Category Archives: Communist

Station 51 – Beijing – Grade B-

“What? He got deported.” The glass of Black Silk from Legend aimed at my mouth gets lost along the way. “Well, you know they take security pretty seriously down there you know. They don’t want Johnny Foreigner poking around.” The stout half-soused Scotsman points a finger. “Make sure you stay away from (garbled speech)!” He shifts on his stool. “I gotta piss.” As he stumbles away I grab the Sharpie from my pocket and write on the back of my hand.

I wake up head pounding. Black Silk lives up to its name on the way down, but it’s like sandpaper on the brain the next day. I roll over and notice I’ve made a note on my hand. STATION 51. I crumble out of bed and open my laptop. After an hour of ragged research on Baidu, I find a 1980s map of the Beijing subway. Something doesn’t look right, Pingguoyuan, the current terminal stop for line one, has two extra stations beyond it, stations 51 and 52.

After lining up the old map with current maps, I find two stations up in the hills on either side of a small mountain. The only clue as to their location is the canal leading up the mountainside. My hangover makes a sudden departure. I dress quickly and run for the door.

Two hours later, I’m halfway up a mountain exploring the structure of a massive canal lock. It’s beautiful in its ugliness. From the top, I can see a patch of wasteground – a likely spot for an abandoned subway station. Climbing down I go onto a dusty track where a sign warns foreigners to turn away. I’m in too deep now. I step onto the wasteland, and there, like familiar friends in an unfamiliar place, are three subway entrances.

Granted, they’re not all shiny and new, but they’re radiating 1970s Communism. Two of them are bricked up, but the third has a rusting blue door. There’s something down there and I want to get in. I pull as hard as I can on the door handle, but it doesn’t budge. Where’s a crowbar when I need one? I look down to my left, a dead dog stares at me blankly from wilted grass. This isn’t going to work. I’ll have to come back another day. What about Station 52?

I go deeper into no man’s land and suddenly come across train tracks going through a tiny village, dried maize piled up on doorsteps. Stray dogs run up and down the street barking. I follow the tracks. There it is! You can’t not notice it. It’s a huge tunnel at the base of a mountain. The other thing you can’t help but notice is the massive military complex surrounding the opening of the tunnel – Red Army trains and carriages on the tracks. The word “deportation” forms in a thought bubble above my head. By the time it has popped, my legs have carried me back to the safety of Legend. “You still here?” The Scotsman sounds surprised. “I wasn’t expecting to see you again.”

If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out the latest episode of Burbex on YouTube, where Brin explores an abandoned at school and discovers some newspapers from 1976 whose history has been erased over the last forty years.

FEELING GASSY – TIANBAO GAS WORKS – GRADE B-

If China was a human body and all the cities were organs, we could imagine that Beijing up at the top would be the brain, Shanghai would be the heart, which would probably make Kunming the reproductive organs. Where does Tieling in Liaoning fit into this metaphor?

It doesn’t! The dusty cancerous spleen was removed long ago, and it sits in a sealed jar of formaldehyde where it can be studied closely.

You know that Burbex is always on the look out for missing organs though, like when he found hearts and brains at the abandoned Catholic School. Tieling is a strange place, home to Zhao Benshan, one of China’s most famous comedians.

Additionally, it also has the worst economy of any city in the North East China rustbelt, and one of the highest divorce rates in the whole country. With those things in mind, Burbex was sure he was going to find some great abandoned buildings. Tieling did not disappoint.

The old Tianbao Gas Works has been locked up for decades. The walls outside are graffitied with accusations of corruption and government waste. Two armless manikins stand guard at the gates, their asbestos bones rattling in the dusty wind. This site is massive. Building after building of factory space.

Old office buildings have had their walls beaten and stripped of copper wires and anything of value, and the windows have been shattered by the pounding North East wind.

Everything is coated in the distinctive layer of North East dust,  a combination of industrial pollution and dust which piles in every year from as far away as the Gobi Desert and Mongolia.

There are some signs of comfort within the thrashed form of the gas works. Why not take a seat in this comfortable blue sofa. Don’t get too comfortable though, as the dust may swallow you whole.

It’s hard to believe that little more than two decades ago, Chinese government workers were still using these five inch floppy discs. It’s unlikely anyone born after 1999 even knows what these are.

Oddly, for all its pollution and sense of foreboding doom, the site is surprisingly verdant. Ivy which has evolved to feed off the soil pollution clings tight to the buildings.

