Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Feng Bar (Maple Bar)

Feng Bar
Feng Bar (Maple Bar)

Location: Gongti Nan Lu & Sanlitun Nan Lu (Sanlitun area), Beijing (Municipality), China

Founded: In 2000--regularly identified as one of Beijing's oldest lesbian bars

Closed: Late 2008?

Frommer's Guide to Gay and Lesbian Clubs in China (or Rainbow Sexuality Under the Red Flag) generally has a lot of enthusiastic things to say about gay male life in Beijing. As for lesbian life? Not so much.

For lesbians, the scene is slightly grimmer. Women perceived as homosexual are often subject to harassment. In the context of Chinese patriarchy, lesbianism has never received much attention. Outside a brief appearance in the Chinese classic Dream of the Red Mansion, it is invisible in literature, and the pressures of China's skewed gender ratio -- an excess of boys brought on by age-old prejudices in response to the one-child policy -- has made many single Chinese men resentful of any reduction in the pool of potential wives.

Aside from Thursday nights at Destination, try the Feng Bar, just east of the south gate of the Worker's Stadium, on Saturday nights. As the scene is still developing, try connecting online, through Beijing's Other Attractions (www.boaevents.com), or more general websites for lesbians in Asia, such as www.fridae.com or http://www.utopia-asia.com/.

As TENG Jigru has noted, "lesbian space" really didn't exist in Beijing till the first half of the 1990s. She credits the 1995 Beijing World Conference on Women as providing the first time that Beijing lesbians appeared within a public forum as lesbians and made their presence known. But after that, lesbians were stuck with temporary and informal spaces within restaurants and shopping malls, or a "small and marginal space" within the gay men's bars--where lesbians were outnumbered nearly 10 to 1:

In 2000, a former lesbian singer Qiaoqiao decided to do something to change the situation. She built the first lesbian bar of China in Beijing, named Maple Bar, with its service exclusively for lesbians in Saturday evening.

(It should be noted, however, that there is at least one claim for an earlier lesbian bar in Beijing called "Diqiu" (earth bar)--at least according to one lesbian's recollections.)

Back in 2007, the owner of Feng Bar, Qiaoqiao, also made history by appearing as a guest on the first interactive online program about the life of homosexuals in China, Tong Xing Xianglian (Binding Homosexuals Together) on Phoenixtv.com. Quiaquiao is also described as "the first lesbian singer to have exposed her identity." In addition, we're told that "Feng is very famous among lesbians in China, especially among actresses and female singers."

There was a political price to pay for such openness. Apparently, Feng Bar was subjected to a lot of official harassment over the years. As one Chinese lesbian, Mei Bin, recalled back in June 2005,

Feng bar was the major hot spot for lalas until a few months ago, when it was closed by the police. I don't know why. The bars here are closely connected to the police. The owner has to know how to handle them. Maybe the shows were the problem, because there were often transsexuals performing there, as well as gays.

Lala is a slang term used by Chinese lesbians to describe themselves. It seems that Feng bar later reopened, as here's a January 2008 review of Feng Bar by lisa M:

Ahh Feng Bar (aka Pipes Bar)...what can I say about you?

All lesbian, every Saturday night for many years - Feng Bar is one of, if not THE longest running weekly lesbian bar in Beijing...

Frequented primarily by those lalas (Chinese slang for lesbian) on the younger side of 30, Feng Bar provides a girl-girl loving friendly night out in the heart of Sanlitun.

The dance floor is tiny, the drinks are not fabulous (35rmb for a mixed drink of questionable alcoholic content and quality), the music is downright appalling (think the same CD for 2 years and counting), BUT - its one of the only places where you can find 50-100+ lesbians every Saturday night in Beijing.

Be sure to get there early, the place tends to fill up around 9-10pm, and starts to empty out by midnight....

Most Saturdays feature some form of performance by a nubile young woman gyrating around in something skimpy - always a winner with the ladies of Pipes...certainly makes the 30rmb entry fee (50rmb for men) all the more worth it ;)

Those the the male species are not exactly unwelcome at Feng Bar (unless you happen to be a gay man - and even then preferably escorted by your lesbian sisters), but men as a general rule are not greeted with open arms...

Not that we have anything against men...its just a matter of having a women and lesbian friendly safe and secure place to be ourselves...

The majority of Chinese lesbians are not out to many people (if any) - Feng Bar provides a wonderful place to be "out" as a lesbian (if only for one night) - sometimes its nice to have a place to call your own...minus all those lovely gay-friendly supporters...

Will add more intel to this soon...stay tuned for my guide to the fascinating world of the T and the P...which are you?

For the uninitiated, "T" stands for "tomboy" (butch women) while "P" stands for "po" (femme or wife). Women who don't fit the T/Po stereotype are known as bu fen (not divided).

By December 2009, there were reports that Feng Bar had closed "last year"--apparently for good.  Presumably the reason was that it was being run in a way that was "too old" (maybe it was that ancient music?) and that it wouldn't change with the times.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.