Everyone knows that when it comes to urban exploration, Burbex is a junkie, not one of those junkies that climbs on top of high rooftops and cranes for that electric meth buzz, more like an opium junkie that searches for a quiet corner to curl up in and hide from the world whilst chasing the dragon.
Burbex has trouble with living in North East China, the pace of life and the noise is just too much sometimes, and when he found this abandoned Steel Works on the edge of the city, he knew he had found his new opium den.
A myriad of spires pierce the gray sky from within the complex. Whereas others might follow such spires in search of cathedrals where they bow down and prostrate themselves before God, Burbex follows the spires in search of quietude, and this place does not disappoint.
The complex itself is unusual in a number of ways, diagonal bridges and vertical chimnies dissect the landscape, but between the dissected spaces lay little reminders of the traditional, little humanities that show this place was once inhabited by tens of thousands of workers.
Dormitories overlap with massive furnaces, kindergartens and basketball courts with the huge smelting domes. In this place there is no divide between the industial and the human, it is a defunct automaton from another age.
Yet like the promise of opiates, which are at the same time comforting and threatening, there also is a strong sense of danger in the complex, the souls of long passed workers, shaking and banging the corrugated steel walls in warning ESCAPE BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE.
The Tower at the entrance to the smelting blocks stands dark and defiant, a monolith to a defunct religion. Burbex carefully climbed to the top to survey the whole site, each rusted stair a step of pilragmmage to the still faithful.
Coming to the end of his urbex opium high, Burbex felt comfortable in his own skin again and ready to face the world, such as it is, with a steely face and an iron constitution.
By the way, if liked this post, why not check out the video exploration above and subscribe for more videos from Burbex – Brin’s Urban Exploration every week.
Beijing Steel Works is a rare beast in the Urbex world. The site is in an almost vacuum state where it feels like all the workers just put down their tools one day and left. The machines have been left as if one turn someone will turn on the plant again.
The site is huge with more rust and corrupted cranes, pulleys, and conveyor belts that you could see in a week. The crane-like structures that you can see in the pictures apparently shifted unrefined steel to conveyor belts which stretch across the complex.
The site is massive in scale and is punctuated by enormous machines, with pipes and cooling units galore. The urbex explorer must be very careful here as the overhead structures creak in the wind and bits regularly fall off.
These metal dragons seemed to be used to scoop out the unrefined steel and shift it up onto the conveyor belts. They have big blunt teeth, and ugly faces.
Train tracks also criss-cross the plant, there are plenty of abandoned trains, carriages, and miniature train stations to be found. Jump over the outer wall, avoid the security guards, follow the train tracks and in whichever direction you travel, you’ll find some Urbex treasures.
This is a huge site, so be sure to take your time. Once you visit this place once, you’ll be addicted. If you ever want to pay a visit, just contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll show you around. Also be sure to check out Burbex – Brin’s Urban Exploration on YouTube for great new videos every week.
I’m always looking around for new places to explore, but I never find them. How do you find these places anyway?
Constantly on the road scouting for new places to explore, Burbex is looking for a few key indicators that a building is empty. Once an urbexer knows a few of these indicators, the whole city lights up like a fairground. Bright Horse Furniture Mall is no exception. In this post, we’ll look at a few indicators.
The strongest indicator of abandonment is when construction seems to have come to a standstill. Guosen Mall hasn’t progressed since 2008, but Burbex has been keeping an eye on Bright Horse Mall for the last two years. Even though there was a recent delivery of new escalators, there hasn’t been any progress.
Burbex crept into the complex via the ramp at the rear of the building, which descends three levels into a flooded underground parking lots. Dark water has seeped in from beneath the cement floor, yet another strong sign of abandonment. Burbex kept expecting a drowned witch to rise up with her arms outstretched.
Disappointed at the lack of undead witches, Burbex climbed the internal fire escapes and cam out in the central atrium of the shopping mall. Escalators and elevators are everywhere, and even Burbex’s whispering footsteps echoed loudly in the huge space.
