Check out what remains of West's 19th-century fingerhold in Beijing. The Old Legation Quarter, a walled area where foreign businesses and government offices were once housed, was heavily vandalized during the Cultural Revolution and altered again during the '80s boom. That said, a surprising number of early-20th-century European structures can still be found here.
The Old Legation Quarter
This walk begins on Dong Jiao Min Xiang. It can easily be reached via the lobby of the Novotel Xinqiao hotel. Exit through the back door right to the street. We'll first take you down the north side of the street and then along its south side. The most prominent structure that remains of the quarter is St. Michael's Catholic Church. Built by French Vincentian priests in 1902, this Gothic church is still crowded during Mass every Sunday.
The red building opposite the church started out as the Belgian Embassy and later became the Burmese (now Myanmar) Embassy following Burma's liberation.
On the north side of the street at No. 15 is the former location of the French Legation. The former Cambodian leader Prince Sihanouk stayed here during his many visits to China. The old French Post Office is now a Sichuan restaurant. Hongdu Tailors (No. 28) was once tailor to the top Communist officials who came here to have their revolutionary Mao jackets custom-made.
At the northeast corner of Zhengyi Lu, the former Rue Meiji, is a grand-looking building that was once the Yokohama Specie Bank; peek in for a look at the early-20th-century interior and ceilings. The pleasant patch of greenery you see running down the center of Zhengyi Lu was created in 1925, when the old rice-transport canal was filled in with earth. Continue west on Dong Jiao Min Xiang. In the middle of the next block on your right are the gleaming headquarters of China's Supreme People's Court (27 Dong Jiao Min Xiang), which sits on the site of the former Russian Legation. A gate remains here from the original Russian complex.
Walking up the south side of the street, you'll see a building with thick Roman columns; this was first the Russia Asiatic Bank, and afterwards the National City Bank of New York—the fading letters NCB can still be seen in a concrete shield at the top of the building. This is now the Beijing Police Museum. Down a bit farther on the north side of the street, just before Tiananmen Square, is the old French Hospital. Opposite the hospital is the former American Legation (this is the last complex just before the steps leading to Tiananmen Square). It was rebuilt in 1901 after being destroyed by the Boxers. More than a century later, it has become home to some particularly high-end restaurants and retail spaces.
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