After having a gander of both the 798 Art Zone, Beijing and Tianzi Fang, Shanghai; it is tempting to draw some significant comparisons. For a more rounded understanding on where I am coming from with this article, I also recommend you to read my previous blog entitled ‘The Inspirational 798’. Compared the potential taxi journey to 798; Tianzi Fang is far more accessible by being situated in a prime location, near Dapu Bridge Station, Line 9 on the subway (or ‘metro’ if you travel to Shanghai). Tianzi Fang is also a particular tourist-haven, so for some extra breathing space, best to go to in weekday mornings. The convenient location of Tianzi Fang especially means it is walking distance from many Shanghai hotels such as the Rayfont Hotel.

The atypical layout of both of the places makes for an interesting first point. Tianzi Fang, for one, initially spread from narrow alleys with a distinct Shikumen architectural style (this style is a mixture of Eastern and Western influences with stone archways being at the forefront of the design). In contrast to this, 798 was a straightforward industrial conversion with wide-open spaces to roam the different exhibits. Thus, unlike Tianzi Fang, there is no need to worry in respect to crowds with the 798 Art Zone.

From the outset, these places encompass their own unique qualities, but the most important point of reference is that both places have a bohemian component. Chinese and international entrepreneurs alike have been attracted to the areas because of this factor. However, if you want a more international vibe, then Tianzi Fang is the better choice over 798. Sure, 798 does offer the odd Italian café, but all in all, Tianzi Fang provides a range of international flavours with such as Italian, Japanese, American, Thai food etc., being commonplace. To name a few western places all with their own quirky international themes, there is; Nuzi, Bohemia Café and the Kommune.

Entering 798 definitely feels more specific towards the avant-garde art theme. Tianzi Fang, on the other hand, allows you to explore an assortment of boutiques spanning art exhibits, tea shops and knick-knacks from touristy outlets. Local artists are prominent in 798 with the art zone endorsing artists such as Huang Rui who was instrumental in promoting Chinese contemporary art. Similarly, one particular highlight of the Tianzi Fang art scene is the Ren Weiyin Art Gallery. This gallery hosts the impressionism works of Ren Weiyin (1918-1994) with portrays images of 1960-70s Shanghai. The popularity of the arts is evident in both cities with the recent growth of 798 and Tianzi Fang. In sum, whether you decide to book Beijing or Shanghai flights, spare a thought for the artistic side of each city.


Jack Li

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