Beijing’s Newest 24-Hour Bookstore to Serve as Sanlitun’s “Quiet Cultural Sanctuary”

Late-night Sanlitun denizens and aficionados in need of a destination after closing time can now muse over their sobering thoughts at Beijing's newest 24-hour bookstore located on the site of Sanlitun's former "dirty bar street."

At over 600sqm, the 50,000 book-strong bookstore is the latest retail franchise by Sanlian Taofen that looks to serve customers from its optimal downtown location just north of Taikooli Mall. Featuring bookshelves that tower two-stories high, the bookstore is also home to one of modern China's most culturally-significant destinations: a café. 

Beijing has experienced a glut of new bookstore openings lately, many of which are touted as offering 24-hour service. In fact, this new bookstore happens to sit adjacent to yet another Sanlitun bookstore that opened last year as well as the more foreigner-friendly but slowly dying Page One branch in Taikooli Mall.

Among all this competition in what can only be described as a "buyer's market," this latest of a string of openings has been heralded by local media as a major event for the city with wide-reaching consequences.

READ: When Automated Meets "Spiritual Nourishment": First 24-Hour Staffless Bookstore Opens in Beijing

Ostensibly a box with elevated catwalks, the new bookstore's layout was inspired by a northern Song dynasty map that allows shoppers to experience a "meandering journey through cultural knowledge."

But that's not all. Qianlong hails the Sanlitun 24-hour bookstore as "a quiet cultural sanctuary" that will usher in greater changes to come.

READ: China to Provide "Spiritual Nourishment" With Multiple 24-Hour Bookstores Opening in Beijing

"In an area as international, diversified, and fashionable as Sanlitun, the bookstore will spread Chinese culture to the world as well as allowing readers a better understanding of China and the world," reported Qianlong, which went on to say that "such a bookstore is vital towards the construction of a 'cultural Sanlitun'" and will help turn the neighborhood into an "international communication center."

There may be a place for yet another bookstore in Beijing, maybe even one that runs all day long. But it remains that Sanlitun's reputation as an "international communication center" has already long been established, one where relationships are forged by reading between the lines.

Sanlian Taofen
Daily 24-hours. 43 Bei Sanlitun Lu, Sanlitun, Chaoyang District
三里屯朝阳区北三里屯路南43号

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E-Mail: charlesliu1 (at) qq (dot) com 
Twitter: @Sinopath

Photo: Weibo (1, 2)

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Barista Specialty Lives up to Its Name With New No-Frills Nali Patio Café and Jet-Black Coffees

Back in 2014, a few years before specialty coffee began to percolate into Beijing's mainstream, Alex Liu was one of the first café owners to help galvanize the trend with his aptly named Barista shop on Wudaoying. Now that plenty more Beijingers have acquired a taste for high-quality beans, Liu deems it time to open a second spot, this time called Barista Specialty on the first floor of Nali Patio.

Just like its moniker, the café is very much to the point. None of the eye-catching trappings that make Barista's competitors like Bracket, Soloist, or even the more minimalist Metal Hands so inviting to sit and while away the hours are to be found at this new, bare concrete walled venue. In fact, aside from a short row of stools opposite the hulking coffee machine, there's hardly even a place to perch in this matchbook-sized spot.

Instead, Barista is better suited for the Sanlitun set hoping to quickly order a quality cup of joe on the go. Their RMB 35 "dirty," for instance, is creamy enough to go down smooth but still packs enough potency to keep you caffeinated long after the last drop (a measure of the quality beans they use to brew).

Their RMB 30 soda iced Americano – a longtime favorite at the Wudaoying location – is an even more unique must-try thanks to the creative combination of ingredients summed up in its moniker (once again, Liu lets the name say it all).

And while Barista is devoid of pretty much any ambiance, some of its high-end hardware is at least pleasing to the eye. Aside from a mammoth coffee machine for lattes (RMB 35) and double espressos (RMB 25), there's also glowing futuristic siphon machines, plus an antique-looking siphon with wood trim adorning the corner by the entryway.

Those fancy gadgets are complemented by the imported specialty beans that Liu will have on a rotating basis. For now, that portion of the menu includes a couple of pretty cheap options like Costa Rica Perla Negra and Sumatra Golden Mandheling (both RMB 45) along with a pricier RMB 88 Panama Geisha.

Yes, quality at the expense of frivolity seems to be Barista Specialty's signature style – which won't leave coffee nerds copious options to pore over – but just like a jet-black shot of espresso, this new Nali Patio café will more than satiate your daily fix.

