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.
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…
Putting these elements altogether in one site and discovering it unexpectedly in Changchun is going to make Burbex a very happy camper.
North East China is better known as the rust-belt of China, rusting factories and failed malls, but Burbex knows a few oases of green in his Chinese birthplace Changchun, namely the forest surrounding Jingyue Reservoir.
The reservoir is massive and attracts tonnes of tourists, each coughing up thirty yuan to enter the National Forest Park. Burbex hadn’t been there for more than ten years, but he still remembered the hole in the fence where entry was free of charge.
Once in the park, Burbex made a beeline to the edge of the lake, and searched for the tumbledown fairytale huts hidden in the forest where he’d sunbathed butt naked a decade before.
Unfortunately the huts and his memories had been absorbed into the forest floor, so he went looking for new secrets. After hiking about twenty kilometres around the reservoir with it’s million and one twists and turns. Burbex found what he didn’t even know he was looking for, an abandoned ski slope, ski lift, and ski lodge hidden in the forest.
At the base of the ski slope, stood the old building where broken ski mobiles, and ski equipment had been left forgotten. It also served as a storage area for some of the equipment from the new ski slope right next door to it.
A sign indicated that the ski-mobiles cost 200RMB for a 15 minute ride. Burbex didn’t think these broken down ski cats were going to be kicking up snow again any time soon.
Hundreds of pairs of skis lined the walls from the Russian ski competition which had been held there the previous year, but the condition of these skis were going downhill fast.
Everything in the building at the bottom of the slope was either breaking, about to break, or broken. Burbex has a mortal fear of breaking bones, and so made a hasty retreat.
Getting outside again, Burbex started to tramp up the extremely soggy ski slope, his already soaked trainers sinking into the soaked grass.
He even climbed a few pylons for a better view. When an iron rung snapped off under his foot, Burbex thought it better to get back to the soggy ground.
Each of the seats hung from the ski lift like overripe rusting fruit. Strangely, each was covered in a thick layer of grease, which Burbex suspected protected them from the harsh North Eastern winter.
Eventually tramping right to the top of the slope, Burbex found the Austrian-made Doppelmayr mechanism for the ski lift. Burbex tried to climb in through the bottom of the mechanism, but he fell and ended up covered in more grease than an Austrian sausage.
Still, Burbex was rewarded by a fantastic view of the reservoir from the top of the ski slope. The next step though, was to find the upper ski lodge.
Looking like a set out of a James Bond movie, the ski lodge was hidden in the thickest part of theforest. It’s deep red paint was flaking and peeling, but the design of the building was very appealing.
Red and white staircases curved round the building to the upper floors. Burbex was determined to get into this building, but it was locked down tight.
There were no open windows, no unlocked doors. Even when Burbex climbed on the roof, he found ever entry point locked down hard. Burbex doesn’t like giving up though.
Using a banner he’d found in the forest which read DON’T SMOKE IN THE WOODS, Burbex fashioned a rope, tied it to a rock and threw it up onto a balcony. Straining and pulling, Burbex pulled himself to the top, but then…
…disaster. The railing on the balcony broke, and Burbex was left treading on air, like Wylie Coyote in those Loony Toons cartoons where he hasn’t realised he’s fallen off a cliff.
At this point, his muscles aching and feeling defeated, Burbex called it a day and marched off home through the forest, vowing he would be back to defeat the beast. You can check out that diasterous tale in the video below:
By the way, if you want to come along with Burbex on a trip, be sure to drop him a line at email@example.com. If you are thinking about coming to Jingyue Park, be sure to bring rain boots and and a beekeeps mask.
Also be sure to follow Burbex at all your favourite social media sites.
Lucky scavengers will take in some of Beijing’s most unique spots, as you pit their wits against two of Burbex’s most challenging locations. Scavengers need to bring a fully charged smart phone, and suit up in durable clothes that cover the legs.
Scavengers will meet at Anheqiao Station at the end of subway line 4 at 10:30am, where they will be met by Burbex and given their instructions.
The Scavenger Hunt will begin on Saturday, May 6 at 11am and will last 2 to 3 hours.
Only 8 spots are available, at $35 per ticket. More spaces may open up if there is a lot of demand.
NOTE FOR ATTENDEES
Attendees need to be reasonably fit; able to climb a small fence and run around.
Attendees should wear dark clothes—hoodies are ideal. Clothes should not have too many straps or loose cords.
Attendees need to bring a smart phone with 3G/4G. A camera is also recommended, but nothing too heavy.
Check out the full lineup of amazing adventures taking place all around the world on Obscura Day, our annual celebration of discovery!
Use the #obscuraday hashtag on your favorite social media platforms to show us how you’re celebrating. We’ll be featuring your posts on our own platforms all day, and you could even win some Atlas Obscura prizes.
