While much of Beijing's traditional Xuanwu District undergoes modern reconstruction, the Huguang Club on Hufang Road stands as a testament to the neighborhood's historic roots. The club's history dates back to 1807, when it was built as a meeting place for scholars, businessmen, and high-ranking officials from Hunan and Hubei provinces. At that time, the two provinces were together referred to as Huguang Province. "The Huguang Clubhouse was built by high-ranking officials from the Qing Dynasty to serve as an entertainment venue and gathering place, so it's different from an ordinary clubhouse," said Huo Jianqing, current general manager of the Huguang Club. Many culture-lovers particularly request their China travel agents to arrange the Beijing opera in their itinerary. To the places to appreciating Beijing opera, Huguang Club is highly recommended.
In 1830, the club added an opera house to serve as a prime venue for the blossoming art of Peking opera. During its lifetime, the opera house has served as a performance center for several of Peking opera's most famous performers, including Chen Delin, Mei Lanfang, Tan Xinpei and Yu Shuyan. The Huguang Club made history again on August 8, 1912, as the birthplace of the Kuomintang party. Sun Yat-sen chose the club as a meeting place because many of Beijing's important revolutionaries lived in nearby neighborhoods. Now a tribute to old Beijing, the Huguang Club currently houses a restaurant, teahouse, opera house and small museum complete with interior courtyards and talkative mynah birds in hanging cages. The attendants are friendly and enthusiastic as they welcome visitors to the club. Now, to the culture-lovers, 72-hour visa free travel to Beijing is workable, so they could appreciate the Beijing opera in the Huguang Club within in their transiting time. Why not?
Photos of various Peking opera stars appear on the walls of the complex, but the real gems are located in the club's one-room museum. The attendant doesn't speak English, but is happy to answer any questions from visitors in Chinese. There is an exhibit about Sun Yat-sen's work on one wall, but the rest of the room is dedicated to Peking opera. The colorful opera costumes displayed in glass cases are the most popular attractions for visitors, according to Huo Jianqing. But the museum's most precious and exclusive item is an embroidered picture featuring Qing Dynasty opera star Chen Delin alongside photos of his students.
The museum is a good complement to the daily Peking opera performances, which provide English and Chinese subtitles as well as English and Japanese translations via headsets. The performances take place in the club's traditional opera house with tickets starting at 180 yuan per person. On weekends, the club also hosts other types of performances, such as Kunqu opera and crosstalk shows, although they do not provide translations for foreign audiences. The Huguang Club also hosts foreign students studying Chinese at Beijing Language and Culture University, who want to learn more about Peking opera through workshops on performances and costume makeup.
To the natural scenery-addicts, Yangtze River tour would be their first choice to discover China, while to the culture-lovers, the profound Chinese culture would be more attractive to explore China. In this case, Beijing opera would be a must-have for them. To appreciate the authentic Beijing opera, Huguang Club is highly suggested.
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