Barista Specialty
Daily, 10am-8pm. 1/F, Nali Patio, 81 Sanlitun Lu, Chaoyang District (150 1080 9311)
三里屯北街81号那里花园A116

Photos: Kyle Mullin, courtesy of Barista Specialty

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Personal Data From Food Delivery Platforms in China on Sale for as Little as RMB 0.10

This post comes courtesy of our content partners at TechNode.

The personal data of people who have ordered food delivery is readily available for sale via several channels, investigative reporting by Beijing News has discovered (in Chinese). Data on offer includes information such as name, phone number, address of thousands of orderers per day, including for orders going to hospitals and even to specific seats in internet cafés. The data is being sold for as little as RMB 0.10 per person.

By infiltrating telephone sales companies who buy up the profiles for cold calling, Beijing News journalists learned that the suppliers are using software to scrape data from order systems and that even take away delivery drivers have been found to be selling the info.

Chen Jinghong sells data on QQ about orderers in first-tier cities. He sells data a rate of 10,000 profiles for RMB 800. He offers the undercover journalists 5,000 profiles and sends a screen grab of an Excel sheet of the data, promising it can be delivered in 15 minutes. The data does not show the date of the order, but he promises it is from within the last two to three days. The journalist agrees, Chen sends a QR code for payment and within 15 minutes the journalist gets the file.

To check it, the journalist picks 100 numbers at random and calls them. 61 were valid numbers that rang, 33 people took the call and confirmed they had placed the order in the last couple of months. When asked why some numbers hadn’t worked, Chen said it’s because of the data entry system, who enter the details of 40,000 orders daily, but that when his data is ready by noon each day, it will definitely be sold by the end of the day.

The journalist found that data was available from all the major platforms such as Ele.me and Baidu Waimai.

Internet companies that run takeaway shops were also found to be selling on their customer data, including the details of the food itself. This data is more expensive at RMB 0.50 per person, but newer and richer. More expensive still at around RMB 1 per order is the data directly from delivery staff. This comes either in the form of screenshots of the delivery order the drivers are using, or the paper dockets generated and stapled to the parcels of food.

Online data theft is becoming ubiquitous with a report by the Internet Society of China finding that nearly 80% of web users had had their personal information leaked. Last month an artist in Wuhan bought up the data of 346,000 people and put it on display, inviting the people to come and see it. A chip has been developed that attaches to SIM cards to verify user ID without them having to supply their details each time as one way to reduce data leakage.

Photo courtesy of TechNode

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Burger Favorite WasPark Joins Deal Beer for Late Night Munchies in Jiaodaokou

What's better than a nice, bubbly craft beer? A nice, bubbly craft beer with a burger, of course! The good people (person) behind Fangjia Hutong's much-missed hole-in-the-wall burger joint WasPark understands just that, having resurfaced from his run-in with the Great Brickening and stumbling upon a much large space and some nectar-full accompaniments in Deal Beer's Jiaodaokou Bei'ertiao venue.

The new menu features five kinds of burgers and sandwiches (RMB 35-70) as well as bar food (RMB 20-40) such as fries, chili cheese fries, popcorn chicken, cheesy shrimp rolls, shrimp crackers, fried sweet potatoes, and a Sichuan pepper chicken fillet.

Loyalists to Was Park's old establishment will delight in the cheeseburger (RMB 45), which comes packed with a thick beef patty, pickles, tomato, lettuce, and cheese. Don't be tricked by its humble appearance and McDonald's-like bun, this burger will kick your need for late night munchies exactly where it counts: in the gut. However, should you need another bite, there's also the double cheeseburger and a host of sandwiches: pulled pork, mushroom and egg, bacon and egg, and the more experimental Beijing stir-fried mutton with leek.

The chili cheese fries (RMB 40) were also incredibly filling, with fries covered in a generous layer of cheese and chili. This is the steaming-hot comfort food that entire cities run on and comes with enough kick to have you eating along to the rhythm of the heavy metal blaring inside the venue.

So, take your burger in one hand, balance your fries in the other, and sip straight from your pint on the bar, for this truly is the pit-stop-worthy combination that Jiaodaokou needs right now and will set you straight no matter how your day may have been.

WasPark
Daily 5.30pm-midnight. 4 Jiaodaokou Beiertiao, Dongcheng District (inside Deal Beer) (156 5222 8194)
东城区交道口北二条4号

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Photos: Tracy Wang

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Feel the Burn: VSports Threaten to Knock You Out With Their Inimitably Spicy Chicken Wings

In the wake of TBJ's inaugural Hot & Spicy Festivalour fiery restaurant coverage continues with Feel the Burn, in which we look back at what our vendors brought to the event so as to make you sweat. Head to these chili-rife eateries to relive the fiery memories.

