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Former residence of Lao She

The courtyard home of one of Beijing's best-loved writers, Lao She (1899-1966), is the most charming of many converted homes scattered around Beijing's hutong.

Former Residence of Loa SheDespite being granted this home by Zhou Enlai in 1950, the writer refused to become a cheerleader for the regime, and his post-revolution years were remarkably quiet for such a prolific writer. He recently came in at no. 5 in an online survey of 'China's leading cultural icons', ahead of pop diva Wang Faye but well behind the no. 1 choice, the iconoclastic writer Lu Xun (who has a less interesting memorial hall in the west of town, near Baita Si). Lao She is renowned for the novel Rickshaw (Luotuo Xiangzi), a darkly humorous tale of a hardworking rickshaw puller, Happy Boy.

Starting in Hall 3 to the right, you'll find records of his early years in London, the United States, and Shandong Province. Hall 2 is an attempt to re-create the mood of his original study and sitting room, with his personal library untouched and his desk calendar left open at the day of his disappearance; August 24, 1966. While the date of his death is certain, the details are murky. The official line has him committing a poetic suicide in nearby Taiping Hu (Peace Lake, pictured in Hall 1) after being subjected to a "struggle session" at Kong Miao along with other intellectuals. It's possible that he was simply murdered by Red Guards.