The Xinyuan Bathhouse, one of Beijing’s oldest traditional bathhouses dating back to the Guangxu Years of the Qing Dynasty, saw its final day of operation on September 20, when it was closed down in preparation for its transformation into a small inn.
The century-old bathhouse was founded by Li Fuqing, the foster son of the renowned Qing Dynasty eunuch Li Lianying.
As business in recent years has slowed down and operating costs have risen, the manager announced that the bathhouse would sadly be shuttered and converted into a small inn.
A few days before its closure, a number of old patrons and residents paid a special visit to bid farewell to the historical bathhouse, while some even asked for leaves to enjoy traditional rubdown.
According to the workers, the bathhouse came under new ownership after Li Fuqing’s death in 1928. In 1956, it became a joint state-private endeavor, and remained so until its final day.
The bathhouse was once a hotspot for significant politicians living nearby who often flocked there to bathe.
One bath there costs around 15 RMB. But while the bathhouse can accommodate 80 to 90 customers max, only some 30 people visit per day. The manager said that as the price of water, electricity and gas have risen, operating costs have become too expensive.
A resident, surnamed Sun, said: “I am used to taking baths here. Everyone here is familiar with me, and we chat together while bathing. It’s become a routine and I’m very attached to it.”
Another regular patron surnamed Chen is pictured relaxing at the bathhouse days before its closure.
A number of faithful customers said that they could bathe at home if they wanted, but they still come to enjoy massages and to socialize with friends in their spare time. It became an essential part of their daily routines.
Some loyal customers would come back to visit at times after they moved home. Tourists also came to enjoy a bath and to experience a bit of traditional Chinese culture.
Pictures show towels prepared for massages.
A worker at the bathhouse called Tian said the place was packed before its final closing day. He told reporters that he would probably return to his hometown in Yangzhou after the bathhouse was shut down.
At a corner of the bathhouse, Tian is photographed at his office table.
Tian seized the time between serving customers to grab a bite. “I’ve been working here for six years,” he told reporters. “Back when I started, there were only seven customers every day. Now there are 20 per day at least. We could make it back then, but why we can’t make it today?”
Tian cleaned the tables and put out a disposable table cloth before customers arrived. He tried his best to serve every customer.
A plaque bearing the bathhouse’s name was pried off, leaving only a yellowing price list of services offered: “Bathing 15 RMB, Rubbing 20 RMB.”
A pedicure technician, a man in his 60s surnamed Zhang, has been working at the bathhouse for almost 30 years. Many customers would came a long way just to be served by him because of his exceptional skills.
A worker is seen taking down the plaque listing the hours of operation.
Another worker is seen collecting the last day’s income.
One day before its closure, local and foreign media came to pay a visit.
By Lucy Liu
[Images via Tencent]