At each of our events, VSports never fails to disappoint. Their formula is not an easy one to discern, but something about the Gongti restaurant's pub grub and American-style barbecue satiates the crowd no matter what their specific tastes may be. VSports' showing at out inaugural Hot & Spicy Festival was no different, as their booth tested the crowd with some particularly potent chicken wings covered in chili (see the picture above).

The kitchen's penchant for fire doesn't end there given that they also serve one of, if not the, biggest burger in Beijing, aptly dubbed the Hell Burger (complete with its own 30-minute eating challenge). When they're not tempting Beijing's epi-dangerous eaters, VSports is of course best known for its well-stocked bar, a plethora of in-house bar games, and morning thru late night sports coverage, boasting a huge 20 TV screens and a number of projectors, as well as shared toilets with Mix (should you want to ramp up the action next door).

Below we catch up with VSports' management to see what they brought to our fest as well as what they recommend munching on next time you drop by their venue.

What did you bring to our Hot & Spicy Fest? 
At the festival, we brought a range of new products such as our "devil's spicy" chicken wings, chuanxiang pork ribs, grilled sausage, and fried chicken with chuanxiang sauce. Our chuanxiang ribs have been especially well-received by people who like to break from tradition and improve on the traditional American barbecue taste with an added splash of spice.

What spicy dishes do you sell in your restaurant?
Our chuanxiang pork chops, spicy chicken wings, and Sichuan pork chops are the most popular. For the latter, we select the cuts from Spanish black pigs because unlike with domestically-bred pork, Spanish pork meat has a relatively uniform distribution of fat, which we marinate with spices for 48 hours before firing at a high temperature for 15 minutes.

What drink do you like to pair with spicy food?
I mix my own iced drinks at home by adding frozen fruit to juice before blending and serving with a dollop of jam.

What's the hottest thing you've ever eaten? 
The spiciest food I've eaten is our grilled "devil's spicy" chicken wings.

What’s your go-to spicy comfort food?
Usually, I'll eat some hot pot or barbecue.

In one word, how does eating spicy food make you feel? 
Spicy food changes my taste, my satisfaction, my happiness, and my enjoyment.

If what you're eating becomes way too hot, what do you use to cool off?
If something is too spicy, I'll drink beer (or cider), carbonated drinks, or milk to cool off.

Can you handle more heat? Be sure to check out the latest issue of our Hot & Spicy themed magazine as well as our ongoing chili related restaurant coverage.

Photos courtesy of VSports

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Beijing Park Bee Sting Fatality Prompts Family to Sue City RMB 2M

Although it signals an end to dreary winter chills, spring in Beijing also brings with it the dangerous aerial concoction of air pollution, sandstorms, and flying catkins. And, if Beijing's skies weren't already full enough, there is a new threat to contend with: killer bees.

A Haidian court is currently conducting a trial in which the bereaved family is suing the city for RMB 2 million (USD 317,600) after a man named Zhao died from a bee sting while visiting a Beijing park.

The victim's family are accusing the Beijing park of not having implemented any preventative measures that could have prevented the death while also naming the city's ambulance dispatch as a co-defendant in the case for not arriving in time to save the victim.

Police say Zhao died from an allergic reaction to the bee sting that immediately incapacitated him, causing his death minutes later.

Wang Xueyan, director of the allergy department at Beijing Shijitan Hospital, described Zhao's death as "a classic allergy case" during the trial.

Wang said Zhao had exhibited common symptoms of allergic reactions like anaphylactic shock and swelling of the throat and lungs that restricted his air flow and suffocated him to death.

The case is still underway; no verdict has yet been reached.

Media reports of the case omit major details such as the date of the incident, at which park it happened, and whether or not Zhao is a Beijing resident. Furthermore, Chinese news is vague about the specific type of insect that administered the fatal sting; most reports are seen using a broad term that could mean "bee," "wasp," or "hornet."

According to Wang, only a tiny minority of the public is extremely sensitive to bee stings resulting in death. In 2016, a visitor to a Shenzhen park died from a bee sting.

Bee attacks have been an issue for Beijing parks before when three people were injured by bees in the city's east-end Yunhe Park back in 2014. And although they didn't have to defend themselves in court, city parks have also tried to avoid the blame for such incidents.

In another bee attack, in that same year on a family of 10, a Chaoyang Park worker explained that the city's waterways department is responsible for the incident since it occurred by the lakeside.

Beijing courts have seen a number of litigation recently in which victims are suing for large damages.

