 

There is an old Chinese saying, "酒香不怕巷子深" ("jiu xiang bu pa xiang zi shen"), which can be interpreted using the maxim from Shakespeare's "As You Like It: ‘Good wine needs no bush'". This is the perfect phrase to describe the Shichahai Shadow Art Performance Hotel, a rare gem in Beijing's Xicheng District.

Even though it borders a lot of famous scenic spots such as Prince Gong's Mansion, the hotel is very hard to find, due to its location in a small hutong and its simple, unadorned front door. Nearby residents hardly even know that the place exists.

The hotel's 25 rooms are identified by the four characters traditionally found in Chinese shadow plays: Sheng, Dan, Jing and Chou. In the main hall stands a large traditional shadow art performance stage, reportedly made by a craftsman surnamed Niu who also has made repairs to the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace.

The roots of the shadow play, a folk-art performance where artists maneuver leather puppets behind a small white curtain to sing, dance, and tell a story, date back to the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD). The art form was popularized during the Yuan Dynasty (1271 - 1368), as the performances, known as "Chinese shadow lamps" spread to other countries.

Jocelyn Feng, Sales of the hotel introduces us the unique place of it.

Jocelyn Feng, the hotel's sales manager, says that the hotel's owner first got the idea to build the themed hotel after seeing a shadow play performance at a private party. Since then, the hotel's shadow play performances have been a hit with foreigners and locals alike, she said.

"Sometimes [shadow puppet] masters will teach people who are interested in [the art], so the hall is always crowded every time there is a shadow art performance," Feng said.

"Since the hotel was opened on May 25, 2011, we have served as a cultural communicators rather than hotel workers," Feng said. "Most of our customers are from other countries. We want to spread [China's] cultural heritage to more friends. Besides, we also want more Chinese customers to know about and inherit their own culture."

In addition to the shadow art performances which run every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday evening, the hotel provides a number of concierge services to guests, including tours of the neighboring Shichachai hutongs, Houhai boat cruises, and shopping tours of nearby Yandai Slanting Street.

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