But when it comes to symbols of the Olympics, you really can’t get any better than the Olympic Torch itself. Burbex had seen this torch many times taking taxis around the fourth ring-road. Trapped on an enclosed grass verge between a canal and the highway, it took Burbex a long time to figure out how to get to the torch.
Taking a back road under a nearby train track where various ruined vehicles had reached the end of useful lives, Burbex found a small path that led up to the torch gently reflecting the evening light. Workers were coming up the dusty track on their three-wheel scooters, too busy thinking about their evening noodles to notice Burbex sneaking up the Olympic Torch.
After gently making his way through the fence, Burbex climbed up to the concrete base, and got ready to climb the twenty five metres to the top. Within the torch itself there are two ladders that at first lean outwards, which left Burbex hanging in mid-air for half of the climb. Burbex could not possibly comment on who those bolt croppers in the photo belong to.
After reaching the half way point, the ladders lean outwards making the climb much more enjoyable. The problem Burbex experienced was that the top of the right hand ladder was blocked by the solar panels on top of the torch, so climbing half way down, he jumped over to the other ladder, and made his way to the top from there.
Burbex had to squeeze through one of the holes at the top and then leaned over the edge with a selfie stick to get pictures of the interior of the torch and the cars passing in the rush hour on the busy fourth ring road near Wangjing Soho.
Burbex could not tell whether it was: a) the climb up b) his fear of heights, or c) the freezing wind, that was causing his legs to tremble at the top of that ladder. In retrospect, it was probably all three. Not entirely sure how these crazy urbexers do acrobatics on rooftops, Burbex always recommends other explorers to take it safe and slow.
Burbex took a peep through one of the holes in the sheet metal an spied on the passing cars wondering how many of the drivers ever looked up from the road and noticed this Olympic memory. Probably none.
Down the narrow lanes surrounding the fourth ring road, electric scooters ride home with two, three, or even four passengers headed for their surburban hovels. The Olympics was not even a daydream for those in such a deep sleep.
In closing, Burbex feels a little sad about the Olympic Torch, solar powered with so much wasted potential, and now left to rot. Still with an exciting climb and great views, it’s an easy grade A. By the way, if you are feeling full of the Olympic spirit and want to reach for the sky, just send Burbex an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also be sure to follow Burbex at all your favourite social media sites.
What does it mean to feel nostalgic about an abandoned place?
It has been almost two years since Burbex posted one of his first explorations, Floating Dragon Lake Amusement Park. As one of his favorites sites, he feels a kind of nostalgia about the place. Burbex never visited the place when it was open, but a few Chinese friends have mentioned they loved it when they were children.
Nostalgia is all about the past though and Burbex is keen to move into new and exciting projects. Burbex is now proud to present the new Burbex Youtube Channel, whose first episode features a return to Floating Dragon Lake Amusement Park climbing up the park’s iconic Ferris Wheel. You can open the video above.
Burbex first explores the super spooky ghost house, the aquarium, the duck boat yards, the planetarium, and then finally moves through to climb one of the arms of the sixty-four metre tall Ferris Wheel. Fans who have been visiting the website for a while will know that Burbex is not so great with heights.
For die hard fans of the website, don’t worry, Burbex is still going to be out there sneaking into places and stealing shots of the best urbex sites that Beijing has to offer. In the meantime, be sure to hit subscribe at the following link so that you can keep up to date with all the newest videos:
Burbex wants to thank everyone for the fantastic support over the last two years, and he hopes that with your further help and encouragement, Burbex can keep on making strides in urban exploration. Be sure to check out the original report below, and Burbex can’t wait to see your comments and suggestions.
But most of all… they have to have lots and lots of GUTS!
Beijing is an unusual place when it comes to Burbex, the main reason for this is that it is sadly lacking in historical buildings to explore. Apart from Chaoyang 81 and the Nationalist Hotel, which have both been renovated and had their ghostly residents evicted, historical buildings are thin on the ground in Beijing. That is what makes the Catholic School such a pleasure to explore.
The Catholic School came to Burbex’s attention a few years ago, exploring the attics which used to be filled with junk, but it has been locked up for some time now, each of the vast rooms hosting dormitories full of itinerant workers who have left their mark on the building, re-sculpting it to their own purposes.
The attic area itself is divided into four long areas, each supported with thick redwood beams supporting gray/blue bricks which may have been there since it was constructed more than one hundred years ago. Unusually, it seems that the workers have tried to take apart a lot of the walls on the top floor, and massive stone blocks are scattered everywhere.
The other joyful think that Burbex found about the attic space is the afternoon light which just pours into the windows. Many of the large rooms on the third floor, which were likely school dormitories and altars must have been bathed in sunshine when the original inhabitants lived here.
