The newly unveiled renovation of The Peninsula Beijing marks the latest chapter in The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels’ (HSH) long tradition of hospitality excellence in China. With a front row seat in the capital city, HSH’s hotels have witnessed the remarkable transition of China into an economic superpower.
A History of Excellence in the Chinese Capital
The imperial rebirth of The Peninsula Beijing marks a new beginning for Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels in Beijing. The story began almost a century ago when HSH, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2016, assumed the management of the Grand Hotel des Wagons-Lits in Beijing in 1922.
Later, in 1981 HSH was invited by the Chinese Government to manage China’s first internationally managed joint-venture hotel, the Jianguo Hotel. Originally designed by pre-eminent architect K.Y. Cheung, The Peninsula Beijing opened in 1989 as The Palace Hotel, and was re-branded as The Peninsula Beijing in 2006, always occupying a space as the finest luxury hotel in China and a pioneer of contemporary design and luxury.
Among The Peninsula’s many achievements since opening, The Peninsula Arcade was the first luxury shopping arcade in China when it opened in 1990. Many of the world’s most celebrated connoisseurs of the art of luxury, including Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Hermes, opened their flagship China stores here.
Located in central Beijing, just a short walk from Tiananmen Square and the city’s historic cultural venues, The Peninsula Beijing has welcomed the world to Beijing and Beijing to the world for more than a quarter of a century, arguably the most exciting period in the nation’s 5,000-year history.
An Imperial Inspiration
The RMB 890 million (US$123 million) renovation of The Peninsula Beijing was conceived in 2013 by celebrated Hong Kong designer, and long-term Peninsula collaborator, Henry Leung of CAP Atelier. The inspiration behind the rebirth of The Peninsula Beijing is informed by the Middle Kingdom’s opulent imperial palaces and tranquil gardens, which provided a serene oasis for Chinese Emperors and nobility to meditate and relax.
Construction of the new Peninsula Beijing began in late 2015, and the project has been completed in phases to keep the hotel operational throughout the renovation period, making the magnitude of this project larger than any other that the group has undertaken. More than 600 workers were on site at the hotel during peak construction times, and more than 40 suppliers, designers, artisans, engineers and contractors came together to deliver this stunning transformation.
The history of the Middle Kingdom is one of astounding beauty; of scenic landscapes, remarkable architecture, exquisite art and unique cultural traditions. This spectacular and diverse land is the inspiration behind the reinvention of The Peninsula Beijing. Some of China’s finest artisans were commissioned to restyle the hotel using timeless luxury materials that provide guests with an authentic sense of China as a destination.
Whilst modern China continues to develop at breath-taking speed, The Peninsula Beijing remains mindful of preserving local heritage, culture and traditions – a trait that is evident throughout the hotel. By reviving imperial Chinese architecture, design and artisanal expertise from across the centuries, combined with modern Chinese art and proprietary Peninsula technology and service, The Peninsula Beijing upholds China’s noble traditions of artisanship and innovation, providing guests with an authentic sense of destination. The first allocation of restyled rooms became available to guests in August 2016, and the hotel renovation will be fully completed in early 2017.
Presenting the Most Spacious Guestrooms in Beijing
Chinese artistic expression extends across every floor the hotel, including the restyled guestrooms and suites. Designer Henry Leung has adopted a contemporary take on Chinese culture and heritage as the design concept for the new rooms and suites, ranging from the classical shapes and motifs of the furniture to the Chinese calligraphy painting-inspired fish mosaic in the bathrooms.
With guest comfort and convenience being at the center of the reconstruction, the hotel’s original 525 rooms and suites have been reduced and re-imagined to just 230 suite-style rooms, each offering a separate bedroom, living room, bathroom and dressing room. With standard room at an average of 65 square meters, the standard rooms are now the largest in Beijing, and among the most spacious in China. They are also the most personalized guestrooms in the world, with proprietary in-room technology delivering 11 languages at the touch of a fingertip, and paperless hotel and city information and services just a click away. Each room has its own self-contained ample dressing area with a valet box and nail dryer, while guests also have the added benefit of complimentary VOIP calls and WiFi.
The Peninsula Beijing takes suites to the next level of space and freedom. A collection of 61 suites offers inspired design and technological innovations to become the most sought-after guest accommodations in Beijing. In fact, suites comprise 25 percent of the hotel inventory – the highest percentage in The Peninsula group, and among the highest percentage for a luxury hotel in Beijing. The hotel’s stunning theme suites include The Peninsula Suite – styled after a Chinese aristocrat’s home – and 17 re-imagined Beijing Suites, while the Loft Collection of duplex rooms offers a chic and sophisticated twist on urban living.
A loft-style collection of duplex rooms on the top floor of the hotel offers a chic and sophisticated twist. Unique in China, the duplex rooms are 69 square meters in size and feature floor-to-ceiling windows, affording expansive views over Beijing from the master bedroom upstairs, and from the entry lobby and living room downstairs.
