China Expat & Travel Blogger. ATTRACTIONS & THINGS TO DO IN CHINA. See My Fun TRAVEL Adventures in China!
It’s been dubbed China’s ugliest building. Actually, it’s been credited as one of the ugliest buildings in the world. It’s China’s Emperor Building, or as it’s best known, the Beijing Tianzi Hotel. And truth be told, it ain’t that bad.
First up ... Why? Why journey a few hundred miles from Shanghai to Beijing by high-speed train just to lay eyes on China’s ugliest building? Well, why not?
Heck, that’s what traveling, experiencing different cultures, and adventuring is all about. You take the off beaten path, discover new things, and wind up with a unique story to tell. And besides, it’d just be that damn cool to see.
But was it? Well, yes and no. On one hand, it’s no doubt that Beijing’s Tianzi Hotel, built in 2000, is wildly creative in its own right, and it’s probably the first, and only, of its kind.
The building’s entire exterior depicts 3 ten-story tall sculptures of popular mythical heroes in Chinese culture: Shou, Fu, and Lu, whom represent longevity/good health, prosperity/good luck, and fortune/wealth, respectively.
The colors are vibrant, they’re wardrobes are overflowing with Chinese characters, and let’s just face it, it’s not every day that you can look up and see 3 larger-than-life statues that house an entire building.
And it’s the artwork that truly provides the building with its cultural zest—it’s very much distinctly aesthetic to the region, much like Taiwan’s Taipei 101 or India’s Tahj Mahal. Sure, Shanghai’s Oriental Pearl Tower and Shenzhen’s Key100 are awesome to look at, but they don’t necessarily scream ‘China’, and that’s where Langfang’s Emperor Hotel gets ‘1-ups’ on the rest.
And on the flip side? Yes, Beijing Tianzi Hotel is ugly, but only, I repeat, only because it’s way past due for a paint job, and by at least a decade or so.
The colors are there, but they’re faded, and there are long streaks of dirt from head to toe. I’d say it just needs a good ol’ washing, but from the look of it, it’s the rain that’s most likely caused all the wear and tear. Some waterproof paint should do the trick!
And then there’s the fact that the Beijing Tianzi Hotel is housed in some residential community and not a commercial street like I imagined. The building would have an entirely different aura if it was stationed on some busy road where everyone could easily stop and admire it.
And three? After 5.5 hours on the train from Shanghai to Beijing, 45-minutes on a bus from Beijing to Langfang, and a 20-minute walk, I was told by the Beijing Tianzi Hotel staff that the compound didn’t even allow ‘normal people’ to spend the night there—something I originally planned to do. As I understood, it wasn’t just that I was a foreigner—the hotel only accommodated businesses that arrange group stay. Ouch!
And well, that’s my trip to Langfang’s Emperor Hotel. Was it worth it? Sure. I love seeing towering skyscrapers, unique bridges, massive statues, and one-of-a-kind architecture no matter how far or what part of the world they’re in.
After sharing a few pictures of the hotel to my folks back at home, my mother expressed how awesome it was to see how China celebrated its heroes, and not once did she utter that the building was ‘odd’ or ‘hideous’. And I agree. I did leave Beijing’s Tianzi Hotel just wishing one thing: I hoped that the next ‘ugly building’ I’ll see will actually let me stay in it!
Safe and happy travels!
See: How to Get to Beijing Tianzi Hotel / Emperor Hotel