delighting "me" always
Picture: I suppose to focus my camera on the sculpture instead of on the pink lady. However, I was surprised when I got home with this result, my camera chosen to focus on pink lady! It is delighting me!!!
Canon, delighting you always…
Location: 798 Art Zone, Beijing. China
798 Art Zone (Chinese: 798艺术区; pinyin: 798 Yìshùqū), or Dashanzi Art District, is a part of Dashanzi in the Chaoyang District of Beijing that houses a thriving artistic community, among 50-year old decommissioned military factory buildings of unique architectural style. It is often compared with New York’s Greenwich Village or SoHo.
The area is often called the 798 Art District or Factory 798 although technically, Factory #798 is only one of several structures within a complex formerly known as Joint Factory 718. The buildings are located inside alleys number 2 and 4 on Jiǔxiānqiáo Lù (酒仙桥路), south of the Dàshānziqiáo flyover (大山子桥).
798 Space gallery, Jan,2009. Old Maoist slogans are visible on the ceiling arches.
The Dashanzi factory complex began as an extension of the "Socialist Unification Plan" of military-industrial cooperation between the Soviet Union and the newly formed People’s Republic of China. By 1951, 156 "joint factory" projects had been realized under that agreement, part of the Chinese government’s first Five-Year Plan. However the People’s Liberation Army still had a dire need of modern electronic components, which were produced in only two of the joint factories. The Russians were unwilling to undertake an additional project at the time, and suggested that the Chinese turn to East Germany from which much of the Soviet Union’s electronics equipment was imported. So at the request of then-Premier Zhou Enlai, scientists and engineers joined the first Chinese trade delegation to East Germany in 1951, visiting a dozen factories. The project was greenlighted in early 1952 and a Chinese preparatory group was sent to East Berlin to prepare design plans. This project, which was to be the largest by East Germany in China, was then informally known as Project #157.
The architectural plans were left to the Germans, who chose a functional Bauhaus-influenced design over the more ornamental Soviet style, triggering the first of many disputes between the German and Russian consultants on the project. The plans, where form follows function, called for large indoor spaces designed to let the maximum amount of natural light into the workplace. Arch-supported sections of the ceiling would curve upwards then fall diagonally along the high slanted banks or windows; this pattern would be repeated several times in the larger rooms, giving the roof its characteristic sawtooth-like appearance. Despite Beijing’s northern location, the windows were all to face north because the light from that direction would cast fewer shadows.
The chosen location was a 640,000 square metres area in Dashanzi, then a low-lying patch of farmland northeast of Beijing. The complex was to occupy 500,000 square metres, 370,000 of which were allocated to living quarters. It was officially named Joint Factory 718, following the Chinese government’s method of naming military factories starting with the number 7. Fully funded by the Chinese side, the initial budget was enormous for the times: 9 million rubles or approximately 140 million RMB (US$17 million) at today’s rates; actual costs were 147 million RMB.
Ground was broken in April 1954. Construction was marked by disagreements between the Chinese, Soviet and German experts, which led at one point to a six-month postponement of the project. The Germans’ harshest critic was the Russian technology consultant in charge of Beijing’s two Soviet-built electronics factories (714 and 738), who was also head consultant of the Radio Industrial Office of the Second Ministry of Machine Building Industry. The disputes generally revolved around the Germans’ high but expensive quality standards for buildings and machines, which were called "over-engineering" by the Russians. Among such points of contention was the Germans’ insistence, historical seismic data in hand, that the buildings be built to withstand earthquakes of magnitude 8 on the Richter scale, whereas the Chinese and Russians wanted to settle for 7. Communications expert Wang Zheng, head of Communications Industry in the Chinese Ministry of National Defense and supporter the East German bid from the start, ruled in favor of the Germans for this particular factory.
At the height of the construction effort, more than 100 East German foreign experts worked on the project. The resources of as many as 22 of their factories supplied the construction; at the same time, supply delays were caused by the Soviet Red Army’s tremendous drain on East Germany’s industrial production. The equipment was transported directly through the Soviet Union via the Trans-Siberian railway, and a 15 km track of railroad between Beijing Railway Station and Dongjiao Station was built especially to service the factory. Caltech-educated scientist Dr. Luo Peilin (罗沛霖), formerly head of the preparatory group in 1951-1953, was Head Engineer of Joint Factory 718 during its construction phase. Dr. Luo, now retired in Beijing, is remembered by his former colleagues as a dedicated perfectionist whose commitment to the obstacle-strewn project was a major factor of its eventual success.
Joint Factory 718 began production in 1957, amid a grandiose opening ceremony and display of Communist brotherhood between China and East Germany, attended by high officials of both countries. The first director was Li Rui (李瑞), who had been involved in the early negotiations in Berlin.
The factory quickly established a reputation for itself as one of the best in China. Through its several danwei or "work units", it offered considerable social benefits to its 10,000-20,000 workers, especially considering the relative poverty of the country during such periods as the Great Leap Forward. The factory boasted, among others:
the best housing available to workers in Beijing, providing fully furnished rooms to whole families for less than 1/30 of the workers’ income;
diverse extracurricular activities such as social and sporting events, dancing, swimming, and training classes;
its own athletics, soccer, basketball and volleyball teams for men and women, ranked among the best in inter-factory competitions;
a brigade of German-made motorcycles, performing races and stunt demonstrations;
an orchestra that played not only revolutionary hymns, but also German-influenced classical Western music;
literary clubs and publications, and a library furnished with Chinese and foreign (German) books;
Jiuxianqiao hospital, featuring German equipment and offering the most advanced dental facilities in China.
