Suite with an emperor's touch

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 November, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 November, 2001, 12:00am

Beijing's distinguished guests from near and far now have the chance to live like a Chinese emperor - if they are willing to shell out US$9,000 a day. That tidy sum will allow them to check into Beijing Hotel's new 'emperor suite''.

The 17th floor suite in the hotel's east wing was recently completed. It provides a grand view of the Forbidden City to the west and Chang'an Avenue just in front, right in the middle of downtown Beijing.

The room is done up in wood to resemble parts of the 'Forbidden City'', which housed the imperial court, according to a media report. The furnishings, decorations, and ornaments are copies of those in the Forbidden City's Baozhong Hall.

The 500-square-metre suite has an octagonal hall, a dining room, a drawing room, a study, and two separate bedrooms for the modern 'emperor'' or 'empress'' and whoever accompanies that person.

The door to the suite opens onto a long room with crystal chandelier and porcelain, jade, and agate vases along the sides. The doorframe, doors, window frames, and furniture are all made of nanmu, a scented wood from the south of China traditionally favoured for use in important buildings.

There are dragon decorations everywhere, on the walls, woven into the carpet, on the four-poster curtain-hung 'dragon bed'', right down to the yellow satin pajamas that are provided for the pampered guests.

Even those Western inventions, the sofas, which are found in the meeting room and lounge, are done in Chinese style, as are the bound copies of Chinese classics and works of poetry in the bookcases. 'Everything in the suite is Chinese, and many foreign diplomats have expressed their appreciation for the design,'' hotel staff told Everything is Chinese, that is, except for the ultra-modern telecommunications equipment that no modern emperor could do without.

But who knows who will really be interested in what is possibly the most expensive lodging on the mainland. In any case, even those who can afford the enormous cost may not get the chance to stay even one night, the media have reported. It seems that social status in the new economic free-for-all still counts for something. One hotel employee put it even clearer: 'Only VIPs, [chief executives], and presidents are welcome,'' he said in a modest voice.

'Many of our guests may have a home that is as luxuriously decorated as the 'president suite'. But, they may like a room with an oriental flavour, even though it costs US$1,000 more than our 'president suite','' Beijing Youth Daily quoted a hotel spokeswoman as saying.

Some Chinese or foreigners lower down on the social scale and without the nobility or political connections can still stay next door to the west at the Grand Hotel's 'emperor suite', according to media reports. That hotel began marketing its 'emperor suite'' a decade ago. And it charges much less: US$3,000. It has catered to everyone from tycoons to ordinary folk, including a newly married couple, the kind of ordinary folk who can pay US$3,000 for a hotel room.

The 'emperor suite'' is clearly not to everyone's taste and some balk at the price.

'The hotel had better drop that name because the word 'emperor' usually has some bad connotations for most people just like 'feudal' and 'concubines','' according to the newspaper. 'Besides, it's hard to know what they mean by 'service' in a hotel that advertises 'like that for emperors'.''

It has also been pointed out that, at that rate, the room costs in the neighbourhood of 50 yuan per minute. The average wages in Beijing run around 1,000 yuan a month, while in some provincial capitals they are down around 500 yuan.