For many elderly citizens in Beijing, taking a bath with several good friends in a public bathhouse, enjoying traditional rubdown, chatting and enjoying tea together probably are the most enjoyable or even indispensable things in their daily lives.
Recently, the century-old Xinyuan Bathhouse, a traditional bathhouse in Beijing, announced plans to completely shut on September 20 because the rising costs of water, electricity and gas have sent their operating expenses through the roof. The manager of the bathhouse says it will be converted to a small inn.
Located on the Yandaixiejie Street of Xicheng District in Beijing, the Xinyuan Bathhouse is one of the oldest in Beijing. It was founded in Guangxu Years of the Qing Dynasty (1875-1909).
The initial founder of this bathhouse was Li Fuqing, the foster son of renowned eunuch in Qing Dynasty Li Lianyin. The bathhouse gained popularity at that time as lots of significant politicians and merchants flocked to bathe there. The bathhouse was under new ownership after Li Fuqing's death in 1928. In 1959 it became a joint state-private endeavor, which it remained to the present day.
The bathhouse also attracted foreigners wishing to experience the traditional culture of old Beijing. But recently, business had slowed down according to a staff member.
"Right now, the bathhouse has a maximum of 80 to 90 customers, but at least 30 customers daily," the staff member recalled.
Many residents living around the bathhouse said that it had become an essential part of their daily routines.
A 70-year-old nearby resident recalled that previously, people in the bathhouse liked to chat, play chess, and enjoy some tea. He added that "the staff members are also our neighbors, so we always chatted with each other for almost everything when they serve to us."