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Songzhu Temple.

A guide to local favorites in Dong Si

Songzhu Temple.
  • By Yifan Zhang
  • Photos by Yan Cong
Dong Si
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Between two metro stops — Zhangzizhong Road to the north and Dong Si in the south — lie 10 blocks of archetypal Beijing hutongs that are perfect for exploring everyday street life. The destinations below are a few less-obvious ones. By the way, “hutong” is a narrow alleyway in a traditional Beijing residential quarter, but it also describes a devotion to tradition and down-to-earthness.

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Yifan moved from London to Beijing in 2011 and hosts a weekly cultural review podcast, Culture Potato, with his friends.

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Dong Si

3 Zhangzizhong Road
This used to be the site of numerous princely homes and is best known as the first republican government building after emperor Puyi was kicked out of the Forbidden City in 1924. The security guard may ask for your passport to sign you in, but you will be free to walk around after. There are some residential buildings inside; the main building has been vacant for years.
3 Zhangzizhong Road, Dongcheng District, Beijing, China
Songzhu Temple
Songzhu used to be an important Tibetan Buddhist temple in Beijing until European armies sacked it during the Boxers Rebellion. Nowadays, it’s an art space-cum-bar-cum-restaurant that’s open from 11:30 a.m. till late. Nearby is a stunning James Turrell “skyspace” art installation run by the same gallery owner. (It requires prior booking.)
23 Shatan North Street, Dongcheng District, Beijing, China
Longfusi Beili
Demolished after the Tangshan earthquake of 1976, the site of the former Longfu Temple became a flea market and underwent several upgrades over the years. The latest incarnation is this creative cultural complex mixing an art museum, coffee roasters, WeWorkers and hip shoppers. Enter through Qianliang Hutong or Dongsi West Street.
38 Qianliang Hutong, Dongcheng District, Beijing, China
Kong Yi Ji
If street food is not enough, you can sit down and enjoy some Shaoxing cuisine at this old-timer named after the satirical character by Lu Xun, considered the greatest Chinese literary figure of the 20th century. If you need a reason to have Shaoxing food in Beijing, only note that the Shaoxin-born writer wrote Kong Yi Ji in Beijing, and the May The Fourth Movement he helped to launch took place only a few blocks down south.
Kong Yi Ji, 322 Dongsi N Street, Dongsi, Dongcheng District, Beijing, China
This cozy, basement-level nightclub is frequented by people who still make mix tapes and launch art zines. It is sometimes a pit stop on the way to, or is the after-party site of, the nearby music venue Dusk Dawn Club. If you want more serious dancing after midnight, head to Zhao Dai in Xinyuanli.
13 Meishuguan East Street, Dongcheng District, Beijing, China
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Yifan Zhang
Yifan moved from London to Beijing in 2011 and hosts a weekly cultural review podcast, Culture Potato, with his friends.
Yan Cong
Yan Cong is a contributing photographer to The Washington Post living in Beijing.