Beyond its walls, old Beijing was known for its opera, duck, and dust. All three remain today in differing degrees of popularity and abundance. Peking Opera
Beijing now has some 10 Peking Opera troupes performing irregularly in numerous theaters across the city. Although some scholars and older Chinese still regularly attend the opera, it is widely seen as an anachronism.
The decline in the popularity of Peking Opera is perhaps a legacy of the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), when the opera was labeled ``feudal propaganda.''
While the opera lacks the pomp and polish of a bygone era, it still flashes with the bold costumes, highly stylized movements, and acrobatics that are its hallmark. A list of operas and venues can often be found written in Chinese on the back page of the Beijing Daily.
The lavish imperial dinner is served for the proletarian masses and tourists at many restaurants in Beijing. One of the most convenient and famous is the Qianmen Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant. It is located south of Qianmen, a large gate south of Tiananmen Square (tel. 751379).
The spring storms of dust from the Gobi Desert are one Beijing phenomenon that probably has not changed since the ascent of the first ``Dragon Emperor.'' While such storms can strike at any time of year, fickle April weather usually kicks up the most, in all their dark brown fury.
David Kidd's ``Peking Story'' (New York: Clarkson N. Potter, Inc., 1988) is a touching, bittersweet account of a gentry family's life in the ``siheyuan,'' or ``four-walled courtyard,'' during the final days of old Beijing.