Random city dwellers without any land of their own, sneak into the complex and plant their guerilla gardens, and later consume the mutated sunflower seeds and pumpkins.

All in all, Tian Bao Gas Works is one of the bleakest sites Burbex has ever visited, but it is a keen reminder of how life will try to hold on in even the most messed up of places, which is why it is being awarded a B- grade.

By the way, if you liked this post, why not subscribe to Burbex – Brin’s Urban Exploration on YouTube and check out the other great videos about Tieling, like this haunted hotel…

Or this abandoned Muslim Graveyard…

 

HIDDEN IN THE HILLS – PLA HOSPITAL – GRADE A

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CHINA FILM GROUP STUDIOS – BEIJING FILM ACADEMY – GRADE A-

“It’s ironic that sometimes the very security features designed to keep people out, are the features I use to get in.”

Studios From Above

In Beijing security is often just an illusion. The city may have the world’s most CCTV cameras, but is anybody watching them? Huge rusted locks snap open with enough pull, and the bars on the windows are great ladders up onto the roofs of buildings, which is exactly how Burbex got into Beijing’s legendary film sudios.

China Film Group

Fans may recall that in March Burbex posted pictures of Beijing’s historic film studios. You can check those at this link The Back Lot at Beijing Film Academy. Burbex was very pleased to receive a lot of emails about that post asking how to get in, but a little bit sad that mostly people got caught and kicked out by the lazy janitors. Burbex decided to pay another visit to the site, and even better managed to get into the main studios.

Studio No. 5

Beijing Film Corporation has been running since after the revolution in 1949, and has been renowned for pumping out streams of Communist propaganda movies, as well as the more recent <Kung Fu Kid> (also known as <The Karate Kid> in the USA) starring Jackie Chan and Will Smith’s son, Jaden.

The main gate is huge and green, with the blazing red logo painted on the front. That didn’t put off Burbex as he climbed the window bars to the flatroof avoiding the glances of the gang of stray dogs that live in the area.

Green Gate

Jumping down from the flatroof and into the main courtyard of the studios, you notice that there is one huge studio on the right and a labyrinth of three studios on the left. Below you can see the gates to the huge right-hand studio.

Comrades Gate

Inside the studio it is black as pitch, but Burbex brought along his new LED flash and lit up the whole space. In each corner, steps zig-zag up to the heavens, and even onto the roof of the studio. That was a bit too high even for Burbex.

Zig Zag Staircase

Burbex decided to leave that for another day, and went back to the central courtyard to explore the smaller studios, which lay through another massive green gate.

Green Doors

Ad then on the inside, an internal gate with a massive warning not to smoke inside the studios.

Smoking Studio

Climbing the zigzag stairs in this studio, Burbex was glad that he had brought his mask, as the walls of the studio were lined with crumbling asbestos to fireproof the room. Once in the heavens though, there was a treat to be found.

Cake Walk

Rows and rows of walkways hang high above the ground. The wooden boards are rotting and creaking, and the asbestos ceiling is falling in. With hands gripped tightly in the half darkness, Burbex made a run to the other side. Securely on the other side, peering down into the darkness you start to realise the scale of the studio.

View from Above

These smaller studios are all connected, and the walkways lead from studio two right through to studio five at the end of the building. Between the studios are huge blast doors and rotting pipes.

Electric Blast

Coming out of Studio Five, you enter into the the makeup department of the studios, which is definitely the most fun to be had here.

Makeup Department

Each room has all kinds of weird objects and equipment left over from the movie business. Especially in the special effects and prosthetic department. There are Plaster of Paris heads everywhere.

Head and Wig

Plus there is a very professional makeup department…

Professional Makeup

Gimp masks…

The Gimp is Sleeping

Monkey Kings…

Monkey King

Could you really ask for more? Oh yeah! Uncle Fester’s head!

Uncle Fester's Head

After all that excitement in that steaming hot studio, it was time for Burbex to leave the way he came into through the lucky green doors. He of course left it unbolted so that next time he doesn’t have to climb onto the roof again.

Lucky Doors

By the way, if you liked this, then be sure to check out the previous post about The Back Lot at Beijing Film Academy which is just next door, and also check out the whole set here on Flickr. Of course, if you want to come along to any other kitschy leisure sites like Floating Dragon Amusement Park or The Great Mall of China, be sure to send Burbex an email at burbex@outlook.com.