Combining two original suites to become 165 square metre residential-style spaces, the 17 Beijing Suites feature large living and dining areas, together with private dressing rooms adjoining the master bedroom. A private cinema room in each suite offers the possibility of relaxing with a latest release or catching up on old favorite in privacy and comfort – perfect for taking a break from sightseeing and ideal for families traveling together.
Time is luxury for the modern traveler, and The Peninsula Beijing is one of first hotels in China to offer a 24-Hour Check-In and Check-Out Service to all of its guests, meaning guests can arrive and depart at their leisure without extra cost. The seamless check-in process is personally managed in each guest room or suite without guests having to wait at a reception counter or front desk.
Exquisite artisanship is a highlight of each room. Using Forest Stewardship Council-Certified Sustainable mahogany and high-gloss finishes, the exclusively commissioned furniture was hand-finished by Italian company Cassina, a century-old Italian design house whose contribution to the glamour of travel includes custom-creating furnishings for luxury cruise ships. Family guests can relax together with bespoke in-room amenities and baby products provided through an exclusive partnership with Norwegian baby brand Stokke, adding comfort and convenience for babies, toddlers and parents in a home away from home.
Combining Ancient and Modern China
Investing in hotel designs that stand the test of time is a key philosophy of The Peninsula Hotels. With this vision in mind, The Peninsula Beijing Lobby has been crafted to mirror Beijing’s modern transformation. The existing area has been reconfigured to create a grand three-story Lobby, which is a Peninsula signature in its 10 hotels around the world.
A deep-rooted respect for the rich imperial history of Beijing, and the symbolisms imbued in its finest palaces and mansions, provides a refined sense of the destination for all guests. Luxurious materials such as bronze, onyx (jade), white marble and rosewood (zi tan wood), which ornamented the ancient structures of Beijing in the Ming and Qing Dynasties, such as The Great Wall, The Forbidden City and The Summer Palace, are used on every floor of the hotel. Carefully selected for their enduring qualities and their intrinsic beauty, these elements create an ageless sense of grandeur, elegance and timelessness.
The Imperial Hexagon Is A Recurring Theme. The 160,000 hexagonal motifs are partially inspired by a tortoise shell, which represents longevity in Chinese culture, and the peony flower, denoting prosperity and honor. The six pillars in The Lobby, which add formality and substance to the palatial space, are carved from white marble (han bai yu), which was used in the palaces of The Forbidden City. The floral emblems on the pillars are hand-carved in a hexagonal pattern. The hexagon is also visible in the bronze work on the main staircase, in the upper areas of The Lobby and in the open spaces surrounding the function rooms.
The Lobby features 3,500 individually chosen pieces of Palissandro marble, which is highly valued by designers. Every piece features subtly different vein colors, ranging from cream to cool gray, set to elegant perfection with a natural gold glitter. Using a complex specialized process, each piece was handpicked to create a “book mark” effect. The clean white onyx and cool gray floor contribute an ambience of lightness and rejuvenation to grand The Lobby.
Chinese inspirations are extended through to all parts of hotel and included in the guestrooms with subtle references throughout. Goldfish are considered lucky in Chinese mythology. During the Qing Dynasty – China’s last dynasty – the Na family inspired Chinese high society with its sizable mansion and beautiful Imperial-style garden, located in Wangfujing (Goldfish Lane) directly opposite to where The Peninsula Beijing now stands. In a tribute to this exceptional location, the goldfish, which represents abundance and prosperity in Chinese culture, is prominently featured in carvings and mosaic artwork in the hotel’s guestrooms and suites.
Redefining the Art of Hospitality
The Peninsula Hotels support innovative public art around the world. By partnering with art museums, galleries and private collectors, guests can experience up close pioneering works by established masters and emerging artists. With an explosion of interest in Chinese contemporary art in the past three decades since the hotel first opened, The Peninsula Beijing is perfectly positioned to showcase the very best of Chinese art to guests. The hotel collaborated with Michael Suh, Executive Director at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Beijing, and Leung, to incorporate a museum-quality collection of specially commissioned paintings, sculptures and installations into the hotel design. To indulge guests and residents into the hotel, Art has been thoroughly integrated into the design to create a three dimensional experience and also to create an open and welcome yet grand entrance.
An outdoor installation of nine granite pieces resembling turtl
es by British sculptor Jon Isherwood graces the forecourt. Adding an international touch to the arrival experience, the artwork evokes the transition from journey to relaxation. Guests enter The Peninsula Beijing through the hotel’s signature pailou Chinese archway, which was originally reserved for royalty to pass beneath. Refreshed and repainted, the archway welcomes guests in traditional style, and invites them to enter the grand lobby and discover the hotel beyond.