A Beijing woman is suing IKEA for RMB 1 million after one of their glasses allegedly exploded, knocking her unconscious. Last year, the victim of a tiger mauling sued Badaling Animal Park for RMB 1.5 million after she got out of her car while driving through the dangerous animal exhibit.

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E-Mail: charlesliu1 (at) qq (dot) com
Twitter: @Sinopath

Images: healthybeesllc.com

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EAT: Mosto Happy Hour, Yunnan Food Festival, Pre-Cinco de Mayo Celebrations at The Local

With all the shake-ups and closures in the Beijing bar scene over the past year or so we've often been left wondering where to go for a drink these days, especially around Sanlitun. The folks at Mosto clearly feel the same way because they have just launched The Bar @ Mosto, serving a selection of classic cocktails concocted by Francesco Agnotti, alongside their signature great value house wines. Even better, those cocktails and wines are on offer at RMB 40 each from 5.30-7pm and 9-11pm every day. The bar stays open until midnight every night and late on Fridays and Saturdays. Try the Blood and Sand, a classic cocktail made with Scotch, cherry brandy, Martini Rosso, and orange that you don't often see on menus here.

We're big fans of Yunnan cuisine here at the Beijinger and we're happy to see one of the big hotels championing the food of the province. Hotel Jen has teamed up with Yunnan restaurant Hani Gejiu to put on a Yunnan cuisine festival at their all-day dining restaurant, San Wu Tang. Diners can sample dishes like cold red rice noodle salad, tofu skin with mint, banana flower salad, and grilled goat's cheese with cured Yunnan sausage, the ingredients for which are all brought in from the Honghe area of Yunnan. The promotion runs until May 6. 

This Friday, Apr 27, join mental health awareness charity CandleX for a family-style dinner at Arcade, followed by a couple of rounds of bingo. For RMB 160 (payable via the QR code in the poster), you'll get a Middle Eastern-style set menu and two bingo tickets. Extra bingo tickets can be purchased for RMB 15. Proceeds from the dinner will be contributed to CandleX's biweekly Mental Health Peer Support Group. 

Get a headstart on your Cinco de Mayo celebrations at The Local, where they'll be putting on daily specials, including new food items, margaritas, beer buckets, and new summer cocktails, in the week leading up to Cinco de Mayo (starting Apr 30). The taco brunch on Monday and Tuesday, which will introduce new items such as breakfast tacos and quesadillas, sounds like a fun way to spend the May Day holiday. Full details of deals in the poster above. On Saturday, they'll celebrate Cinco de Mayo with daytime drink specials on the patio, and specials on tequila shots, frozen margaritas, and more from 8pm until midnight.

Hungry for more? For all of Beijing's current food promotions and events, click here.

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Instagram: @gongbaobeijing
Twitter: @gongbaobeijing
Weibo: @宫保北京

Photos courtesy of the organizers

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The Beijinger Among Nominees for the 2018 Pride of Africa Awards

Appreciate Africa Network – a cultural group aimed at coordinating events for and offering support to African expats in China, along with their friends – has announced the nominees for its 2018 Pride of Africa Awards. Over 100 nominees have been selected across 28 categories that encompass awards such as African Woman and Man of the Year, African Young Achievers, Award of Creativity and Enterprise, Outstanding China Africa Organization, Outstanding Achievement in Media, and more.

James Sserwadda, an artist and co-coordinator of events like BlackEXPO, was nominated in five categories, an honor that he described as "humbling." He adds that the awards are crucial because they showcase "the beauty and culture of Mama Africa! I am proud to be part of this event and am encouraged to aim higher in the fields of Visual Arts and Creative Directing."

"This is a pivotal time in the culture and a great chance to highlight Africa and the talented people that come from her," Sserwadda adds.

Such sentiments were shared by Mikka Kabugo, a Ugandan student at Peking University who heads the campus' African Students Association (PUASA) and was nominated in the Pride of Africa Awards' Community Champion category. He said the nod "makes one feel celebrated and recognized. Any child of my generation will tell you how much excitement the mere prospect of that can garner."

Kabugo also says the awards are important because they highlight "the work of different people who would otherwise have gone unnoticed. I think one's growth in their work is definitely upgraded in that respect [through prizes and nominations]."

The Beijinger, meanwhile, has been nominated in the Outstanding Achievement In Media category alongside top media insiders like Daniel Mmereki (Botswana) and Nina Solange (Togo), along with Opopo Magazine (or One People One Purpose, a Beijing-based publication whose mission statement is "uplift and empower Blacks everywhere"; find them on WeChat at gh_187a43139332) and Thrive Beijing (which bills itself as "an open market for international musicians").

