Off the path and up the mountain: Beijing’s Abandoned 0498 Military Bar

Written by Travel

Urban exploring China Beijing: Abandoned army bar Lin Biao

Posted from: Beijing, China

This is one of several pieces I did on urban exploration for now-defunct website Smart Beijing.

Holed up in his secret base on the outskirts of what would soon be the capital of new China, the traitor Lin Biao and his cronies once plotted to overthrow Chairman Mao.  But before Lin Biao was branded a counter-revolutionary, he put his skill at guerrilla warfare to use for the Communist cause, mowing through Nationalists and invaders like a warm knife through butter.

“Hand me a cold one,” Lin Biao used to say, wiping the blood of the oppressors off his face. “Killing fascists makes me thirsty.”

But Lin Biao was never to have that brewskie. His plane crashed over the deserts of Mongolia in 1971, carrying him and most of his family to a fiery doom. And since everyone loves doom, the tourist bureau of the Jingxi Gudao Scenic Area decided to decorate the front door of 0498 Bar like the fuselage of a downed aircraft.

Urban exploring China Beijing: Abandoned army bar Lin Biao

I’d like to tell you that 0498 is a remote military-themed bar in the western hills of Beijing, but this place isn’t “remote”. It’s on the moon. I stepped over the ravaged body of Odysseus like, thirty minutes into this trip. We had to ride the subway, then hire a private car, then walk up a trail, then buy a ticket to go hiking to get to this bar.

“Are you sure this place exists?” said the driver, as we passed a bunch of families grilling out by some river, a few poor fuckers doing weekend team building exercises in a converted village campground. “You don’t wanna go on the rafts or something?”

“You know what, we’ll just walk from here.”

And we did – we walked through an old tunnel and up a mountain, the pathway lined with feudal farmyard scenes cast in bronze. We passed a rock quarry. We passed some goats. And there, in a lonely little ticket window, was a lonely little ticket lady.

“25 RMB per person. Welcome to Jingxi Gudao.”

Urban exploring China Beijing: Abandoned army bar Lin Biao
Urban exploring China Beijing: Abandoned army bar Lin Biao
Urban exploring China Beijing: Abandoned army bar Lin Biao
Urban exploring China Beijing: Abandoned army bar Lin Biao
Urban exploring China Beijing: Abandoned army bar Lin Biao
Urban exploring China Beijing: Abandoned army bar Lin Biao

Jingxi Gudao (京西古道) does double duty as both the former site of Lin Biao’s Number 04 garrison, and as a preserved section of an ancient trading road linking Shaanxi, Mongolia and Beijing.

Past the entrance gate, hidden speakers play disembodied dulcimer music into the quiet crags of the empty countryside. There’s a tea shop that only sells soda and stuffed animals, a little canteen with boiled peanuts and paihuanggua. Some overdressed hikers tromp out of the trailhead and disperse. Higher up the slope, a private villa and some kind of fortress.  

“This is the farthest I’ve ever walked for a drink, and I would like one now.”

It took some doing, even with all the signage, but we finally found it, right next to the Ancient Road Historical Museum. They’re not kidding: it’s really built into a mountain, and the temperature in the bar drops a noticeable five degrees or so, air chilled with the natural dampness of caves and under-earth.

Inside is dark and cold and goes on forever. Five-hundred and seventy five square meters of cement bunkers and war dioramas. The seats are ammunition boxes and the tables are full of green army men and the umbrellas are made of parachutes. There’s a whole room that looks like a paintball field, stacked with sandbags. There’s a wax replica of Lin Biao near a full-wall historical exhibit on the history of anti-Japanese resistance in the region. There’s an expansive war room with headshots of prominent civil war-era commanders. There’s a huge map, obviously.

And at the back, past the deck of the replica gunship, there is, technically, a bar. I mean, there’s a raised counter from which booze, hypothetically, could be served. No glasses, though. No bartender. Just a wistful little pile of used straws and a Chivas Big Gulp.

Urban exploring China Beijing: Abandoned army bar Lin Biao
Urban exploring China Beijing: Abandoned army bar Lin Biao
Urban exploring China Beijing: Abandoned army bar Lin Biao
Urban exploring China Beijing: Abandoned army bar Lin Biao
Urban exploring China Beijing: Abandoned army bar Lin Biao
Urban exploring China Beijing: Abandoned army bar Lin Biao

So, yeah, not actually a bar, as we think of bars, then. More of a weird underground treehouse, a recreation area. An event location?

“This would be so perfect for a lock-in party,” Kyle said, responsibly enjoying a chilled alcoholic beverage at the nongjiacai restaurant next door.

You hear that, promoters? Get trekkin’.

Getting There

Take Line One all the way to the western terminus at Pingguo Yuan 苹果园 and snag one of the for-hire drivers loitering around the exit area (we ended up paying 200RMB for the full afternoon: the drive there, a two-hour wait, and the drive back). There aren’t any cabs out at Jingxi Gudao, and you’ll need a ride back to the subway, so don’t agree to a one-way trip.Jingxi Gudao is a gated district inside Miaofengshan Zhenshui Yuzui Village  (妙峰山镇水峪嘴村), which has a gate of its own. The good news is, if you can’t find it, there’s plenty of surrounding weirdness to make your trip worthwhile.