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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and he’ll be happy to show you around.
Also be sure to follow Burbex at all your favourite social media sites.
It has been eight years since the Olympics were held here in Beijing. The Beijing Olympics was the first international event that catapulted China into the world’s attention. At the time there were signs of the Olympics everywhere, but since 2008 these symbols have all but disappeared.
The few signs that were left behind have rotted away like The Olympic Homko Ghost Town are a sore reminder to most Beijingers that the Olympics was only a short-lived glory for the city and the country. It was with great pleasure then that Burbex found not only a mall abandoned during construction, but also the the abandoned Olympic mascots rotting in the long dry grass.
For those of you not familiar with the Beijing Olympic mascots, there were five of them called Beibei, Jingjing, Huanhuan, and Yingying, and Nini. Their names all stuck together “Beijing Huanying Ni” means “Beijing Welcomes You.” Above you can see Beibei doing a swan dive into the yellow Bejing soil.
Jingjing, who was black and white and looked like a panda was noticeably absent, but Huanhuan, who is red and has hair like the Olympic flame, was found hiding her shame behind a bush.
Yingying in yellow was trying a bit of cycling on a very unreliable looking bike, no wonder she crashed into the thorny bushes – poor ying ying. For an animated Olympic mascot she does have a nice rump like you can see below…
The last of the mascots Burbex found was the reclusive Nini, who in his post-Olympic shame tried to hide his green face from the camera. But wait… what’s this? Could it be that there is one more mascot to add to the five?
Of course, who could possible forget the Paralympic mascot Niuniu the Cow, which literally means “Little Cow”. Burbex was not quite sure what the connection between para-Olympians and juvenile bovines was, but in Chinese “niu” can also mean “awesome” as in the popular Chinese phrase “niubi” which literally means “cow’s cunt” or “fucking cool!” Does this means the Paralympics was “fucking cool? or a load of bull?
As you can see in the background, it was not the mascots that first drew Burbex to this yellow grass paradise, but rather the incomplete shopping mall, split in two and hidden behind a very fancy French restaurant.
The mall itself is located close to the embassy district around Liangma Qiao (that’s Shining Horse Bridge in English – lots of animals in this report). The waste land around the mall is covered in weeds and dry grass that cover up all kinds of abandoned structures, but it was the mall that Burbex was interested in early one morning.
Taking advantage of the morning sunlight, Burbex descended into the swampy cellar, where sunbeams were breaking their way through holes in the concrete to light up the subterranean world. The ground is soft underfoot and reminds you that large areas of Beijing used to be marshland.
Beams of sunlight lit up various enclaves like this half circle…
and this studly rectangle.
Burbex had to be very careful winding his way through the garden of rebar and cut off pipes with razor sharp edges. In fact climbing one set of stairs, an evil piece of rebar tore its way through the sleeve of Burbex’s favourite hoodie.
On the ground floor, staircases abounded and glassless window frames let in the morning light.
Burbex could also see the luxury housing over the fence next door to the mall.
He also suspected that the chalked grafitti on many of the columns was from the local children practicing their English compositions, “so that, in order to, so as to, in order that”. Burbex’s heart flushed to think that these young urbexers could write such good English.
One kid even seemed to be writing a cement-based novel…
The top floor boasted some great views of the swanky Marriott hotel in nearby Liangma Qiao as well as proving that Beijing does occasionally have blue skies.
Other windows just provided a great sense of symmetry over the whole site.
The real highlight of the mall, however, was the rooftop view looking out to the complex of high rises which seems to be taking forever to complete, probably another project going slow for lack of funds.
Again the view towards the Marriott Hotel was irresistible.
In closing, Burbex found that The Olympic Mascot Mall had a little bit of everything: a skanky cellar where lots of workers had pooed; cool window frames; a great rooftop; and of course a bunch of abandoned mascots. Not bad for an early morning’s work.
For all these reasons and more, Burbex awards The Olympic Mascot Mall with a firm B-. If you are a fan of other abandoned projects, be sure to check out The Guosen Mall with some of the best nighttime views of the city and also The Great Mall of China, which is probably never going to get finished.
