Madame Tussauds, the internationally-beloved attraction that allows the public to meet startlingly life-like wax models of their favorite celebrities, opened in Beijing on May 29.
For those who have been to Madame Tussauds before, don’t worry; the Beijing branch is unique even among its Chinese counterparts. Inspired by the theme “spirit of Beijing” from the 2008 Olympics, Madame Tussauds Beijing adopts the “spirit of China.” Visitors can pose next to historic Chinese figures like Lao She – the “Chinese Shakespeare” – and see A-list celebrities like George Clooney in a Chinese-style zone complete with red lanterns and a koi pond.
Madame Tussauds Beijing strikes a healthy balance of western and Chinese celebrities, with bilingual English and Chinese introductions. Each sign contains a quote from the celebrity, a quick explanation of why they are famous, an interesting fact about them, and their date of birth and – if applicable – death.
The vast majority of visitors are Chinese, so there are no English pamphlets or guidebooks; some of the interactive features, like the KTV machine, only support Chinese. However, all of the signs are written in both Chinese and English, and the 35-minute video introducing the history of Madame Tussauds and the process of making wax figures is in English with Chinese subtitles.
However, the lack of an English guidebook shouldn’t slow foreign visitors down; part of the fun is walking from zone to zone without knowing who you will meet next. Is Michael Jackson just around the corner? Carina Lau? Jacky Chan?
The museum has four official photo points where visitors can pay to have a professional photo taken for RMB 70. However, visitors can also take photos with their own cameras for free.
Children in particular will enjoy the interactive play in Madame Tussauds. Each zone offers numerous dress-up or role play opportunities that place no limits on the imagination. Kids can try on a tiara and sit on the Queen of England’s throne, wear an opera mask to match Beijing opera legend Mei Lanfang, play a game of virtual tennis on the TV alongside Li Na, or cement your hands in front of Hollywood’s TLC Chinese Theatre with Marilyn Monroe.
Because Madame Tussauds does not restrict access to their figures, all the wax celebrities are checked multiple times a day for scratches to make sure they don’t show any signs of wear and tear. That means that each time visitors return to Madame Tussauds, they can rely
on US President Obama looking exactly the same as he did the last time. A marketing executive explained that the figures are presented to the public “only in perfect form.” However, the artists need more time for certain fix-ups, so some figures will occasionally be missing.
On the third floor, one zone explains the process of making wax figure step-by-step. Visitors will be blown away by the attention to detail that at Madame Tussauds; it takes about 140 hours to individually place the hairs on each celebrity’s head. If the celebrity is still alive, they are measured by Madame Tussauds artists; if they are deceased, extensive research fills in the gaps. As often as possible, the statue’s clothing either comes directly from the celebrity’s closet or is replicated by the designer specifically for Madame Tussauds.
Complete your red carpet experience with a trip to the gift shop, which is full of western toys and fake Oscars as well as novelties unique to Beijing such as oversized cityscape mugs. For RMB 58 for one hand or RMB 88 for both, visitors can also dip their hand in a colored wax of their choice and make a mold to bring home. Although it is not the same wax that is used to make the figures, it still makes you feel a little like a star. But hey – you just met George Clooney, so you might as well be!
Best times to visit: Weekends after 6pm or weekdays
Restaurants in the area: Located toward the front of Qianmen Dajie, Madame Tussauds is surrounded by small restaurants and cafes such as Starbucks, Capital M, and various Chinese snack stands.
Bathrooms, accessibility and cleanliness: Madame Tussauds has bathrooms with western toilets on two out of its four floors, but there are no changing tables. There is a convenient elevator for strollers and wheelchairs.
Madame Tussauds Beijing 北京杜莎夫人蜡像馆
Regular price: RMB 170 (adults), RMB 110 (children up to 1.3m and seniors), RMB 120 (students with ID). Call in advance for a discount: RMB 135 (adults), RMB 90 (children up to 1.3m and seniors, RMB 100 (students with ID). Daily 10am-9pm (last admission at 8pm). 8 Qianmen Dajie, Dongcheng District (8755 9688) www.madametussauds.com/Beijing 东城区前门大街8号
Photos by Sui