In Chinese, men (门) means gate. Fuchengmen used to be one of the nine gates of Beijing’s city walls. The latter were built between 1436 and 1553 for defensive uses. You can’t actually see the Fuchengmen gate anymore, because it was removed to clear the way for line 2 in the 1960s. The modern-day Fuchengmen Qiao is where the gate used to be located.
It’s worth spending a day to explore the 3km stretch between Xisi and Fuchengmen subway stations; in the process, you’ll cross West Second Ring Road and witness the
buildings getting taller and taller. The tour features religious culture, classic imperial icons, educational museums, traditional Beijing snacks, and some bargaining at local markets.
Getting to Fuchengmen is simple: Take subway line 4 and get out at exit A of Xisi station. Just outside there is a RENJOY kiosk where you can stock up on water before setting out. Walk right along Xisi Beidajie (西四北大街). Make a right at the crossroad and you’ll reach Guangji Temple after about 50m. Guangji is a Buddhist temple originally built during the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234) that doubles as the headquarters of the Buddhist Association of China. Clean and quiet, this little temple features two courtyards; sitting among its many trees is a nice way to ease into the day with a morning prayer. Entrance is free, so you have nothing to lose but your troubles and woes.
After exiting the temple, cross Fuchengmennei Dajie (阜成门内大街) to reach your next stop: The Geological Museum of China. If your kids are serious geology buffs, they will not be disappointed. This four-story museum features well-curated displays with excellent English descriptions. The first floor covers the basic concepts of earth formation, with lots of interactive games for children to try out. On the second floor, there’s a rich and fascinating collection of precious gems including diamonds. The third floor features a large collection of fossils; you can even touch some of the remains. Outside the display hall, there is a complete skeleton of a 12m long and 5m tall juvenile dinosaur (Lufengosaurus magnus) discovered in Yunnan in 1957.
After exiting the museum, cross Fuchengmennei Dajie once again and head west for five minutes until you see Lidai Diwang Temple (also known as the Temple of Past Emperors). Constructed around 500 years ago, this temple was where imperial families from the Ming and Qing dynasties made sacrifices to previous emperors. You can skip this one if you want; admission costs RMB 20, and there’s not actually that much to see except the 188 sacrificial tablets located in the main central hall.
After the morning’s dose of religion, science, and history, it’s time to perk up with some good food. Luckily, Qing Feng Steamed Bun Shop is a three-minute walk along Fuchengmennei Dajie. You’ll spot chefs in white uniforms on the other side of a large glass window, sitting around a table and wrapping up buns. They’re not the most mind-blowing, but of decent quality for reasonable prices. They contain lots of filling, the most popular of which is the vegetarian su sanxian (素三鲜); it was already sold out when we got there around 1pm. Instead, we had six beef buns (牛肉大葱包), a celery tofu salad (芹菜腐竹), and a bowl of congee (绿豆粥) for only RMB 19. However, note that the menu’s completely in Chinese.
Keep going west on Fuchengmennei Dajie and you will see White Pagoda Temple right after the first red light. This Tibetan Buddhist temple designed by a Nepalese architect is normally worth checking out, but it’s currently closed for renovations. According to the security guard, it won’t reopen until 2014.
The next stop is Beijing Lu Xun Museum. Lu Xun was a famous writer, ideologist, and revolutionary; his Beijing residence was converted into a museum after his death. The building is hidden away from the main street, and there are two ways to get there. You can keep going west on Fuchengmennei Dajie and you’ll see a sign for the museum after about five minutes; enter the hutong that the sign points to and the museum will be at the end.
If you prefer the road less taken, enter the first hutong (Gongmenkou Dongcha) after White Pagoda Temple and meander through scenes of hutong life. Make a right turn at Gongmenkou Toutiao and walk west until you run into the museum. If you get lost, any hutong inhabitant will be able to point you towards the museum. Within, you can see Lu Xun’s manuscripts, living quarters, and a photo exhibition of his life. Entrance is free, but you need to show an ID or passport to gain admission.
When you’re done, exit the hutong and continue west until you see Fuchengmen subway station. You can continue walking west or take Bus 111 for two stops to reach Tianyi Market. Considered the biggest flea market in Beijing, the place is a bit confusing for first timers. The buildings are painted in brash colors, Christmas decorations are sold year-round, and there are animal statues are everywhere; kids would be forgiven for thinking they are at an amusement park. Tianyi Market is huge; there’s a kids’ wear area, party supplies area, art supplies area, shoe area, watch area, scarf area, and so on. It’s one of the must-go places for shopping during the holiday season. Go to the fourth floor and you’ll find a world of fluffy toys at the recently-opened “Street of Stuffed Toys.”
When you’re finishd with Tianyi, cross Fuchengmenwai Dajie and backtrack towards Fuchengmen subway. Get some last-minute shopping in at Wangtong Market before jumping onto the subway, which is accessible through the basement. Wangtong Market is less overwhelming, much smaller in size, and better-organized than Tianyi Market. The first four floors sell similar products that you have to bargain for. If you are tired of haggling, the fifth floor sells sports brands at deep discounts. One highlight is the Nike factory store, which has sales of up to 70 percent off.
Guangji Temple 广济寺
Free. Daily 6am-4:30pm. 25 Fuchengmennei Dajie, Xicheng District (6616 0907) 西城区阜成门内大街25号
The Geological Museum of China 中国地质博物馆
RMB 30 for adults, RMB 15 for students. Tue-Sun 9am-4:30pm. 15 Yangrou Hutong, Xicheng District (6655 7858) 西城区羊肉胡同15号
Lidai Diwang Temple 历代帝王庙
RMB 20, RMB 10 for students, free for kids under 12. Wed-Sun 9am-4pm. 131 Fuchengmennei Dajie, Xicheng District (6651 7739) 西城区阜成门内大街131号
Qing Feng Steamed Bun Shop 庆丰包子铺
Daily 6.30am-9pm. 135 Fuchengmennei Dajie, Xicheng District (6616 1236) 西城区阜成门内大街135号
Beijing Luxun Museum 北京鲁迅博物馆
Free (with proper ID). Tue-Sun 9am-4pm. 19 Fuchengmennei, Gongmenkou Ertiao, Xicheng District (6616 5654) 西城区阜成门内宫门口二条19号
Tianyi Market 天意新商城
Daily 7.30am-5.30pm. 259 Fuchengmenwai Dajie, Xicheng District (6832 7607) 西城区阜成门外大街259号
Wangtong Market 万通新世界
Daily 9am-8.30pm. 2 Fuchengmenwai Dajie, Xicheng District (6801 0532) 西城区阜成门外大街2号
photos by Clemence Jiang
This article originally appeared on p28-31 of the beijingkids September 2013 issue.
Check out the PDF version online at Issuu.com