On the ground floor, half hidden in the dark, are rooms full of junk, possibly from when the school was used as a hospital. There are suitcases full of old shoes and clothes. There was also a lot of old computer equipment, which always brings a smile to Burbex’s face. Additonally, there was a huge collection of cassette tapes for everyone’s favourite <Boyzone>, who were of course hugely popular in China.
On the ground floor, everything is locked up tight, and the junk collects dust quietly in the dark. Judith, Burbex’s companion on this trip, was pleased with the number of “mise en scene” shots that we could achieve in the dark, like this little cherub…
…and this fake tree growing indoors…
…and an abandoned army cap…
which all seem to mix up the history of the catholic school even more. Even more confusing is that the school seemed to have acted as a hospital at some point with abandoned hospital equipment and rooms left behind in the dark. This sign below is for the night surgery department.
The building started to get strange and a little scary when Burbex and Judith found a hole outside which led into a semi-collapsed cellar with many stony rooms leading off to each side. Down here everything is pitch black, and even the echoes die in the dead cool air.
It is hard to decide what purpose many of these underground rooms served, but Burbex deduced that the one below was a ice room for storing food and drinks. It probably would’ve been insulated with tiles originally, but none of them remain. Burbex found that it was significantly colder in this chamber than the other.
The other rooms probably would’ve been for storing coal, as many of them have chutes which lead in from the front of the building. These are room whose walls seem to seep with moisture and other weird ectoplasm that Judith was reluctant to examine.
The first time Burbex came down here with Judith was a few months ago. Judith screamed in the dark, and Burbex ran to find her in the room that was by far the weirdest and most gruesome of them all. Burbex affectionately calls this The Organ Room.
WARNING: THE REST OF THIS POST CONTAINS IMAGES THAT VIEWERS MIGHT FIND DISTURBING.
In this solitary chamber Burbex found three jars each containing a complete set of human organs. One of the jars had cracked open, and the organs inside had turned to a bloody mush, but the other jars contained perfectly preserved sets of organs, some bagged and other tagged.
To Judith’s disgust, Burbex could not resist taking the lid off one of the jars. The smell of formaldehyde filled the room, and Judith retreated to the doorway.
A closer look reveals a brain on the left and possible a set of intestines on the right. This gruesome find was highly unusual given that these organs were the only items left in the whole of the basement area. Perhaps the workers who cleared the building were too superstitious to move them.
Burbex and Judith were happy to make their way out of The Organ Room and into the sunshine again, but leaving The Catholic School, they both got the sense that they had left a little part of themselves down there in that dark basement.
In summary, this is not the first time Burbex has seen organs at a site, Tianjin Chest Hospital offered a strong looking pair of lungs, and when it comes to darkness Longyan International Park cannot be beaten. However The Catholic School’s combination of attic space, abandoned cellars and abandoned guts makes it an unforgettable experience earning it a solid GRADE A-.
Of course, if you have any suggestions for places to explore, or would like to come out with Burbex some time, please drop a line to email@example.com. If you are coming along to The Catholic School you had better bring along a crucifix and a pair of latex gloves.
Burbex travels a lot for work. While tourists may look at the picturesque landscape out of the window of the train, or get excited about temples and ancient buildings, Burbex is always keeping his eyes peeled for signs of abandonment and decrepitude.
Of course, like most urban explorers, hospitals are always a Burbex favourite like The PLA Hospital in the hills, and The Catholic School cum hospital. Staying in a boring Japanese hotel chain in downtown Tianjin, Burbex didn’t have to look far for one of his favourite treats.
Burbex noticed a sign for an abandoned mortuary. What’s more, a mattress was propped up sideways against the gate making for an extremely easy entry. What Burbex did not expect was to find an enormous hospital complex, better known as Tianjin Chest Hospital.
Entering through in through the side of the mortuary, a large radiation sign warned that machine ghosts were hiding in the pitch black rooms. Burbex only had the flash on his i-phone for light, and shivers crept down his spine.
The only thing missing in these rooms were the surgeons and patients, blood spilling from surgical cuts. Huge surgical lights hang from the ceiling their many translucent eyes searching in the dark. Burbex was glad they were not looking for him.
The hospital itself is divided into a three pointed star with each of the wings stretching out with spacious wards and tonnes of empty surgery rooms. Burbex was wondering how many people had died in this hospital as he explored. The picture below shows Surgery Room No. 5 – makes you wonder how many surgery rooms there are in this huge hospital.
Inside the surgery rooms the beds and equipment still remain. Burbex found a box of surgical clamps in a dusty corner of the room. George Cloony in the TV show ER yelling “clamp” immediately. How do you say “clamp” in Chinese anyway?
