Mar 252012

Article #10 in the Student Travel Stories Series from our tour of Beijing, China.
By Terry, Age 17, 12th Grade in Boston. Born in the U.S. to parents from Vietnam and China.

Terry with just three of the zillion Art Zone statues!

Terry with just three of the zillion 798 Art Zone statues!

Q: Terry, tell the readers about the crazy 798 Art Zone in Beijing!

A: The 798 Art Zone we visited was the coolest place I’ve ever been in China, and we saw a lot of places!

It used to be a giant factory complex, and now it’s a public art zone with statues and art galleries everywhere.

There were arts in the Art Zone that I’ve never seen in my life. They were extremely unique and I loved it!

Some of them include art that was made with nuts and bolts, some with clay, some had odd designs, some had splattered paint, and some were freaky to the point that I was just wordless.

Another Boston student frolicking with the bizarre Art Zone sculptures.

Another Boston student frolicking with the bizarre Art Zone sculptures.

There were so many different types of art, it was endless. I wish I could go there again to see more, because the hours we spent there were not enough!

Plus, the food in the many restaurants and cafes there there was delicious.

Q: I agree that the Art Zone was AMAZING. It was not at all what I thought I would see in Beijing!

How did YOUR understanding of China and Chinese culture change from our trip?

The Art Zone is HUGE, and each side street has great galleries and sculptures. You need at least three hours to BEGIN to explore!

The Art Zone is HUGE, and each side street has great galleries and sculptures. You need at least three hours to BEGIN to explore!

A: After a week of spending time in China, the experience changed me, even though I’m Chinese. China taught me to see people in all points of view. People often see Chinese people as shy, scared, and with nothing to say.

But when you actually go to Beijing you will see that people in China have guts! Some street vendors even go in your face to sell things. They’re not shy; they will run after you and do anything they can to get what they want. I think their courage is pretty impressive. I wish I could be like that sometimes.

One of the many artsy restaurants and cafes in the Art Zone.

One of the many artsy restaurants and cafes in the Art Zone.

Another thing I noticed in China was how much people in China enjoy their life. On the bus, I’d see children laughing, smiling, seniors enjoying their dance in the park, playing hackie sack and badminton, and vendors having the guts to go up to a stranger to ask them to buy their trinkets.

I look at them and I compare them to me. They are down there and I am way up there, economically, but their life is way more fun and joyful than mine.

From that, I learned that life is unexpected and I need to enjoy whatever is in front of me and forget about the past and not go beyond the future. I learned to just live life the way it is because people in China are.

Q: Wise words! On a less lofty topic, how were the toilets for you?

Caution: Dinosaur crossing at the 798 Art Zone!

Caution: Dinosaur crossing at the 798 Art Zone!

A: When I first saw that China had squat toilets, I didn’t even bother going. It was the grossest thing to just squat there. You could smell the trash can right next to you with the toilet paper in it (because you’re not supposed to flush it because the sewage system can’t handle it). I wanted to throw up. I just couldn’t do it no matter how bad I needed to go.

Then days later, when I really couldn’t hold it anymore, I finally used a squat toilet… and it was actually not that bad! But still, modern sit on toilets are so much better. Note: If you ever go to China, travel everywhere with toilet paper or tissue, and hand sanitizer, because you never know whether or not the place has toilet paper, or whether or not the sink has soap or hot water.

Q: Again, wise advice! What were your favorite parts of our China travels, and why?

Beautiful graffiti lines a lot of the walls of the old factory structures.

Artistic graffiti lines a lot of the walls of the old factory structures.

A: My favorite part of the trip was definitely getting the chance to walk the Great Wall because from year to year, I would always hear about people climbing the Great Wall and how tough it was. I never really understood how hard it was, though, until now. Walking it felt like I was actually rock climbing. The stairs and ground angles were so steep, the gravity pulls you down, and it felt like I was falling. If there were no rails there, I think I would actually fall!

My other favorite part was having dinner in Hutong (historic) neighborhood with a family. The neighborhood is probably at least four generations old and is still going strong. It was really the true essence of China. The dinner was delicious and the family was really nice to us. It was something that only a few could experience, and I’m really glad we did.

This was the scariest statue of all, but it makes a good photo!

This was the scariest statue of all!

Q: China is known as a Communist country, though it doesn’t always seem like it.

Did you see any evidence of this?

A: One thing that shocked me was seeing rarely any beggars on the street. I really love the fact that beggars rarely exist in Beijing because comparing this to America; there are way more beggars on the streets in America than in China. It seems that people in China, they work hard to earn money. The street vendors we saw every day, they work their tails off to sell their trinkets. I truly admire their hard work. They even motivated me to buy some stuff off of them.

Q: What are some facts about China that you remember our Tour Guide, John, taught us?

A: I remember John taught us that China has a car policy. For example, on a Thursday, cars with license plates that end with either a 1 or 3 or 8 cannot be driven out or they will get arrested. Or on Monday, license plates that end with a 2 or 5 cannot be driven out.

I had never heard of such a rule before, but I think it’s a unique rule because it helps save the world with less pollution. I like it.

Inside one of the hundreds of art galleries in the Art Zone.

Inside one of the hundreds of art galleries in the Art Zone.

I also learned that the Emperors in Ancient China had 1,000 wives (concubines) and each concubine had her own little home. For the lady to be the Emperor’s concubine, she must pass certain tests. For example, the first test is the height and weight test, the second is the appearance test, then the body health test. There were many tests to pass in order for the lady to be the emperor’s woman (or rather, ONE of his women). But overall, I think having a thousand wives is pretty impressive.

