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Lao She Teahouse
    2008-09-12 17:39:42     CRIENGLISH.com

I'm Ashley Eldridge for China Radio International bringing you a CRI web exclusive from the Lao She Teahouse just south of Tian'anmen Square.

Upscale kitsch is the name of the game here at the Lao She Teahouse where visitors can choose activities based on the size of their parties or their familiarity with Beijing's teahouse culture.

Visitors range from former and current heads of state including former US president George H W Bush and Queen Rania of Jordan to Beijingers newly returned from abroad and families just hoping to spend some quality time together.

Former U.S. President George H. W. Bush of the United States visited Laoshe Teahouse on Jan. 15, 1994. [Photo: Lao She Teahouse]
The Lao She Teahouse opened in a corner of the third floor in 1988 above what was once a run-of-the-mill bank. The teahouse expanded to its current size in 2006 and recently underwent extensive renovation in preparation for the Beijing Olympics.

The teahouse was named for the famous Chinese writer Lao She and one can only imagine what he would think of the elaborate teahouse named in his honor.

When posed this question, Yin Zhijun, Yin Zhijun, daughter of the founder of the Lao She Teahouse, who is also the general manager of the establishment, said with a wink, "If he ran a teahouse, it would be much better than this one."

Hu Suqing, Lao She's wife, said the teahouse places ancient Chinese culture at the very centre of their work. Their main aim is to preserve Chinese traditions and showcase them to the world.

former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger visited Laoshe Teahouse on Dec. 21, 1992. [Photo: Lao She Teahouse]

Beijing teahouses typically come in six varieties C book, wild, meat, cantata, large and traditional. At the second floor gift shop, guests can pick up their own brew for 28 RMB for a low-quality blend and up to 1,680 RMB for a top-of-the-line pu'er tea. 

In the adjacent tea-drinking suites, guests can spend up to 280 RMB an hour kicking back and relaxing around the indoor grass courtyard in luxury rooms outfitted with antique furniture and plasma TV. But the third floor is where the main action happens.

The main performance hall can hold up to 600 guests and during the Olympics, performers were playing to a packed house every night.

Acts in the 90-minute show offer a peek at the elements that make up China's traditional performing arts - Wang Limin's fish conjuring act, a selection from a Peking opera, acrobatics, and my personal favorite, Sichuanese face-changing.

But the tea ceremonies are the real highlights of the show. The current presentations highlight seasonal teas: oolong for autumn, black for winter, white for spring, and green for summer.

So whether it's tea you're after or just a cultural night out with friends, the Lao She Teahouse is sure to delight.

Mrs. Anne Rogge, wife of International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge, visited Lao She Teahouse on Apr. 26, 2007. [Photo: Lao She Teahouse]

The Queen Rania of Jordan Abdullah visited Lao She Teahouse on Sept. 4, 2007. [Photo: Lao She Teahouse]

(Reporter/ Editor: Yang Yong, Wu Tong; Cameraman: Rahul Venkit; Host: Ashley Eldridge)

Many Thanks to Yang Xinyu and Zhang Qiufeng from Lao She Teahouse for your support. And dear CRI colleagues Zhao Pingping and Yang Yang, thank you for all your help.

 
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