As dusk was falling over the hospital, Burbex had to move fast to get his shots. The corridors stretch on and on and getting lost in this medical labyrinth is inevitable. In darkened corners are lost rooms and dispensaries. Burbex searched for the door to this dispensary for five minutes but couldn’t find it. Did they climb through the window he wondered.
The hospital is unusual for a Chinese urbex site, and mostly everything of any value will have been stolen or ripped out of the walls. Here there were machines, mementos, and objects left laying around as if someone had just stepped out of the room.
Also of great interest were the bilingual posters around the hospital, probably sent from drugs companies discussing the dangers of asthma…
…and infarction (whatever that means)
Also Burbex discovered nurses’ rooms and doctors’ offices full of leftover objects. It made Burbex realise that maybe he was a bit bored with all the abandoned industrial projects in Beijing. The objects here gave much more charm to the exploration.
Additionally, climbing out of the main building’s window, crossing over the roof of the walkway, and onto the roof of the pathology building, Burbex encountered a room full of medical files packed closely together and bound together with blood red string.
But the best was yet to come. After spending half an hour “influencing” a certain door to open, Burbex found his way into the Pathology Department, where the best find of all was found… yes, it seems to be a dissected lung.
In the green room in the Pathology Department, Burbex did not need to operate on the cupboards to find out their secrets, they had already spilled their guts for all to see.
The Blood Test Lab had also been stripped of anything of value, probably its parts all having been donated to other hospitals. Interestingly, blood red lanterns hung from the ceiling gently swaying as Burbex opened the door.
Things get even stranger though, as most of the walls in the hospital have phone numbers for nurses scrawled in marker. Burbex wondered who these “ghost nurses” were. He didn’t dare call one just in case….
…it was one of the ghost nurses from Silent Hill.
Still, the only victim/patient that Burbex found on that dusty Thursday evening after work, was a burnt out car parked outside the hospital and left to rot.
Burbex is a huge fan of abandoned hospitals, and the very spookiness, vastness, darkness, and amount of mementos that are left behind means that Burbex is awarding Tianjin Chest Hospital the highest possible score – GRADE A*
“It’s ironic that sometimes the very security features designed to keep people out, are the features I use to get in.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ad then on the inside, an internal gate with a massive warning not to smoke inside the studios.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Plus there is a very professional makeup department…
Could you really ask for more? Oh yeah! 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.
Sometimes you get the feeling that the only urbex sites in Beijing are huge industrial sites like Jiaohua and Capital Steel, or projects that have been abandoned halfway and left to rot like Guoson Mall and Sunshine Park. Sometimes what the Beijing urbexer needs is a little bit of nostalgia to add to the diet of rebar and concrete. That’s where Beijing Film Academy steps in.
In Beijing one of the characters that the urbexer is always looking for is 拆 which means to cut down or demolish. This character is often painted on buildings slated for demolition. The buildings may remain for years without anything happening. You can see the character painted on both sides of the back lot gate in the picture below.
Once over the wall and safely in the lot, there is the feeling of a one-horse cowboy movie, you’re always expecting a Chinese John Wayne to stride through the Chinese-style gate and challenge some dupe to a shootout at midday.
The only heroes here are the dogs who will follow you everywhere around the site. They are a strange breed of mutt specially designed to make as much noise as possible, while at the same time attracting nobody’s attention.
Hidden in the back lots are props of warriors and buddhas left over from older productions. There is a strong sense of China’s histories overlapping and blending on the lots which is probably not that far from reality.
Some areas of the lot are burned down or have fallen into serious disrepair. Alleyways lead from more modern hutong scenes into ancient China.
China’s own Last Chance Saloon contains tonnes of props and relics from the height of the movie age.
Climbing up to the roof of the studio, you can get a great overview of the entire site. Be very careful though, the concrete balcony is crumbling and it is three floors down.
You don’t really realise the scale of the site until you get up on top. The main studio is all locked up. That calls for another midnight trip.
The site combines Western and Eastern styles, probably as was seen in Shanghai in the nineteenth and twentieth century.
Huge lot doors are overgrown with tumbleweeds and thick Beijing dust chokes the air.
In a hidden garden Laughing Buddha overlooks an army of plaster soldiers and demi-gods.
There are myriad doors and gates to get lost in, and the whole place has a strong sense of the film Labyrinth with its grey bricks and twisting turns.
With all this in mind, Beijing Film Academy is a perfect slice of nostalgia from a mixture of Chinese eras that never existed. It confuses the senses, and as the sun sets you are left feeling even more confused.
For these reason Burbex awards Beijing Film Academy with a B+ grade. If you would like to come along and see the site for yourself, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.