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A glimpse at traditional Chinese culture
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Outside of sitting back and sipping a fragrant cup of tea at home, Beijingers love nothing more than to go to teahouses and indulge in their favorite drink and Chinese traditional culture. Over time, teahouses have become part of the life and fabric of the capital with more than 500 establishments offering various styles. To sip a cup in any of them is to have a glimpse of daily life in the country.

Laoshe Teahouse

Founded in 1988, this establishment covers an area of more than 3,300 square meters. Since it opened, it has entertained many famous people from China and all over the world. Here, sitting in a traditional Beijing background, you can drink the best teas in the country, taste delicious traditional Beijing-style snacks and delicacies which used to be eaten by Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) emperors. Most importantly, you can enjoy all kinds of traditional performance art, including Peking Opera, Changing Face of Sichuan, hand shadow play, Chinese martial arts and acrobatics, among others.

Address: 3 Qianmen Xidajie, Xicheng District

Phone: (8610) 6303-6830, 6302-1717

Tianqiao Le Teahouse (or Tiaoqiao Happy Teahouse)

Built in 1933, this establishment features an area of about 1,300 square meters that can comfortably sit around 200. The room's classic decorations add to the experience of sampling various types of tea and snacks while watching traditional performances. Roast duck and cross-talk (rapid-fire conversation with humorous elements) are hot attractions at the teahouse.

Address: 1, Beiwei Lu, Xuanwu District

Tel: (8610) 6304-0617

Wufu Teahouse

Set up in 1994, Wufu, which means five kinds of happiness in Chinese, was the first chain teahouse in the city. Compared with the Laoshe Teahouse the ambience here is much quieter and milder, with girls dressed in traditional clothes performing tea ceremonies for customers. The store also sells high-quality tea, handmade tea sets and books. It even organizes tea forums and lectures.

Address: 104, Di’anmen Dajie, Xichengqu

Tel: (8610) 6405-9648

Zhang Yiyuan Teahouse

This is a renowned time-honored teahouse in the city. It consists of seven private rooms that can accommodate about 100 customers in total. The theater is run by one of the most respected tea leaf purveyors in the country, so it serves up some of the best cups in town.

Address: 18, Guangshun Beidajie, Wangjing, Chaoyang District

Tel: (8610) 6472-6514

Wuyutai Teahouse

Started in the 12th year of Qing Dynasty Emperor Guangxu, the teas here are supplied directly from such tea-producing areas as Anhui, Zhejiang and Fujian provinces. The scented Jasmine teas were specially made in the cells of Fuzhou and Suzhou and then transported or shipped to the capital and pieced together at different grades.

Address: 44 Dongsi Beidajie, Dongcheng District

Tel: (8610) 8403-0547

Colorful Beijing leaves people with many options to experience traditional Chinese culture. Drama theaters spread across the city are very much worth exploring.

Huguang Guild Hall

Founded by Beijing residents coming from Hunan and Hubei Provinces, this theater provides a place for lodging and a gathering of fellow townsmen. It has a history of more than 190 years dating back to 1807 when investments were gathered for its foundation. At that time, its premier role was to host students who came to the city to sit the Royal Exam and officials who were waiting for their nomination.

It was also one of centers of political and social life in the late Qing Dynasty, where officials and average persons had fun together, dining, chatting and watching Beijing Opera staged by famous actors.

It was renovated starting in 1990 and the Grand Theater opened to the public on May 8, 1996. Some top actors such as Mei Baojiu and Zhang Xuejin attended its debut. From then on, it has been a major stage of Beijing Opera. In 1997, the hall was opened to the public as a whole and renamed Beijing Museum of Traditional Opera. It is the only guild hall featuring a theater and the first to be renovated and opened in line with its original layout.

Address: No.3, Hufangqiao Road, Xuanwu District, Beijing

Tel: (8610) 6352-9140

Liyuan Theater

Run in conjunction with the Peking Opera Theatre, this spacious venue seats 1,000 people who cram in for the carefully-selected repertoire of Beijing Opera pieces. The ambiance is the closest you will get to the way the masses used to enjoy this art. When you sit at the old fashioned square table for eight people (Ba Xian Zhuo), appreciating the singing, recitals, dancing, acrobatics and martial arts of the performance, you will definitely feel intoxicated by its artistic beauty.

Address: 1/F, Qianmen Hotel, 175 Yong'an Lu, Xuanwu District

Tel: (8610) 6301-6688

Dongyuan Theater

This theater was specifically constructed for traditional drama performance and cultural exchange. It covers an area of 2,000 square meters and was built in the style of a Beijing courtyard.

Address: In the Garden of Changpu River, Tiananmen

Tel: (8610) 6417-0068

Grand View Theater

This theater has been influenced by the surrounding "Red Mansion" culture. It mainly puts on a "Red Mansion Dinner Dance," presenting before your eyes a setting like fairyland on Earth. Set in the Qing Dynasty, and taking the national performance style and relying on the atmosphere of the classical garden in the Grand View Garden, the dance is a set of dinner dances to go with the "Red Mansion Dinner." Delicately made, it is endowed with unique characteristics referring to the plot and story of "A Dream of Red Mansions." The beautiful and colorful scene combines tradition with modernity, martial arts with acrobatics, masculinity with femininity, culture with catering and performance with participation in a natural, ingenious and organic way. Be sure to come and see this the performance.

Address: No.12, Nan Cai Yuan Street, Xuanwu District (Inside the Grand View Garden Park)

Tel: (8610) 6351-9025

Gongwangfu Theater

This wood structure has survived intact for more than 100 years. It houses a large stage and can seat over 200 spectators comfortably. The hall also boasts some of the best acoustics in town for Beijing Opera. Even when seated far from the stage, you can hear every note clearly.

Address: Inside Prince Gong's Palace, A14, Liuyin Jie, Houhai

Tel: (8610) 6618-0573

(Xinhua News Agency August 6, 2008)

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