TV lovers don’t have to travel far to find the ancient-looking film sets that populate their screens.
As China’s cultural, economic and political center, Beijing’s modern buildings and historical mansions are popular destinations for both domestic and foreign film crew.
Mei Lanfang Memorial Hall
Hong Kong actor and singer Leslie Cheung is best known to world audiences for his appearance in Chen Kaige’s Farewell My Concubine. The film tells the story of opera performer Chen Dieyi’s tragic life and many scenes were shot in Beijing at the Mei Lanfang Memorial Hall.
The classic courtyard home was formerly owned by Yi Kuang in the Qing Dynasty. Turbulent times forced the noble mansion to change owners several times. Mei Lanfang, widely considered the greatest Peking opera singer, eventually took possession of the house.
Mei lived out his final 10 years in the house after 1951. When he died, Premier Zhou Enlai suggested building a memorial museum in memory of Mei’s huge cultural contributions.
The hall opened in October 1986 and Deng Xiaoping personally penned the hall’s title placard.
A stone bust of Mei welcomes visitors through the main door. Beside it is a patch of bamboo, a plant that is symbolic of moral integrity. The yard also has two persimmon trees and two cherry-apple trees, symbolic of Mei’s wish to live in peace.
But the outside scenery is not the reason to visit this house. Costly collections are the marrow of the memorial hall.
Mei’s wife Fu Zhifang and his children contributed 32,421 samples of antique calligraphy, paintings, rare opera scripts and opera costumes to the museum.
As a celebrity-themed museum, the exhibit area opens with introductory text and photos about Mei, his career and his personal life.
After leaving Mei’s home, visitors can find great food in the neighboring Huguosi area.
9 Huguosi Jie, Xicheng
Taking Buses 22, 38, 88, 409, 626, 609 or 690 to Huguosi Station
10 yuan; 5 yuan for students, elders and the disabled
(010) 8322 3598
Headquarters of the Qing Army and Navy
Director Jiang Wen’s maiden film In the Heat of the Sun impressed a generation born in the 1970s and 1980s. One scene where the protagonist Ma Xiaojun confesses his heart to Mi Lan in front of Mi’s home is particularly iconic.
“Mi’s home” is in fact the former headquarters of the army and navy of the Qing Dynasty.
The mansion was originally a typical building that belonged to the fifth son of Emperor Yongzheng in Qing Dynasty. As the dynasty fell into decay, the building’s changed hands to become an office with a more European look.
During the early years of the Republic of China, it housed the Office of the President, the State Council and Office of the Prime Minister in succession. Now the previous political department has turned into a Qing history research center under Renmin University of China.
Although visitors cannot enter the building, they can still see the same view of it that was featured in In the Heat of the Sun.
In 2007, The Warlords dominated Chinese box offices. The film told the story of the Qing Dynasty’s battle to put down the Taiping rebellion.
Its excellent action scenes and displays of brotherhood were popular with viewers, but their impact depended greatly on the perfect shooting location.
For the film, the director picked Cuandixia Village.
The old village has a history of 400 years. Its large, perfectly preserved Ming and Qing dynasty courtyards have earned it a reputation as a “living architectural fossil.”
On a walk through the village, tourists can smell fish and stewed chicken being prepared in farmhouse inns.
With proper scheduling you can catch the sunrise or sunset in the village. Many people consider the sunrise in Cuandixia to be even more impressive than on Mount Taishan.
A sightseeing stand on the hillside gives visitors a vantage point over the whole village.
Former Shougang Group Factory
After Shougang Group moved its iron and steel works away from its old Beijing factory, the industrial complex found new life as a film set.
Empty factories, tall chimneys, open field and winding railways provide shooting crews with natural stages to shoot screenplays set in the 1970s or 1980s.
Visitors can experience the old industrial age here and find its shadow in TV series such as You are My Brother.