Beijing's new 'house of wax' opens
Updated: 2014-06-01 07:58
By Deng Zhangyu (China Daily)
Late co-founder of Apple Inc, Steve Jobs, is immortalized in wax at Beijing's Madame Tussauds, May 29, 2014. [Photo/IC]
George Clooney sits in a yard below an engraved archway, while Bruce Lee jumps out through a wall. The Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou smiles as he leans on a wooden pillar, red lanterns hanging above his head, while the Peking Opera master Mei Lanfang waves his hands to signal the next phase of music.
Welcome to a brush with fame with wax celebrities at the newly opened Madame Tussauds' waxworks in Beijing.
After two years of preparation, the museum lifted the red curtain on Saturday and welcomed its first visitors. It's the fourth Madame Tussauds in China, after Hong Kong, Shanghai and Wuhan.
Located in the central axis of Beijing at Qianmen Street, a traditional commercial street behind Tiananmen Square, the three-story building features eight zones, including The Spirit of China, Leaders, Sports, Music, Film and Television.
"Beijing is the ideal place for the 16th Madame Tussauds. It's an energetic city with a great history and culture," said Craig Dunkerley, head of new openings Asia for the Merlin Entertainments Group, which owns the Madame Tussauds brand.
Despite the hot weather, long lines of visitors - young couples, families with children, and students - waited for their turn to see the waxworks. Many had pre-booked their tickets online.
"It took me half an hour to wait in the line and another hour to see the exhibits," said Liu Xi, who bought an opening-day ticket online 11 days ago. She said the large crowds meant there was no opportunity to have her photo taken with her favorite stars.
The museum has room for 2,000 visitors at a time, according to Wang Rui, director of Madame Tussauds Beijing, who added that the opening-day allocation of 3,000 tickets sold out quickly online.
Wang Shemin, who visited Madame Tussauds in London in the 1980s, said he loved the traditional Chinese folding screen behind the wax figure of Clooney.
"I can feel it is Beijing. I know all these Chinese stars," said the 60-year-old.
In addition to decorated traditional courtyards, alleys, rickshaws and red lanterns reminiscent of Beijing, the distinguishing feature of the Beijing attraction is the Spirit of China zone, complete with figures of iconic celebrities who have shaped Chinese history.
The writer Lao She, Peking Opera master Mei Lanfang, filmmaker Zhang Yimou, the internet tycoon Li Yanhong and the real estate giant Pan Shiyi are all featured in the zone, which comes directly after the Leaders zone which features world figures such as US President Barack Obama and Russia's Vladimir Putin. All the wax figures were shipped from the United Kingdom.
"The Spirit of China zone has been specially tailored for Beijing, to highlight the role China's capital city plays as a center of culture and politics," said Wang Rui.
It takes 20 workers about six months to finish each figure, most of whom wear clothes donated by the celebrities depicted.
The makeup and clothing on the figure of Mei Lanfang were applied by Mei's dresser and members of the opera giant's family, according to Wang Rui.
Apart from getting up close and personal with the stars, the museum's interactive features are likely to become major attractions.
Visitors can experience the final 10 seconds of a spaceship's liftoff with astronaut Yang Liwei, play tennis with Li Na, sing karaoke with Jay Chou, play the drums with the rock star Cui Jian, or enjoy the film-making process with the directors Zhang Yimou and Feng Xiaogang.
At present, fewer than 100 figures are on display, but Wang Rui said more figures of successful people will be added every year.
"I will come and visit again if new figures are added," said Wu Xin, a college student who was there to see the wax figure of his idol, the basketball star Kobe Bryant.