Beijing, China’s sprawling capital, has history stretching back 3 millennia. Yet it’s known as much for modern architecture as its ancient sites such as the grand Forbidden City complex, the imperial palace during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Nearby, the massive Tiananmen Square pedestrian plaza is the site of Mao Zedong’s mausoleum and the National Museum of China, displaying a vast collection of cultural relics.
The Opposite House
Designed by the Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, this boutique hotel, which along with the EAST hotel is part of the Hong Kong Swire group, has been created as an oasis in the heart of the city, symbolized by its green glass mosaic-style exterior. The lobby is its centrepiece, a composition in Plexiglas and wood, reflecting both Chinese tradition, with its old pharmacy furniture, and new design trends, with its decidedly avant-garde take on professional furnishings. Clean lines define the overall style, and there is also an exhibition space for contemporary art. The Opposite House offers tranquil comfort and lavish attention to detail. There are just ninety-nine rooms and suites, including one luxurious suite offering 220 square metres of space extending into an equally large terrace, where the blend of textures – slate, jute, wood – in the antiques and contemporary art adorning the rooms create a welcoming and zen environment. The bathrooms, where you can have a massage, are designed to suggest a spa. The swimming pool is not to be missed, with its tiny lights suspended on invisible lines of wire to stunning effect. To further refine the experience, the hotel has launched its own app for iPhone, HouseVibe, full of useful tips and humour, an excellent way for its guests to discover and enjoy Beijing.
Tea house, Quiet Luxury
This exceptionally elegant establishment is a newcomer among the constellation of teahouses near the Temple of Confucius. Housed in a 400-square-metre siheyuan residence with two courtyards, the space is divided into several private rooms with space for up to twelve people. The spirit of Chinese luxury is expressed through the furniture and touches of calligraphy and Buddhist-inspired decorations. The wooden sliding doors, the bare grey earth in the gardens and the round windows look more Japanese than Chinese. More surprisingly, an altar dedicated to the Buddha occupies the back room. According to Ms Yi, the director, the art of tea and Buddhist worship are both part of the search for inner peace. She sees nothing absurd in bringing them together in one place. The teahouse aims to promote the rediscovery of traditional culture. It has plans to invite the greatest Taiwanese and Chinese masters to give classes in guqin (Chinese zither), calligraphy and opera to the wealthy customers who frequent the teahouse. In the private rooms, tea tasting, including the house specialty, post-fermented pu’er tea mixed with jasmine flowers, will be accompanied by kun opera arias.
Superbly located in a former Buddhist temple, TRB is rightly considered one of the finest restaurants in the capital and has played to a full house ever since it opened in 2011. The weekend brunches attract families and friends in a relaxed atmosphere, but it really comes into its own at night. Beijing’s A-list comes here to talk business alongside courting couples celebrating a romantic milestone. Heads turn discreetly when a local celebrity or an international star turns up. Owner and head waiter Ignatius Lecleir presides over the dining room and gets outstanding service from his staff. While fish is a star choice here, aficionados relish the suckling pig. The encyclopedic wine list features more than 1,000 vintages – it’s easy to see that the manager was a sommelier in a previous life. To diversify, TRB regularly invites major international chefs for a few limited-edition meals that delight gourmets. Booking recommended.
National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA)
All the jewellery and accessories designed by Su Nan and Wang Jing are made from antique Chinese porcelain fragments. Scion of an old family of Beijing goldsmiths, Wang gives new life to these shards of vases, saucers and teapots, collected for decades by her grandparents, and the couple carries on the tradition through its creations. All the insetting, moulding, carving and polishing is done by hand, and the pieces are then set into rings, pendants, earrings, brooches or cufflinks. Blue-glazed ceramic lamp stands and jewellery boxes complete the range. Standouts include a handbag and a woman’s bust composed exclusively of a clever assemblage of porcelain shards connected with wire. It’s no wonder that the brand’s fan club is constantly growing, both at home and abroad.
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