Over the highway from the extravagant Huafa Mall and new town’s glass palaces lie the backstreets of old Beishan district, where wooden doors creak and electrical cables drape between buildings like bunting. Hipster noodle bars, cafes and even a tattoo shop seemingly add modern charm to the oldest district in central Zhuhai. Beishan Hall, a cultural institution, stands monumentally affront the labyrinth of streets. Its decaying grey walls mark the transition from new to old, from westernized to gentrified traditional.
The hall’s courtyard is framed with red lanterns and bonsai trees, while the rooms hold lavish costumes, books and art. Over summer especially, the institution boasts a program of shows, concerts and even a yearly Jazz festival launched in 2010. Consequently, Beishan Hall has become somewhat of a cultural center, with music institutes and art centers set up nearby.
On a regular weekend, however, the hall’s art cafe is available to escape both the weather and reality. Along with good quality fresh coffee you can flip through the thick, grainy pages of their exquisite book collection to a soundtrack of calming Chinese music. Adorning the shelves are translations of classics such as Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’ or Berger’s ‘Ways of Seeing’, if your level of Chinese doesn’t quite stretch that far, however, beautiful art books – and a peculiarly high number of photographs of Bob Dylan – are also available. Beishan Hall is therefor a perfect way to spend a slow Sunday morning.