Another clue that a building is abandoned is the blue sheets that cover all machinery, keeping the piercing Beijing dust away from their internal mechanisms. The recently delivered escalators lurk like blue ghosts in the sprawling darkness.
Burbex eventually made his way up onto the rooftops, where the ambient light seeped through the vents and walkways, casting a purplish glow over the massive area. Purple stains like spilled iodine covered the rooftop, disinfecting the crumbling building’s wounded pride.
The half cylindrical dome that protects the mall from the elements glows a gentle blue, reflecting the light pollution. Outside the traffic sounds of the fourth ringroad echo all about, a keen reminder of both how close and far away civilisation still abounds.
The logo for the building reads 爱家商业大厦 or Love Home Trade Building. Burbex actually felt pretty estranged from his own family standing on a building in the near darkness trying to capture glimpses of emptiness. That specific feeling is always the strongest indicator a building is empty.
With the strong sense of abandonment and melancholia permeating Bright Horse Mall, Burbex awards the building with a solid B+. If ever you want to come along and discover your own hidden melancholia in the heart of a forgotten building, get in touch at email@example.com.
Also be sure to check out the new Burbex Beijing Urban Exploration channel on YouTube – all the same great locations as the blog but in full moving glory.
Burbex is not a big fan of fancy equipment. Anyone who has been out with him on trips before knows that he much prefers his battered and scratched iPhone 6 rather than his Sony RX100 m3, but the joy of the iPhone is it takes great pictures and videos and it just slides into your pocket.
The only drawback of the iPhone is that it doesn’t have inbuilt stabilisation like a more expensive DSLR might have. When Burbex first started his YouTube channel Burbex – Beijing Urban Exploration, he was very aware that many of the videos were much too shaky. You can see that in his first ever video below:
After a recommendation from Antoine, one of the stars of Burbex Gang on YouTube, Burbex invested in the Zhiyun Smooth C gimbal, and the effects were immediately noticeable. Whether running or jumping, the Smooth C stabilised the iPhone so that the images looked a million times more professional. You can see how it performs in the Pokemon Go! video below:
The gimbal works with all smart phones, and can even handle the iPhone 6+. It works on three axes, and has a tracking mode which locks on to your subject however much you move about, or joystick mode, where you can move your phone smoothly yourself. For Burbex, the battery life is most important.
While the instruction manual states the batteries only last 3-4 hours, Burbex found they last anywhere up to 10 hours on one full charge. The gimbal itself is light-weight, but made of durable metal. Burbex is rough with his kit, and the gimbal has taken some hard knocks with no trouble.
Burbex doesn’t often make recommendations about technology, but the Zhiyun Smooth C has made a world of difference his videos, and it comes at a very affordable price too. Plus, if you are looking to make videos with your camera, you could consider the Zhiyun Smooth Q, which can even support a DLSR.
Now that Burbex is feeling more stable, you can expect some great Burbex videos in the near future. Don’t forget to subscribe to Burbex – Beijing Urban Exploration on YouTube, and be sure to leave all your great comments and questions.
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.
Alright, Burbex is going to let you have it. One of his favourite best-kept secrets. He’s going to tell you about the PLA Hospital. It is not the first time that Burbex has found abandoned hospitals. In the Tianjin Chest Hospital, Burbex was constantly being chased by his shadow, and his echo kept whispering replies. You never get lonely in an old hospital. But this secret place was different.
This story, like many others, starts out in a pub. Supping the craft beer at The Great Leap Brewery, Burbex heard the words “huge abandoned castle” float through the smoky air towards him. Burbex’s ears dragged him to where a drunken Scotsman was slumped at the bar.
“Can I buy you a beer?” Burbex asked. “That you can, pal!” The Scotsman replied. Two beers later, the Scotsman leaned forward in a conspiratal whisper, “It’s out there in the woods, hic! A huge fuckin’ castle, in the woods. It’s haunted they say. I ne’er found the place, but maybe you’ll have more luck.”
