Nanlouguxiang is a street designed for tourists in central Beijing. It features traditional looking buildings, which may or may not look like Beijing buildings used to look, pricey shops, bars, cafes, and a few restaurants, and lots of tourists, mostly Chinese. A local resident does some window shopping on a cold Beijing day that has kept most of the usual throng of visitors at home.
I visited the Forbidden City on this snowy day because I figured that it would not be especially crowded and that the snow would create interesting opportunities to photograph the buildings and interior spaces. I was wrong on both counts. Although it was probably a bit less crowded than usual, there were plenty of people visiting in spite of the snow. As for photo opportunities, by the end of 2006 Beijing’s Olympic facelift was well underway and, disappointingly, I found most of the major buildings within the Forbidden City shrouded in scaffolding for renovations. The day was nonetheless not a loss photographically. Among other subjects, I encountered this tour group of rather disgruntled looking people from somewhere in greater China.
Winter swimming in Houhai is a cold weather pastime for a (very) small group of Beijing men. I cannot recall what prevented this small area of open water along the north side of the lake from freezing over. But there was more than enough room for a dip and the winter swimmers wasted no time taking advantage of it. I do recall this was a very cold Beijing Christmas day with temperatures below 0°/32°. My hands were freezing holding the camera.
The four red characters in the yellow sign at the upper right mean, roughly, “reasonably prosperous life” or perhaps “moderately prosperous life”. Guaranteeing all Chinese a reasonably prosperous life is one of the Communist Party’s stated goals and the expression “小康生活” (xiaokang shenghuo) appears regularly in the Chinese media and Party publications. In any case, I think the expression nicely frames the Beijing street scene going on below the sign.