If you want to come out with Burbex some time, just send an email to email@example.com, and he’ll be glad to take you on a double trip to The Olympic Mascot Mall and also The Solana Hotel which is just ten minutes walk away, and remember Beijing Huanying Ni!
What is it about old hospitals that everyone loves?
Is it that we often come into the world in a hospital?
Is it that we often leave the world in a hospital?
Is it the fear of having surgeons pull out our organs?
Maybe it is all of these and more.
Anyone that reads this blog knows that Burbex is a big fan of hospitals. Not the live ones of course, but ancient decrepit ones like Saint Clement’s Psychiatric Hospital in Mile End, London which is more than two hundred years old, middle-aged corpses like Tianjin Chest Hospital, which still has machines and human organs left behind, and of course The Catholic School, which was never a real hospital anyway, just a place to throw old hearts and livers.
What is more rare to find though, is the still-born fetus of a hospital, a place that never made it to become a hospital, a place full of steel bones, and metal teeth, but none of the flesh of a full-term hospital. That is where The China Japan Friendship Hospital steps in, a hospital aborted before it was even born.
Burbex is a frequent visitor to The China Japanese Friendship Hospital in Beijing, which is one of the top one hundred hospitals in China, and is designated a class A for excellence. The hospital was established in the 1980s to promote “friendship” between Japan and China – good luck with that!
On one of Burbex’s trips to the hospital, he noticed that there was a whole wing of the hospital that had been abandoned during construction. To the casual eye, it looks like a chimpanzees’s wet dream with scaffolding permeating the whole structure. Burbex, being a monkey’s uncle, decided to sneak in for a swing around.
Inside the place drips with rusty water and sheets of green plastic have dissolved into pools of verdant water. The construction creaks and groans, and the rainwater disappears down pipes and drilled holes that lead through the concrete and into the pitch black flooded basement.
Burbex slid and swung between the myriad scaffolding poles, and finally found the steps down into the lower level of the wing. The rusted rainwater lapped at the bottom steps of the stairwell, and where the stairs end, planks supported by underwater scaffolding cross the flooded basement.
The water is about one to two metres deep, and god only knows what sharp edges there are to suck you down into the black water and squeeze the life out of you. The planks sway and creak underfoot, and this would be completely impossible without the aid of a huge flash with 96 LEDS. The view below was utterly worth it though.
Like Sunshine Park and Chaoyang Park Ferris Wheel this subterranean world is filled with thick black water, and only a few random strands of sunlight break through the ceiling giving the place an eerie lack of light and sound.
Doorways and gateways lead into lift shafts and pits that lead down into the entirely flooded lower levels where the water is treacherously deep, and definitely a no-go for Burbex. Going in at midday though, the basement started to pick up some of the discarded light from above.
Feeling a little seasick from walking the plank, and more than a little fearful that he would fall into the abyss, Burbex decided to return topside for a little sunshine and fresh air. Above pipes and spouts grow out of the concrete just like in Super Mario, all that was missing was the mushrooms, but even a few small metal mushies made an appearance.
Besides the site itself, there was the abandoned workers cabins on the side of the site closest to the road. Inside was caked in Beijing’s typically yellow dust, and the windows were taped up with old newspapers and magazines. The room below was obviously the master bedroom.
The whole site is permeated with a rusty yellow colour which even seems to filter the light and turn the world an umber hue. This was only a very short trip early in the afternoon, but the effect of the blacked water and rusty yellow light stayed in Burbex’s mind for days after.
In summary, Burbex is always pleased when he finds these places in plain sight, and even more so when they have such dark hidden depths just waiting to be uncovered. This was an extremely dangerous site though, and Burbex will wait till the dry season before he returns. All this considered The China Japan Friendship Hospital get a firm B- Grade.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to come along to the hospital you had better either be a good swimmer or bring a canoe.
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.
When I was going up the stairs, I saw a man who wasn’t there,
He wasn’t there again today, I wish, I wish, he’s go away.
“Have you ever been to that ghost house in Chaoyag District?”
