“Do you think anyone’s ever got out of paying their tab by turning into a bat and pissing off?”
In the previous entry, I briefly mentioned vampires. In Britain, if you’re obsessed with vampires it usually means either you’re a hardcore goth or you’re a bit of a wanker. In Beijing, though, a lot of ‘normal’ people seem surprisingly nutty on the subject.
Tucked away behind a suspicious-looking wooden door in a Yonghegong hutong, is a place called The V Bar.* It looks like it’s run by Tim Burton’s production designer, with the same kind of atmosphere and creaky charm as an old Hammer movie. Its unique selling point is that (if you are so inclined) you can sip cocktails out of blood packs through an IV drip (personally, I stuck to the bottles of TsingTao). In the UK, this sort of place would be reserved for pasty-faced night crawlers who dressed like Gary Oldman or Eileen Daly, but the V Bar is frequented by the same trendy Beijingers as any other hutong bar, and it plays the same shitty music. Watching someone in a Zara jacket and a Vans snapback suck blood while listening to Katy Perry is an experience that I can’t imagine having in most cities.
Relatively nearby, by the ancient Drum and Bell Towers, there is a shop called Vampire in Beijing (helpfully subtitled ‘We’ve Got the Shit You Need!’) inside, there is absolutely nothing to do with vampires. In fact it mostly sells American baseball memorabilia. Just another example of Beijing paying lip service** to its fascination with creatures of the night.
Somebody told me that supernatural culture is popular here for the same reason that The Big Bang Theory is: because it’s banned. I don’t pretend to understand the censorship laws in China (or why one of my Chinese colleagues keeps saying “You are SO Sheldon!” I’ve never seen it), but apparently ghosts and time travel have also made the government shit list. It doesn’t stop H&M selling Back to the Future t-shirts, or students from asking if vampires are real in England, or people from illegally downloading season 7 of a certain popular American sitcom.
In fact, it just seems to make otherwise ‘normal’ people more interested in it!
*(Yes, the ‘V’ stands for ‘vampire’. Well done).
*(or fang service? Haha. Here all week, me).