Q: How was it traveling with a group of BLA students, some of whom you’d never met?

A: Honestly, when I signed up for this trip, I thought traveling with a group of Boston students was going to be boring and weird because I’d never seen many of them before in my life,  but I was wrong. Traveling with them was one of the best experiences.

We LOVED Beijing's 798 Art Zone!

We LOVED Beijing's 798 Art Zone!

I had the chance to meet absolutely everyone, even the teachers. I learned a lot from them and also developed some communication skills. It was an amazing trip, except I wanted to stay for one more day to just shop all day.

Note: Traveling with a group of students and teachers is so much more exciting than to travel with family.

Thank you to my teachers, EF Tours, and all the students in our group for a fantastic trip in China! And also THANK YOU to our wonderful tour guide, John, for a warm, welcoming tour! It will always be treasured in my heart. Everyone on the trip was out of this world!

Thanks so much, Terry. Readers, what questions or comments do you have for this cosmopolitan high school student?


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  34 Responses to “Terry: The 798 Art Zone Was The Coolest Place in Beijing”

  1. The picture of the Chinese restaurant is kind of similar to the ones in Chinatown. What kind of food is there? I would like to eat some delicious food like noodles and rice. All sculptures look so weird but interesting. I wonder who made those. I like the one in the gallery because it is an artwork of a huge head. It looks so shiny and I love the color of it!

  2. The picture of the ancient art sculptures seems so cool. I would probably be like that student and fool around with them. It seems so fun.

  3. You are so lucky! I have a passion for art . (:

  4. The art work that the people of China have done is really pretty. I remember when I went there, they had a lot of that art work too!

  5. Most of the art work looks realistic. The sculptures that look scary are the dogs in the bizarre Art Zone. They look like they are about to kill someone.

  6. Wow! The 798 Art Zone seems amazing! In comparison to the deCordova museum, it looks much more modern and interesting. Hopefully one day I will be able to see this cool place in person. 🙂 One question, how many different artists contributed to this collection? Are all of the sculptures new or are some of them from other periods of time? (long ago)

  7. Everything in China due to the pictures looks very artistic.

  8. The pictures are hilarious! I would love to visit this part of China.

  9. I think the Art Zone was amazing! I love how every item in the Art Zone is its own style and feeling. I agree with your story on The Great Wall; rock climbing is hard.

  10. I think that the 798 Art Zone would be one of my favorite places if I had gone on the trip. I am interested in learning more about the art that they have there. If I ever go to China, I would definately visit this place.

  11. I think it’s so cool how that place could be a factory, and then turn into an art zone with such creative pieces of art. My favorite was the orange sculpture that looked like a monkey, it was scary looking but cute. 😀

  12. Hey, I know Terry! I also affirm about what Terry said about the bathrooms. The bathrooms are so gross, but in the end, you have to use them. Always carry around tissues, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, etc.

  13. I am glad that our school is able to provide us with this kind of trip to another foreign country. I really wish I was able to go to the art zone, it looks really interesting!

  14. I totally agree with you! When I went to another part of China, probably a few miles out of Beijing, street vendors would literally run in front of your face and make you stop. My cousin and I were walking along the streets and out of nowhere, a woman popped out! She literally forced us to stay her restaurant until I told her that we are not looking to eat but shop. The lady then pushed my cousin and I out! >:( Anyways I admire how hard they work and after dragging us out, we swiftly handed her a wad of bills and briskly stalked down the road looking like morons. 😀 After that, the other vendors tried doing the same thing, I think dropping the bills wasn’t such a smart move. :3

  15. It could be a few years before I make it there haha. I’m not going to lie, extremely jealous of the traveling with students thing. I’ve done it a few times and loved every minute of it. My cousin just got back from Italy with a teacher that also took me on a few trips and I can’t wait to be that teacher to my students.

    • Yes! I was really happy with my experience with EF, so let me know when you desire more info!

  16. Sounds really interesting! You don’t often associate this level of creativity with a place like China that has a reputation for stifling expression, but I guess it goes to show it’s not always accurate! I like hearing about places like these that otherwise I would have no idea about. I’m definitely going to remember this place when I go to Beijing.

  17. I like the graffiti the most because I never actually saw any in China, at least the state where I went.

  18. You can really tell Terry loves the art. It seems very cool. And one day I hope to be able to travel there too.

  19. Those staues look so life like. Wow !

  20. This looks insaaaaaaaaaaane! I wana go! Now! 😉 …… one day im sure 🙂

    • I didn’t even include some of the crazier photos because they’re borderline inappropriate!!!

  21. I like how there are giant art sculptures everywhere. That picture of the ape looks so scary. The dinosaurs looks so cool. Those dinosaurs look so real. I wonder why they have sculptures of dinosaurs in the middle of the road?

  22. LOL at the picture of the girl imitating the statue below. That’s HILARIOUS! I do not know why but I think the art that is abstract is REALLY interesting and it is entertaining to observe.

    • lol thanks! I had a blast mimicing them too! 😀 There were so many more statues, sadly didnt get to see all, I was a little dissapointed, but I did see a lot in the end.

  23. I can’t even begin to describe
    how jealous I am of this 798
    Art Zone! …I wish Boston would
    have something this creative.

    • SERIOUSLY!!!! There’s a negative stereotype of China (especially the government) as rigid and strict, but the fact that they created this massive awesomeness totally changes my understanding of the country! You are so right that I don’t think there’s anything like it anywhere in America.

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