The Scotsman gave Burbex a rough idea of where the castle was located before falling asleep sitting straight up. Burbex wrote: ABANDONED CASTLE WOODS on the back of his hand, just in case he forgot it in the morning.
Burbex spiralled around in the grey dusty forest. It was biting cold, and his usual strategy of walking around in circles until he found what he was looking for, wasn’t really working. Sometimes you must lose yourself to find what you’re looking for.
This was certainly a strange forest. The pine trees were spaced too far apart, and the echoes of a man bellowing Italian opera echoed between the trunks. Whichever way Burbex went, the opera followed him. He was just on the verge of giving up the search for the castle, when he caught a glimpse of grey brick.
Hidden in the forest was the castle. The Scotsman had exaggerated its size, but with turrets and a huge gate, it had to be the place. Burbex slid under the gate, and then contorted himself through a broken window pane.
Inside, corridors snaked into the distance, and a cold chill travelled down Burbex’s spine. Burbex made his way to the top of the building. This was his usual strategy, get to the top and then come down. That way if he was chased by dogs, guards, or Beijing ghosts, he could still take photos on the way down.
Burbex took the stairs up to a room which he would come back to again and again – The Nightingale Room. Florence looked down from a huge portrait on the wall. She looked over empty beds and resuscitation equipment.
Since that first time Burbex found The Nightingale Room, Florence has been taken down, and the room emptied, but the fine architecture of the room remains.
In cupboards, Burbex found imitation pistols, and boxes of empty chlorazopan ampules, a schizophrenia drug.
Burbex has been back here many times and brought other urbexers along too, and there is always something new to discover. On a night expedition, Burbex ate “the fruits of the forest” and could see a million tiny fairies sleeping in dewdrops at the tips of leaves on the trees. They whispered a secret to Burbex.
Burbex ran though the corridors, through The Nightingale Room and up onto the flat roof. He tore thick electrical cable from the wall and abseiled into a hidden courtyard. Burbex had found the luxury wing of the hospital.
Inside were rooms with four-poster beds, the rotting floorboards sucking them downwards. Other rooms had art rehabilitation equipment, and in the dining room, paintings of French cheese and wine blackened with mildew. Burbex ran for the roof.
The black forest hummed silently, but then the silence was broken by the opera singer hidden somewhere in the forest. In the darkness, the song was not so threatening. Burbex sat and grinned enjoying his heightened sense of perception.
Burbex does not give up his secrets easily. The ghosts at Chaoyang 81, he kept a secret for a long time, at least until the movie came out and the house was renovated. The undead inhabitants of The Nationalist Hotel were familiar with Burbex, but then they were evicted and the neighbourhood gentrified.
Burbex doesn’t have many secrets left, but if you want to find out a few places, be sure to send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to bring mushrooms enough for everyone though.
By the way, have you checked out the new video page yet? It has links to all Burbex’s latest videos both in Beijing and around the world. Plus, don’t forget to follow Burbex on all your favourite social media sites:
First of all, it should be challenging enough to keep you interested. Usually the bigger the site the better. Weird architecture, or water features are always a bonus, and if it is somehow culture related, then that’s even better. Is it possible to find sites like that these days? You bet your ass!
Burbex is a big fan of abandoned shopping malls, and The Ethnic Minorities Mall is no exception. Burbex has passed by this place a million times, but unlike The Great Mall of China and Guosen Mall, the Ethnic Minorities Mall does not really have an outstanding exterior, but you should never judge an urbex by its cover.
This Mall is actually right next to one of the stranger theme parks in Beijing called The Ethnic Minorities Theme Park featuring all 56 of China’s ethnic minortities doing their ethnic activities like hearding goats (that’s not a joke) and dancing in their own respective areas. The Mall was probably intended for greater things, but was never completed.
After a stealthy entrance, Burbex was confronted with an enormous glass covered atrium, which was fast filling up with the drizzling rain. The place was huge and some zigzag staircases led to the roof area, while incomplete staircase invited the causal urbexer to their doom.
