The Beijing International Club, formerly known as the "Western Gentry Club” (also known as the Peking Billiard Room), was set up in 1878 at the end of the Qing Dynasty in the Legation Quarter at the heart of Beijing, and was designed as a recreational, entertainment and social contact site for people in the neighborhood of foreign embassies. Destroyed by fire in 1909, it was rebuilt in 1911 under the auspices of relevant foreign embassies and other institutions and by German architect Curt Rothkegel at No. 8 Taijichang near the former club address and was renamed "Peking Club".
In 1950, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People"s Republic of China took charge of the club, and changed its name to International Club. In 1972, under the auspices of Premier Zhou Enlai, the new Beijing International Club was built in Jianguomenwai (its current address), and was then considered, with the Beijing Hotel and the Friendship Store, as one of the three luxury buildings on the Chang'an Avenue, known as the "second home" of foreign friends in China. Expanded several times, the club has witnessed the integration of the classical Chinese architectural style into the design of its buildings. It has several gardens, and the front gardens are separated in two parts by pavillions and corridors. There are terraces, flowers, a lotus pond and fountains for outdoor activities. Although there are differences between the different buildings that make up the club, some high and others low, the hotel still gives a relaxing feel, sticking perfectly to the Chinese classical aesthetic sensibility. The writer Liu Xinwu, in his story entitled "Decipher Chang'an Street - the International Club" provides a concise interpretation of the implications of the architectural background and design elements of this building at the crossroads in the history of Chinese architecture. In his opinion, the International Club "at that time eventually conveyed some healthy messages about Western architectural art".
Among the buildings of the Beijing International Club, the tennis court deserves to be mentioned. During the "Cultural Revolution", Wan Li, just coming back from the countryside, proposed building a world-class tennis stadium at the Beijing International Club. Representatives of the army disagreed, saying "A tennis stadium, for what? It's a waste of money". But Wan Li stressed, "in Beijing, the winter is cold and the summer hot, and in autumn and winter there is wind and the sandstorm. If you do not repair the stadium, foreigners will not want to play and the utilization rate will be low". He persisted against all odds, and the tennis stadium was finally completed. At that time, among all the foreign friends who were playing in China, there was no one who did not know the tennis court and did not give it a high rating.
The 1970s were a "golden age" for the International Club. During the period, the club was an important place where Zhou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping, Soong Ching Ling and other famous national leaders organized meetings and celebrations. Its restaurant and entertainment venues were also very popular with diplomats and government officials working in Beijing. Of all the foreign friends and diplomats who expressed deep feelings towards the club, former US President George Bush is probably the one who had the most special feelings. When he was the Head of the US Liaison Office in China, George W. Bush often came to the club restaurants, the hair salon or the tennis court. And it was when playing tennis that Wan Li became one of his friends.
In February 1989, when US President George H. Bush paid an official visit to China, he asked to go to the International Club to meet old friends. Those who had had the honor of serving as his hairdressers, cooks and tennis partners attended the meeting. The President and his wife were themselves very happy. Although they originally should have stayed for only 15 minutes, the meeting actually lasted for almost an hour, even causing temporary cancellation of a following activity. Interestingly, in February 2002, when former US President George W. Bush paid an official visit to Beijing, he even specifically chose to be booked in the then International Club Hotel (now St. Regis Beijing). Other politicians and dignitaries from many countries including the United States, such as President Barack Obama, have also stayed at the hotel.
On December 19, 2007, the Beijing Municipal Planning Commission published the first "Beijing Outstanding Protected Contemporary and Modern Architecture List" where 188 buildings in 71 places were classified as protected objects. Built in 1972, the Beijing International Club was one of them. Although the International Club is now "mature", the years passing by are still giving it more charm each day.
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