798 is a thriving and vibrant art and fashion district in Beijing set up in an abandoned military factory complex. 798 hosts galleries, shows and exhibitions from China’s leading artistic personalities and is China’s cutting edge art movement. 798 is the Chinese equivalent of Greenwich Village and SoHo and has attracted visits from presidents, movie stars and royalty.
After you have seen Beijing’s ancient attractions, a trip to 798 will provide an enjoyable and enlightening experience of modern Beijing. 798 has many very cool and chic restaurants and cafes that you can also enjoy during your visit there.
In the early 1950’s the Chinese military was in urgent need of modern electronic equipment that Chinese manufacturing capacity at the time could not supply. To solve this shortage and to help speed up China’s industrialization, Chinese government under Chairman Mao’s leadership set up a joint venture with East Germany.
The joint venture was the 718 Joint Factory that began operation in 1957 on a 500,000 square meter site in the Dashanzi area of Beijing that was farmland at the time. The factory was one of the best in China and employed between 10,000 and 20,000 workers during its operation.
In 1967 the 718 factory was divided into smaller units or factories to improve management. Those factories were 706, 707, 751, 761, 797 and 798. Factory 798 was the largest of the smaller factories.
During Deng Xiao Ping’s reforms during the 1980’s, 718 was cut off from government support and forced to become competitive. Unable to survive, 718 declined in the 1990’s and the smaller factories were gradually closed down and buildings left vacant.
At this time Beijing’s contemporary and modern art community was loosely based in Tongzhou district which was over an hour’s drive from the center of Beijing. Starting in 1995 various prominent artist left Tongzhou and set up work shops, studios and galleries in Factory 798 and 718’s other abandoned factory buildings
There are many studios, shops, galleries, exhibitions, centers, works of art and places of interest in 798 and wandering around 798 visiting these venues is enjoyable, thought provoking and sometimes a little disturbing. There are too many venues too describe so I have included below descriptions and photos the ones I found most outstanding during my recent visit.