TBJ garnered its nomination in part because of its coverage of Africa-empowering events like Africa 2.0's "Being Black In China" seminar, the aforementioned BlackEXPO that Sserwadda helped coordinate, along with Beijing-based Africans' efforts to nix a racially charged exhibit in Wuhan this past fall. That being said, it's no secret that we're up against considerable competition from the other forward-thinking and ambitious nominees in this category, people and organizations who will only challenge us to up our coverage in future.

The awards ceremony will be held at the Beijing Marriot Hotel North East on Jun 16. To vote for your favorite nominees, scan the QR code in the poster below:

Images courtesy of the Pride of Africa Awards

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China’s Peak Travel High-Speed Train Ticket Prices to Increase Nearly 50%

The difference between taking a plane and taking a train in China has just about disappeared: The cost of high-speed train tickets are set to fluctuate widely this year as China's railway fully embraces the open market.

China's railway ministry said it will begin following a new pricing scheme on Apr 28 that will provide off-peak travel discounts while simultaneously introducing price hikes of nearly 50 percent on the same route within days of each other.

Effective until the end of the year, the new plan will see 28 inter-city routes begin offering ticket discounts of 20 percent during weekdays and non-holiday periods.

At the same time, train ticket prices will rise exorbitantly during peak travel periods.

During the upcoming Labor Day long weekend, the price of a soft sleeper ticket on the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed corridor will increase to RMB 860 on Apr 28, whereas the same ticket will cost RMB 740 the next day and fall further still to RMB 560 on Apr 30.

At present, a ticket for a soft sleeper berth on the Beijing-Shanghai D312 costs RMB 650 during the week and RMB 740 on the weekends.

The new pricing scheme will not affect all train tickets; non-sleeper train seats are not expected to change in price.

Beijing Transportation University deputy professor Ma Minshu lauded the price fluctuations, saying that the "public at large will benefit." Ma said the fluctuating prices will encourage people to travel during off-peak seasons, thereby allowing vacancies for those who need it.

Meanwhile, CCTV television broadcaster Voice of China reminded its readers that some people fully expect China's railway to uphold a sense of "public welfare" and reduce prices to ensure publicly accessible travel.

Vacations in China normally occur during the country's few holiday seasons during which travel and tourism peak overnight.

China introduced fluctuating train ticket prices in 2015, allowing for an airline-style marketplace that changed according to consumer supply and demand. 

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Twitter: @Sinopath

Photo: Jia 360

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Relax in the Hutongs With a Blissful Cup of Irish Coffee From Wild Child Coffee

Having opened three months ago, Wild Child Coffee in the Dongcheng hutongs thankfully missed the unending mess that was the Great Brickening, delivering us an experience more akin to a hint of spring among the ruins of its surrounding neighborhood.

That's because the founder of Wild Child Coffee got his start as a barista's apprentice, gradually working his way up over 10 years to become the owner of his own small coffee shop in the hutongs.

Walking into the cozy, wood and concrete venue, you'll feel like you're entering a friend’s home, with neat furnishings and friendly staff making Wild Child a strong contender for your go-to daily spot for joe.

Posters of movie stars like the late Leslie Cheung and a playlist of Cantonese pop demonstrate the owner’s obsession with '80s Hong Kong culture, whereas the minimalist menu is written in Chinese and English and features coffees that range from RMB 25-30, with hand-poured coffees costing the most at RMB 35. Though a little pricier than what we're used to at our local chain, Wild Child Coffee makes up for the extra price with some exquisite and delicate foam work added to each cup.

In need of something with a little extra kick, we opted for the zhongdu huanzhe (RMB 38, pictured above), literally "severe patient", a modified version of Irish coffee in that it switches cream in for a small cup of milk, giving it a richer and rounder feel that allowed the coffee notes and boozy aroma to shine. The cup came with a wallop of bitterness and a nicely balanced rich roasted flavor, thanks to the coffee beans having been hand-roasted by the owner.

Since they were out of tiramisu at the time, we opted for a slice of chocolate cheesecake (RMB 38) instead to accompany our afternoon treat. The cake did not disappoint as a suitable alternative thanks to its light mousse-like texture and a sprinkling of milk powder.

Overall, Wild Child Coffee presents those nearby with a relaxing hangout with just enough noise seeping in from the outside – a reminder of the vivid and frenetic nature of life in the hutongs – and represents another venue that is helping Beijing's beloved alleyways return to form.

Wild Child Coffee
Daily 10am-10pm. 28 Xiguan Hutong, Dongcheng District (158 1130 2699)
东城区细管胡同28

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Photos: Tracy Wang

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