Upon entering The Lobby, hand carved onyx “Spirit Wall” conceived by artist Belinda Chow offers a glimpse into a typical Beijing courtyard home. Incorporating feng shui elements to repel negative spirits and encourage health and prosperity, these screens were traditionally used for privacy and to reflect the owner’s social status. The Spirit Wall has two distinctive sides, with carvings representing the four seasons, including lotus, bamboo, plum and orchid, all of which are revered for their auspicious symbolism.
Adorning The Lobby are two five-meter-high abstract ink paintings on each side of the grand staircase with bold strokes depicting the sun and moon, and symbolizing eternity and the creativity of the universe, on a cobalt blue background. The artist, Qin Feng, is considered a leading light of China’s contemporary avant-garde art movement, and the paintings are among the largest pieces he has been commissioned to create. Chinese cultural elements are embraced with Zhang Du’s two bronze sculptures of tea drinkers, which also represent The Peninsula Afternoon tradition in The Lobby. Bronze has been used to craft sculptures in China for thousands of years, and the pair of tea-drinkers was designed specifically for guests to interact with and touch.
The artistic theme extends into the hotel’s spacious guestrooms, which are styled in graceful shades of cream and white, with an art wall featuring hand-embroidered Chinese floral blossoms integrated into the wallpaper. The walls feature a blue-and-white painting inspired by Ming Dynasty porcelain, by artist Kong, plus photos of Beijing’s modern architectural masterpieces, including the CCTV Tower, Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium and Water Cube, shot from abstract angles by young Chinese photographers.
Specifically designed to nurture emerging artistic talent, The Peninsula Beijing’s Art Residency Program is the first of its kind in a luxury hotel in China. The program is hosted in conjunction with MoCA Beijing, and enables aspiring artists to live and work for three months in the heart of Beijing, the epicenter of China’s contemporary arts scene. Each resident artist can take advantage of a purpose-built studio and guestroom on the 14th floor, and the artworks created during their stay will be exhibited in a new gallery on the third floor. Guests can visit the studio to see the artist at work, and exclusive art dinners and themed events will be held.
The hotel will also showcase Beijing’s flourishing arts scene through The Peninsula Academy’s exclusive art tour experiences, or jade appreciation class for guests. The new “Keys to the City” Program, which offers the best tables at exclusive restaurants and front-row seats at the opera, also organizes out-of-hours guest visits to the most exclusive art galleries, and a special afternoon tea experience in an art gallery.
A Taste of the Middle Kingdom
Four newly styled restaurants and lounges celebrate the unique Chinese heritage of The Peninsula brand and the historic integration of fine craftsmanship into Beijing dining scene. The Peninsula Beijing’s talented team of nearly 90 Chinese and international chefs is helmed by French-born Executive Chef Dominique Martinez, who previously worked at Michelin-starred restaurants in Luxembourg, Germany and Barbados.
With sustainability and high-quality produce being at the heart of The Peninsula’s culinary philosophy, the hotel’s chefs have traveled across China and worldwide to source the finest ingredients to enhance each dining experience in the sumptuous new restaurants. Embracing the “farm-to-table” concept, the hotel works directly with 22 farms in China that supply sustainably produced, predominantly organic vegetables, fruit, meat and honey on a fresh, seasonal basis. All of the farms are fully certified by either the Chinese or the US Government, and the chefs from each restaurant visit every farm on a regular basis to ensure the provenance and quality of the ingredients. The Peninsula Beijing’s own on-site greenhouse cultivates fresh herbs used to garnish many of the signature recipes crafted by the hotel chefs.
Key addition to the renovation is the new Lobby Restaurant occupying the pride of place in the new enlarged Hotel Lobby which serves a wide selection of international favorites, plus the celebrated Peninsula Afternoon Tea. The Peninsula Beijing’s international restaurant, Jing, has been re-imagined as a contemporary “Farm-to-Table” venue, inspired by a secret Chinese garden. Spanish Chef Alberto Becerril seeks to create memorable dining experiences for guests by preparing inventive seasonal flavor and texture combinations using predominantly organic produce. Jing’s design also showcases a contemporary Chinese design, featuring up to 10 art works from Chinese leading artists.
The signature Huang Ting, Chinese restaurant, which originally opened in 2008, recreates a traditional Beijing nobleman’s courtyard home. The brand new menu emphasizes Cantonese cuisine embellished with fresh, seasonal ingredients. The new Huang Ting Tea Lounge, adjacent to the main restaurant, is styled like an ancient palace with Ming Dynasty-era tables and parasols. It serves more than 50 varieties of premium Chinese teas and sweet dim sum, and the resident tea master will offer seasonal samplings and tastings theatrically prepared in front of guests in the style of a traditional Chinese tea ceremony.
For guests seeking to relax and rejuvenate in ultimate style, The Peninsula Spa and Fitness Centre presents a qualified physiotherapist who uses elements of Traditional Chinese Medicine to provide guests with personal fitness and health guidance rooted in Chinese wellness philosophy.