Once a bustling military factory that began operation in 1957, Joint Factory 718, as it was then known has approximately 20,000 workers. Producing a wide range of equipment for both military and civilian uses, this German constructed factory was in operation until the 1980s. However by the time China hit the 1990s, like most stated owned enterprises, lack of government funding and support caused it to become obsolete.
Somewhere during that time, the avant-garde artistic community of China was also looking a place to work in. Working from run down houses in the fringes of various towns, there was no one place where they could all gather and explore their passions freely. In 1995, Beijing’s central Academy of Fine Arts moved to the factory space temporarily, but it became a permanent move and slowly started gathering artists from all over.
In 2000, the sculptor Sui Jiango and in 2001 Robert Bernell from Timezone 8 Artbooks moved in to this area. Slowly but steadily various foreign and local artists, sculptors, designers, all started renting spaces inside the compound.
Located in Dashanzi, this place has now become synonymous with art in Beijing. Since 2003, many famous exhibitions have taken place with both local and even notable foreign artists. The area’s booming popularity has resulted in many high-end restaurants, galleries, design firms, cafes and artistic studios relocating here. Currently there are over 200 organizations on a waiting list to move in to factory 798 and rents have escalated considerably.
Because of its current prime location en-route the capital airport and downtown Beijing, many real estate developers are looking to take over the old buildings, turning them in to luxury condominiums. However in 2007 it was decided that the area would remain as it is in the form as a special zone, thereby preserving not only the thriving artistic community but also the history.
High rent means that accommodation in the area itself is quite expensive. But tourists can chose to stay in the many Greater China hotels and commute to the place. There are many international chains that have hotels in China. The Millennium & Copthorne Hotels China have hotels and resorts in Beijing, Shanghai and many other places.