That and questions about the impossible to find Underground City are probably the two most common questions that Burbex gets asked. Chaoyang 81 is now legendary in Beijing attracting visitors from all over China not just for urbex, but also for ghost hunters and thrill seekers.
There are many urban legends about the two houses. The first myth talks about a Nationalist leader who lived in the house before the revolution. Before he and his wife could escape, his wife hanged herself from the rafters in the room you can see below.
Ghost hunters and drunk kids still invade this building at night and at Halloween they have seances and try to find a ghost. This is much to the annoyance of the local government who have put up banners inside declaring:-
Don’t make love in the open house, don’t believe in ghosts.
(not sure what the connection is either)
One thing is for sure, is that the building is still owned by The Catholic Diosese in Beijing, and is reportedly worth hundreds of millions of yuan. This is not surprising as it is prime real estate. The buildings themselves began to seriously decline after the release of the third rate 3D movie The House That Never Dies, which encouraged even more visitors to tear the place apart.
Whatever the true history of the building, one thing is for sure, it is very very spooky in there at night. Burbex visited for the first time in December 2013 at 5am in the morning. Not usually one to be spooked, there was definitely a chill running down his spine.
Both buildings have extensive attic space which looks out onto a school at the back, and a building that looks like a mosque at the front. Both building also have plenty of basement rooms and hidden tunnels.
The left hand building which is significantly bigger, is beginning to collapse, and it is very easy to put your foot through a floorboard and end up on story below. Chaoyang 81 has been a victim of its own success with visitors all tearing away a little piece of their own.
Surprisingly when Burbex went there for the first time, there was no graffiti, rather just chalk messages in which it was written that they had seen the ghost. The only remains of ghostly activity though are left over props from the movie, and also the bizarre props from photo shoots.
Despite the fact that they are falling down quickly, the buildings still have an imposing presence, and as soon as you enter you notice a distinct drop in temperature. All the banisters and window frames are all made of the red wood for which Beijing is famous.
As part as of the article for Burbex.org published in The Guardian newspaper, photographer James Wassenger took some night photos with light painting, one of which was used for the main picture below.
Whatever your interest in the building, from ghosts to architecture and weird history, Chaoyang 81 has something for every level of explorer. For this Chaoyang 81, The House That Never Dies, gets special mention with an A*** grade.
In the meantime, if you ever want to come out exploring, just get in contact with Brin by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can set up a time to meet. Don’t forget to bring your crucifix and holy water.
When it comes to urbexing in Beijing, or indeed anywhere in the world, there are certain features that urbexers search for. Some people go for the tunnels, some people go for the high places, others like a place with a good story. When you can find a site which combines all of these features and more, that’s when you know you have found a classic site.
Longyun International Park has all of these features and more. Burbex stumbled across this site by chance. Passing in a taxi from the airport, the top of a dome poked its way into the smoggy sky begging to be explored.
Scouting the outside perimeter there are Communist slogans encouraging citizens to be “civilised” and make Beijing a “centre of development”. Burbex took a knife to one of the slogans and cut his way through to the other side.
Plunging into the darkness beyond, underground canals snake their way hundreds of metres forward. Faint glints of light barely seen in the pitch black.
The frozen canals meander from left to right, and along the way there are plenty of unusual water features to be taken in. Small flags warn of the water’s edge like flashes of colour at the village fete.
Getting lost is inevitable in this underground labyrinth. Tunnels weave off in all directions, and circle around and around in circles. Only the lucky will find the Tiffany roofed exits.
These are the most heavily guarded areas though, and the security guards shout down curses at intruders but do not dare penetrate the labyrinth.
The inner dome is a smaller version of the first, and does not have the balconies or the grandeur of its big brother. It feels no less dangerous though.
The mouth of the canal leads out into a half-completed Suzhou style water garden. Missing the colour of flowers and trees, it is just a cement garden. From here though, the villas and the upper areas can be accessed.
Entering through the glassless windows, the villas are easily accessed. Running up the stairs and through unlocked doors, the rooftop dome yawns at the sky.