From the rooftop area, Burbex had a good view of the Ethnic Minority Park, the large structure below is from the Uighur Minority who are found in Xinjiang Automonous Region, or intimidating passersby into buying enormous date cakes on street corners.
From inside the mall, Burbex spied on the pedestrians taking shelter from the rain. The old man below stood in the same position staring into space for at least ten minutes. Like the Mall itself, he wasn’t completely there.
Posters on the walls boasted that the centre cost one billion yuan to build…
… and that it was going to house KTV and Pawn Shops. Maybe the project would’ve been more succesful if it had concentrated on the other kind of “pawn”.
The massive floor space made Burbex a little dizzy, and he had to watch his step for the canals full of algae green water that snake through the place, razor sharp rusting rebar lurking beneath the surface.
By the way, if you are a mall rat or you want to check out some great abandoned malls like The Olympic Mascot Mall or The Great Mall of China just send Burbex an email at email@example.com and he’ll be happy to show you around.
Also be sure to follow Burbex at all your favourite social media sites.
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.
Fans who have been following this site for a while, will know that Burbex has a soft spot in his heart for Capital Steel. It doesn’t matter that his heart is rusting, and leaking toxic chemicals everywhere just the site itself, Capital Steel is still number one.
From the Capital Steel Laboratory, to the conveyor belts and machines that look like something from the set of the Alien movie, Capital Steel always has something new and surprising for Burbex to find. There is one place in the site however that Burbex has dreamt of getting back into for a while.
On a previous visit, Burbex was gutted when after climbing into one of the massive blast furnaces, the sun was already going down, and it was too dark to take photos within the rotten gut of the machine. On this visit, Burbex had high hopes he could get in around midday for the awesome early afternoon light.
Capital Steel is definitely not as easy to get into as it used to be. This is mostly because it is being eaten up by property development companies converting the old industrial buildings into modern office blocks, as well as the new overpass which is being built through parts of the complex. Burbex was confident that by following the abandoned train tracks, he could find a way in again.
Navigating the site is not actually so difficult. Once over the walls, corridors and highways of pipes all eventually lead to the central spots where the blast furnaces are located. Burbex did have to jump over a few walls and chainlink fences along the path, but he’s used to that now.
The way that workers got into the belly of these beasts originally was by following the highways that lead up to the second and third levels. These have been partly demolished and furthermore there are some very nasty guard dogs at the end of the ramp. Burbex could hear them baying for his blood.
Taking an alternative route, Burbex climbed up the side of the blast furnace. This was no mean feat especially since most of the stairways are either rotting or have been cut away by scavengers. Burbex somewhat surprised himself with his climbing ability that day.
Entering in the level beneath the blast furnace Burbex found old equipment rooms, everything covered in a thick layer of Beijing dust and catkins which absorb the moisture and leaking oil. It felt just like walking over a layer of toxic moss in a industrial jungle.
Weaving his way through the complex machine, Burbex finally found the belly of the beast, which drips oil and rust, as well as the toxic rainwater that has collected inside. Burbex was very careful not to let any drops touch his skin.
Massive pipe support the heart of the furnace, and this is where the fuel would’ve been burned providing energy for the blasting process.
The huge arena-like area was filled with the sound of three huge dogs baying for Burbex’s blood, however the noisiest dog of all was a tiny mutt with fur the same colour as the rust. Had he been conceived here, the rust entering his bitch mother’s womb?
The central structure stretches up four or five storeys. These are mostly out of reach since the staircases have been cut away, and razor sharp edges and barbwire fences are waiting to snag at catch you with a tetanus-filled bite.
Burbex walked around and around the furnace feeling almost unable to leave. He couldn’t hear the barking of the dogs anymore, he just felt awed by this massive structure, like a cathedral of rotting industry.
Burbex neatly slipped out the way he came in wondering how long it would be before the demolition team finally came in and finished off the structure. If you would like to sneak in before it disappears, be sure to send an email to email@example.com, and set up a time to meet. Make sure all your tentanus boosters are up to date first.