The factory even had its own volunteer military reserves or jinweishi (近卫师), which numbered hundreds and were equipped with large-scale weapons and anti-aircraft guns.
Workers’ skills were honed by frequent personnel exchanges, internships and training in cooperation with East Germany. Different incentives kept motivation high, such as rewards systems and "model worker" distinctions. At the same time, political activities such as Maoism study workshops kept the workers in line with Communist Party of China doctrine. During the Cultural revolution, propaganda slogans for Mao Zedong Thought were painted on the ceiling arches in bright red characters (where they remain today at the latter tenants’ request).
Frequent VIP visits contributed to the festive atmosphere. Notable guests included Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, Liu Shaoqi, Zhu De, and Kim Il-Sung.
The Joint Factory produced a wide variety of military and civilian equipment. Civilian production included acoustic equipment for Beijing’s Workers’ Stadium and Great Hall of the People, as well as all the loudspeakers on Tiananmen Square and Chang’an Avenue. Military components were also exported to China’s Communist allies, and helped establish North Korea’s wireless electronics industry.
One of the old machine tools in front of some contemporary art in Dec 2005
After 10 years of operation, Joint Factory 718 was split into more manageable components, such as sub-Factories 706, 707, 751, 761, 797 and 798. The first Head of sub-Factory 798 (the largest) was Branch Party Secretary Fu Ke (傅克), who played a major role in recruiting skilled workers from southern China and among returned overseas Chinese.
However, the factory came under pressure during Deng Xiaoping’s reforms of the 1980s. Deprived of governmental support like many state-owned enterprises, it underwent a gradual decline and was eventually rendered obsolete. By the late 1980s and early 1990s, most sub-factories had ceased production, 60% of the workers had been laid off, and the remains of the management were reconstituted as a real-estate operation called "Seven-Star Huadian Science and Technology Group", charged with overseeing the industrial park and finding tenants for the abandoned buildings.
The Dashanzi factory complex was vacated at around the time when most of Beijing’s contemporary artist community was looking for a new home. Avant-garde art being frowned upon by the government, the community had traditionally existed on the fringes of the city. From 1984 to 1993, they worked in run-down houses near the Old Summer Palace (Yuanmingyuan) in northwestern Beijing, until their eviction. They had then moved to the eastern Tongxian County (now Tongzhou District), more than an hour’s drive from the city center.
Then in 1995, Beijing’s Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA), looking for cheap, ample workshop space away from downtown, set up in the now defunct Factory 706. The temporary move became permanent and in 2000 Sui Jianguo(隋建国), Dean of the Department of Sculpture, located his own studio in the area. The cluttered sculpture workshops have always remained open for visitors to peek at the dozens of workers milling about.
In 2001, Texan Robert Bernell moved his Timezone 8 Art Books bookshop and publishing office (founded in 1997) into a former factory canteen; he was the first foreigner to move in. One of Timezone 8’s early employees was fashion designer Xiao Li, who along her husband, performance artist Cang Xin, helped artists secure and rent spaces in the area.
Through word-of-mouth, artists and designers started trickling in, attracted to the vast cathedral-like spaces. Despite the lack of any conscious aesthetic in the Bauhaus-inspired style, which grounded architectural beauty in practical, industrial function, the swooping arcs and soaring chimneys had an uplifting effect on modern eyes, a sort of post-industrial chic. At the artists’ requests, workers renovating the spaces preserved the prominent Maoist slogans on the arches, adding a touch of ironic "Mao kitsch" to the place.
Later that year, Mr. Tabata Yukihito from Japan’s Tokyo Gallery set up Beijing Tokyo Art Projects (BTAP, 北京东京艺术工程) inside a 400-m² division of Factory 798’s main area; this was the first renovated space featuring the high arched ceilings that would become synonymous with the Art District. BTAP’s 2002 opening exhibition "Beijing Afloat" (curator: Feng Boyi), drew a crowd of over 1,000 people and marked the beginning of the popular infatuation with the area.
In 2002, designer artist Huang Rui (黄锐) and hutong photographer Xu Yong (徐勇) set up the 798 Space gallery (时态空间) next to BTAP. With its cavernous 1200-m² floor and multiple-arched ceilings at the center of Factory 798, it was and still is the symbolic center of the whole district. (Huang and Xu since designed at least seven spaces in the area and became the prime movers and de facto spokespersons of the District.) A glass-fronted café was set up in the former office section at the back of the 798 space, opening into a back alley now lined with studios and restaurants such as Huang’s own At Café, and Cang Xin’s #6 Sichuan restaurant, the area’s "canteen".
In 2003, Lu Jie (卢杰) set up the Long March Foundation, an ongoing project for artistic re-interpretation of the historical Long March, inside the 25,000 Li Cultural Transmission Center (二万五千里文化传播中心). Around that time, Singapore-owned China Art Seasons (北京季节画廊) opened for display for pan-Asian art, and was one of several new galleries setting up at that time.
Source from: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/798_Art_Zone