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Cultural Imperialism; Fried Chicken Takes Over China
Ellen’s at Night, Shepherd’s Delight?
Importing la Vie Française to Nanjing
The Love Story of a Chinese Century: Sanmao and Hexi
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The Love Story of a Chinese Century: Sanmao and Hexi Hardly a Nanjinger does not know the tragic love story of Sanmao and Hexi. The Chinese writer, who partly grew up in Nanjing, would have been 71 this month. Local students are currently bringing her story to the stage.  Read the Full Story

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Cruising through the gay districts

Freddy Fingers began the adventure in the taxi with a short lecture about the Nanjing gay scene: "The first gay bar in Nanjing opened in 1997. At that time, press coverage about gays was very harsh, so it was a secret underground place." These days, he says that things have loosened up. "There are two main areas where you find gay bars: Fuzimiao, and the area around Castle Bar."

Our first stop was the Castle Bar area to check out Red Bar. According to Freddy Fingers, Red Bar mainly draws college students, particularly on Saturday nights, when they have drag queen shows and late-night dancing.

We went in on a Monday, and the place was predictably quiet, save for one table of dudes hanging out and playing dice at the back of the club. We ordered 6 Budweisers (120 RMB) and met up with Mei Po (媒婆), the club's resident queen. Freddy Fingers was in awe as Mei Po regaled us with stories about his act, a kind of drag queen/comedy routine/ karaoke thing.

Later, Freddy Fingers told us that Mei Po was one of the most famous drag queens in China. "He goes all over – Bejing, Shanghai, Shenzhen... he's really famous, but Nanjing is his home." Unfortunately, our gracious host was not in costume, so we promised to come back on a Saturday, to photograph him in the proper environment.

Gay bars for sex?

We hopped in a taxi and headed for Fuzimiao. On the way over, Freddy Fingers gave us the lowdown on intent inside Nanjing gay bars. "These days, the sex trade is done online. So if men are looking for sex, that is a safer way to do it. The reason gays come to the clubs is not for sex, but because they can be in a place where they can express themselves as they feel."

With that in mind, we next checked out Ye Shan Teng, which Freddy Fingers previewed as a club catering to "an older, more sophisticated crowd".

Inside, we were surprised to find the place about half full – a pretty good crowd, for a Monday night. To Coco the volleyball player's relief, there were a few other women inside, which Freddy Fingers explained was a common occurrence, in this bar. "They have really beautiful live shows every night, usually performing classical Chinese opera or dance, a lot of women come here as well."

We bought a 6-pack of beers (most places we visited served only cheap bottles of beer) and checked out the show. Basically, men in drag would get up on stage and karaoke classical Chinese opera songs. Every now and then, a person would get up from the crowd and stuff a 100 RMB note down the singer's top. Commented Freddy Fingers: "The best performers make 1,000 RMB a night this way, easily."

By the time our beers were done, we had watched three different karaoke performances and a dance number. The owner of the place stopped by as we were finishing up and thanked us for coming.

A tired scene...

We then walked past the Fuzimiao Burger King to our final destination Zhong Tian, which was once the dominant gay bar in Nanjing. On the way over, Patric gave his impression of the two bars we had visited: "I get a sense that so much more could be done. They don't serve anything other than cheap beers, not a lot of effort seems to have been put into concept, decorations are fading... it feels kind of tired to me, in need of new and fresh energy."

Freddy Fingers agreed. "These days, most of the young guys coming in, they come from small towns, no education, they only care about trying to make money, to survive in the big city." Further, he added that the stars of yesteryear are getting older. "Yeah, it has kind of a tired feel. That's why I don't really go out to the bars much, any more."

We finally arrived at Zhong Tian for a quick round of beers (5 Snow Beers for 50 RMB). The cavernous space was piled with junk in the corners. Decorations were peeling off the of mildewed walls. Two tables of people sat staring at a karaoke screen while a woman with a chihuahua sang love songs.

Coco the volleyball player amused herself by throwing sunflower seeds at Freddy Fingers. The owner came over, an old guy, around 60 or so. He talked for a few minutes about the glory days of his club, and then went off, to stare at the karoke screen with the others.

I went up to the bar to see what else they had to drink. The barman shrugged, and pointed lethargically to the beer fridge. Snow beers. Help yourself, leave your money on the bar. 

In conclusion, from this writer's perspective, the Ye Shan Teng show was momentarily entertaining, but on the whole, Nanjing's gay bar scene feels... kind of... tired.
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Comments (9)

  • could be a great scene with a little bit of improvement. I mean thats quite original offering such shows. I know Shanghai's gay scene is developing rapidly. I think they also had their first gay parade this year! So, hope the owners of the last two places will see the benefit in steping up and cleaning and improving the environment and the ambiente. I see huge potential not only in the development of the gay scene but also from a cultural perspective - opera, theatre, comedy - ART ... Nanjing needs more art! :-)

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  • Interesting point, about the gay pride parade in Shanghai. I just did a little looking up on it, and came across this quote:

    The festival was described in the China Daily newspaper as an event of "profound significance" and a "showcase of the country's social progress". ...

    Homosexuality was officially labelled a mental illness in China until 2001.

    [url]http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/8092516.stm[/url]


    The way the it is described in this article, however, I don't imagine there's gonna be much growth in the Nanjing scene, which I agree could have an impact on the local culture...

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  • It is a good article, some interesting points come up:

    1. These are places where gays feel free to express themselves
    2. The scene right now is tired
    3. Gays are usually expressive within strong communities
    4. An expressive and dynamic sub-community can benefit the larger community, this point is made clear by frantastic:

    I see huge potential not only in the development of the gay scene but also from a cultural perspective - opera, theatre, comedy - ART ... Nanjing needs more art!


    So I am looking forward to a follow-up story about this (I am not gay, but that is not the point). Thank you Hello Nanjing, it's fun what you are doing! :-)

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  • Thanks Hello Nanjing for this story, it is very honest, and it says a lot. I really enjoyed it! :-)

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  • it's the first i've ever heard something about gay in nanjing. why dose it seem so mysterious???

    0 Like
  • Dec 20, 2009
    Govt-backed gay bar opens

    BEIJING - CHINA'S first government-backed gay bar has opened after a three-week delay sparked by intense media attention, a charity said on Sunday, in a nation where homosexuality is still a sensitive subject.

    The bar opened Saturday in a low-key fashion in the tourist town of Dali in the southwestern province of Yunnan, Zhang Jianbo, founder of the Dali HIV/Aids prevention and health association, the organisation behind the initiative, told AFP.

    The venue aims to provide a place where homosexuals can meet in a relaxed atmosphere and get information about HIV/Aids prevention.

    It was due to open on World AIDS Day on December 1 with the support of the local government, which invested 120,000 yuan (S$24,693) in Mr Zhang's charity, but volunteers were put off by the intense media attention sparked by the news.

    'Our volunteers decided that the media was not paying so much attention, so they finally decided to open the bar,' Mr Zhang said.

    Homosexuality in China - where it was officially considered a mental illness until 2001 - is still an extremely sensitive issue. Gay men and women find it difficult to come out to their friends and family. One of the reasons lies in the nation's one-child policy, which makes parents rely on their only child to marry and produce grandchildren. -- AFP

    0 Like
  • That first pic is limp. So the attraction is gay guys in lime-green jumpsuits waving fans?

    Gripping stuff lol

    0 Like
  • The first gay bar in Nanjing opened in 1997???
    you can find gay bar inFuzimiao? really?

    0 Like
  • Interesting

    0 Like

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