3 of Beijing's best Peking opera playhouses

Beijing has lost most of its opera houses, but a few hidden gems still exist

While many of Beijing's opera houses have disappeared over the years – replaced with modern replicas or torn down to make way for new developments – Peking opera still thrives in a handful of traditional venues. If you're on the look out for an authentic Peking opera, head over to one of these opera houses.

Temple Theatre Beijing Opera House

What's the story?
Tucked away in a hutong a short walk from Qianmen is Temple Theatre Beijing Opera House – a glorious legacy of Old Beijing that still puts on some of the best performances in the city. With a spectacular interior, the theatre lays claim to being one of the oldest and best-preserved wooden buildings in Beijing. Built in 1667 as an ancestral shrine, it later expanded into a playhouse where masters of Peking opera such as Mei Lanfang regularly held court. The theatre's interior is a beautiful shade of red, its wooden beams and balconies lavishly decorated, with the roofed stage the magnificent centrepiece.

While Temple Theatre is known for classical Peking opera and Kunqu (昆曲), another popular opera form originating from Jiangsu province, the theatre also hosts an eclectic range of performing arts, including avant-garde dance. The theatre's staging, of course, adds a unique atmosphere.

When can I go?
The theatre is only open during performance times for ticket holders, and there are regular weekly performances of Mei Lanfang Classics Peking Opera every Friday and Saturday night from 8-9.30pm. In addition, you can check out their performance schedule for other shows and operas on their website or Weibo: 正乙祠.

This month sees the return of Tea Spell (Huancha Mijing, 幻茶谜经), a contemporary dance show based on the narrative of achieving Zen through tea in the Tang Dynasty (tickets 200-1,000RMB). Go see a show to take in this magnificent, inexplicably little-known, slice of Beijing heritage just South of Tiananmen Square.

Huguang Guild Hall

What's the story?
The Huguang Guild Hall is a courtyard complex just south of Caishikou. The theatre, which was built in 1807, is still an active playhouse and also the home to the Beijing Opera Museum (10RMB). The museum tells the story of the history of Peking opera with photographs, performance accessories, costumes and traditional musical instruments such as the pipa (琵琶).

When can I go?
There's a daily Peking opera performance at 6.30pm. As well as traditional opera (tickets 180-680RMB), the theatre also hosts Crosstalk (xiangsheng, 相声) shows from famous masters such as Guo Degang (郭德纲). Performances are at 8pm daily (except Mondays) and afternoon performances are at 2.30 on weekends, but you can also visit outside of performance times as the museum is open.

Mei Lanfang Grand Theatre

What's the story?
This theatre is a little less 'traditional' in appearance, but if you're after a Peking opera venue with state-of-the-art facilities, the Mei Lanfang Grand Theatre the one to go to – dedicated to China's most famous Peking opera singer, Mei Lanfang. The modern theatre serves as a versatile platform for a range of large-scale shows – ground zero for Beijing's opera buffs.

When can I go?
The theatre is open everyday and offers a range of performances. Coming up this month is the famous Peking opera Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy (Zhiqu Weihushan, 智取威虎山) – one of the only operas permitted to be performed during the Cultural Revolution – take a look at the full schedule for 2015 here.