The beginning of this post mentioned a good story behind this location. According to local taxi drivers, it was shut down because of the death of several workers on the site. Due to this the Fengshui is now considered too bad to continue. This is a curse for construction companies who cannot battle against the entrenched superstition in China.
This is very similar to Chaoyang 81, which has remained empty for decades simply because of its ghostly reputation. Probably this site will be left to rot until it becomes too dangerous or too much of an eyesore for the local government to stand.
In retrospect this is the only site that has ever given Burbex nightmares, so maybe its ghostly reputation is true. Whatever the case, with or without ghosts, this is a first class site for urban exploration and earns a solid A-.
On the smoggy outskirts of Beijing, far beyond where the subway line finally ends, and the dust dunes roll over the border into Hebei Province, right there on the border, that is where you will find the Great Mall of China.
Construction started five/six years ago when the small border town Yanjiao was slated to become the next border boom town. This led to a run on house building and general craziness in the area.
Years later, these dreams never came true, and the town, like the Great Mall of China, is deserted.
Getting into the mall is quite simple: find the tunnel under the nearby hospital…
go through it in the dark…
emerge and find the pipe under the bullet train railway…
go through the tunnel…
walk down the causeway and you are in.
While there is security, and by the sound of it heavy work going on, the place is virtually empty, and the two guys on the roof didn’t even pay any attention to me.
There is a vast underground complex of tunnels full of dust and supplies, but no workers to be seen.
Welding lights can be seen in the very distance at the end of the tunnels, and there is the occasional crash of metal on metal, but still no sign of people.
There are various tunnels that weave under the complex, and probably under the hospital too.
The blind bear stands on the road marking the way out. Be careful, there is a man who sells guard dogs nearby.
This is really an unusual site for Beijing as it is in Central Beijing, and is close to the ever-popular Ikea. Called Sunshine Park, it used to have a a large carnival tent in the park which has long since rotted and fallen down.
Most of the site apart from the multi-storey carpark has become overgrown. The carpark itself goes down one floor underground, where it has filled up with rain water.
There are some incredible effects when the sunlight comes streaming through the holes at around midday. A word of warning however…
The site is relatively safe as long as you don’t fall off the sides of the carpark. Be careful of the junkie who lives in a tent beneath the ramp of the basement floor.
He came out of his tent clothed only in his dirty undies, and then started to bounce and scream like a monkey. After that he charged at me.
I ran like crazy, climbed an embankment and legged it through the bushes and wilderness. I could still hear him yelling behind me.
Below is a student’s story about first love, bad girls, and kisses.
This is the main auditorium where unusually for a Chinese site, there is a lot of graffiti. Plenty of space for more though. Bring a can.
Sunshine Park used to be where I went for a bit of quiet when I got the Beijing Blues. It s right next to Ikea too, so you can explore then get meatballs right after.
For these reasons Sunshine Park gets a very respectable grade B+ from Burbex. By the way, if you loved this site, check out these other unfinished masterpieces Solana Hotel and Guosen Mall. Plus if you ever want to come along, just contact me on email@example.com.
Burbex has been visiting Guoson Mall in Dongzhimen for three years now and taken up lots of new friends. You can check out some other Guosen Mall adventures like The Guosen Mall Night Expedition and equally interesting Longyan International Park, but be sure to take a good look at this classic Burbex article first.
The Guosen Mall complex is purportedly worth 14 billion yuan. You would think with a price tag like that the developers would have been able to shift the development by now.
However, there have been difficulties with all negotiations over the last seven years, and it still remains vacant. There are two skyscrapers behind the mall. Burbex climbed all 35 floors of the rear tower, and the view was amazing.
It should be pointed out, that this is an exceptionally dangerous site. There are holes in some of the top floors which go right down to the bottom. Throwing little pieces of rebar (steel construction bars) down these holes, Burbex couldn’t even hear them hit the ground. Despite this, the surrounding area is frankly gorgeous.
The pools outside have been left to turn wild, and the place is ripe with sunflowers and aubergines planted by the migrant-workers who guard the place, who are probably more at home growing vegetables than protecting duff skyscrapers anyway.
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.
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