Be sure to check out the video for this post which you can see above, and as usual. Be sure to hit subscribe at the following link so that you can keep up to date with all the newest videos:
That is the question that Burbex gets asked the most
This always surprises him, because whether he is on his bicycle or scooter, like for The Guosen Mall Towers in Dongzhimen, or in the back of a cab like The Olympic Torch on the fourth ring-road, it seems to Burbex that these places are everywhere just begging to be explored.
Burbex has had his eye on this weird building building in Wangjing Soho for a while. Fortunately, the unusual combination of whiskey, various legal stimulants, and a really good mood, led him to get into the building through the top floor and inside for some good old light painting fun.
Burbex has not light painted since The Haunted Hotel near Qianmen Gate, which is mostly because it is a huge pain in the butt, and waving a light stick around in dark spaces not only looks crazy, but may also attract the attention of a security guard, or indeed any curious Chinese person.
This signs in the windows of the building (see above) are inviting businesses to set up inside this weird pod building, and while there are plenty of strange buildings all over Soho, this one might be a little but too weird for even the Chinese bosses to handle.
The outside of the building resembles the head of a sentinel, the evil robots that are designed to kill mutants in the X-Men movies. Also, the sentinel’s head is covered in thousands of steel dishes, which reflect glowing red neon lights from the nearby hotpot restaurants.
Inside, the floors are all laid out ready for businesses to move in, but currently everything is just large open concrete spaces with huge weird windows, exactly the kind of space needed for light painting. Burbex only brought two light sticks, both bought from a store which sells the exact same light sticks to traffic cops.
Burbex had to be careful for the sharp bolt that were sticking out of the floor. By the end of the evening his ankles were covered in scratches after crisscrossing between the pillars about half a dozen times.
Leaping around in the dark without a torch is not usually the best idea, but it does make for some great random shots. This one reminds Burbex of those ugly Lantern Fish that live at the bottom of the sea, and use a beautiful glowing lure to enchant and then consume their prey. Fortunately, Burbex was not eaten that night.
Outside, the front balcony facing into the heart of Wangjing Business District, was ideal for creating a pit of fire. Passers by probably thought it was all part of neon effect of the whole area and didn’t give the glowing pod a second look.
Something that Burbex finds both entertaining and frustrating about urban exploration is that you will often spend an hour trying to figure out how to get into a place, and discover a really easy way to get out.
An easy way in can usually be found with a fire escape, but in this case a freight elevator was also very useful getting up and down the building, although Burbex wasn’t so sure if this lift was gonna go up and down or side to side.
The main walkway on the left-hand side of the building leads right up to the surface of the building. It reminded Burbex of the British pavilion at The Shanghai Expo in 2010, in which thousands of seeds had been in encased in Perspex, as a seed bank. If you are interested in the abandoned site of the Shanghai Expo, be sure to check out this post –
The exterior of the Seed Pod has some fantastic arches. Burbex had to dodge a few of the parked cars that were leaving. The drivers probably felt a bit confused when they saw a foreigner waving a traffic cop’s light baton. As a knock-on effect there were no traffic jams in Wangjing for the next two days.
Wrapping up the trip, Burbex yawned and started to feel like light painting is just too much hard work. Don’t get him wrong, he loves light painting, and the results are always great, but somehow it takes away the excitement of exploring a new and exciting place.
Despite that, as soon as Burbex forgets what a pain in the butt light painting is, he’ll probably go out and the paint the town red again. Be sure to check out the post about The Space and Science Museum and The Qiamen Haunted Hotel both of which Burbex light painted before they were renovated.
If you are looking for a great adventure, be sure to get in touch with Burbex at firstname.lastname@example.org, and set up a time to come and see the best urbex that Beijing has to offer.
Also be sure to follow Burbex at all of your favorite social media channels, and don’t forget to hit those heart buttons, punch those like tabs, and leave your questions and comments.