Beijing Coking Plant / 北京焦化厂

It has been a while since I posted about an abandoned place in Beijing. So here is a report about a place I like a lot, Beijing coking plant, visited a few months before Hangzhou Coking Plant. This used to be a major production site in the city: the factory produced coke from 1958 until 2006, when the Beijing authorities closed it down in order to improve the air quality for the Olympic Games. The factory was then moved to Hebei in the Tangshan area.

I knew about this factory in 2006 because I conducted long-term research about the retired and xiagang workers and I introduced the place to Burbex, who enjoyed it a lot. You can read his report here. As Burbex explains, this site is huge and extremely dangerous so you should be very careful while visiting it1.

Another (forgotten) symbol of heavy industry from the 1950s

So basically this is Shougang’s cousin. It embodies the process of industrialisation in Beijing during the Maoist years.

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Zhu De visiting the coking plant in 1959 (internet sources)

Therefore, these ruins have a long history but did not get as « famous » as Shougang and got targeted for demolition in 2006. Yet even if the photographers did not defend the place, the former factory workers did by asking the city authorities to protect it. Beijing coking factory got planned for being turned into an « industrial heritage parc » in 2007 (another application of the « 798 » reference) and construction of the « parc » began in 2012. You can read about the details here. But currently, this is still a work in progress. Some parts of the factory are quite creepy, much more disturbing than Shougang.

Half demolished industrial ruins

This factory is not in a perfect state of conservation because a lot of demolition already occurred in the last five years. More over, the site is now cut in half because of the subway line that was built right in the middle of it. But there is still a lot to see. What makes this factory hauntingly beautiful is the trees growing on top of the  main buiding.

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Trees on the factory, Beijing Coking Plant, Sept 2015

This factory is special to me: I did an ethnographic research about the factory workers for more than three years in 2007-2009. The factory itself, though, people never said I should go visit it, they told me it was too dangerous and that there was nothing there anymore. I regret not going before, because at the time, it was really easy to get inside… More over, it was also « complete »: now it has been many years that the factory is demolished little by little and there is security and construction workers everywhere…

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Real estate development, Beijing Coking Plant, Sept 2015

Anyway, visiting it this late was better than nothing, because as I said, the site is being demolished to be turned into an « industrial heritage parc » with real-estate housing compounds all around it. And finally, as I said, the subway also cut the factory site in two halfs. That is why this report is structured in two parts, one visit of the northern area in November 2015 and one visit of the southern area in December 2015.

First visit: the northern part

The northern area was quite small and was mostly demolished. Only one red bulding remained.

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Red building, Beijing Coking Plant, Nov 2015

In the building, all the machines were gone.

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Machine room without machines, Beijing Coking Plant, Nov 2015

But I managed to open a door which seemed closed for a very long time and found the remains of a laboratory inside.

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Laboratory, Beijing Coking Plant, Nov 2015
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Brown bottles, Beijing Coking Plant, Nov 2015
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Broken transparent bottle, Beijing Coking Plant, Nov 2015
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Left wall of the lab, Beijing Coking Plant, Nov 2015
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Bottles on the floor, Beijing Coking Plant, Nov 2015
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Dust on the bottles, Beijing Coking Plant, Nov 2015

Everytime I explore a building, I really enjoy contemplating the urban landscape from an abandoned place, and just looking at city from inside those broken windows…

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Window on the city, Beijing Coking Plant, Nov 2015
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City view, Beijing Coking Plant, Nov 2015

As you can see on those pictures, thee are now quite a few residential compounds that were built a few years ago and sold at market price just next to the factory, and it generated many disputes about the polluted site.

Next to the building, one could find the huge dismantled machines which were removed from the rooms…

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Round machine, Beijing Coking Plant, Nov 2015
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Yellow machine, Beijing Coking Plant, Nov 2015
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Blue and red machine, Beijing Coking Plant, Nov 2015

Second visit: the southern part

My second visit was in December 2015. I went into the main part of the factory which is the more interesting one as it is where more machines are still present.

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Cooling tower, Beijing Coking Plant, Dec 2015
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Pipes, Beijing Coking Plant, Dec 2015
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Factory building, Beijing Coking Plant, Dec 2015
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Armchair in factory, Beijing Coking Plant, Dec 2015
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Parallel conveyor belts, Beijing Coking Plant, Dec 2015
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Belt conveyors with machine perspective, Beijing Coking Plant, Dec 2015
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Inside a belt conveyor, Beijing Coking Plant, Dec 2015
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Another part of the factory I need to visit next time, Beijing Coking Plant, Dec 2015

There are a lot of buildings to visit in this side of the factory, not only production buildings but also administrative ones.

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Abandoned pool table, Beijing Coking Plant, Dec 2015

But I was mostly interested by the production elements where the rust starts to give a red colour to the old machines.

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Machine with numbers, Beijing Coking Plant, Dec 2015
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Looking through a window, Beijing Coking Plant, Dec 2015

I also liked finding the many signs in the factory but I did not take many pictures, my camera had a very low battery on that day. You can see Brïn’s report for more examples.

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Beware of trains, Beijing Coking Plant, Dec 2015

On both visits, I stayed until the sunset, when the landscape was illuminated by the lights of dusk. Who says industrial ruins are not a romantic place? I would not stay there alone after dark though.

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Redevelopment near the factory, Beijing Coking Plant, Dec 2015
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Warehouse in sunset, Beijing Coking Plant, Dec 2015
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Chimneys, Beijing Coking Plant, Dec 2015
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Wild grass in factory, Beijing Coking Plant, Dec 2015
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Sunset on the main building, Beijing Coking Plant, Nov 2015
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Last view for the day, Beijing Coking Plant, Dec 2015

If you liked this place, you can check out my other reports of post-industrial landscapes in Beijing written about Shougang here and here.

  1. It is always good to let someone on the outside know where you are and notify them that you got out safely.

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