Beijing’s cultural offerings

After the revolution of 1949, a curtain of Puritan prudishness descended on the once lively if seamy entertainment world of Beijing. The ubiquitous teahouses and wine shops disappeared, and not a trace remained of the pleasure houses of the past. Social dancing flourished briefly during 1979-81, but was officially proscribed in late 1982. In 1983, discos were opened within the confines of the Jianguo, Great Wall, and Huaqiao hotels, but as “tourists only” establishments. Most hotels still maintain cafes for late-night imbibers.

While outlets for socializing remain limited, Beijing’s cultural offerings are more numerous than ever: 11 museums, six exhibition centers, 22 public libraries, 96 centers for cultural activities, 99 cinemas, seven stadiums, and 33 parks. For Chinese and foreigners alike, the most popular form of entertainment in Peking now is the theater, with selections ranging from traditional Chinese opera to Chinese productions of Chekhov and Arthur Miller. Musicians, acrobats, and athletes all draw large crowds, and there are never enough tickets to go around. The only tickets that are relatively easy to obtain are tickets to the cinema. Foreign visitors should first try to secure reservations through CTS, although cinema box offices will sell tickets to foreigners provided they come early enough. In Beijing, everything sells out.

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