Best Urban Refuge

Peace and quiet are virtues not often ascribed to Beijing. It's a city referred to by locals as renao—a word for "lively" that melds the characters for "hot" and "noisy." Hence the allure of Liu Xian Guan, a tea shop opposite the serene, 600-year-old Confucius Temple, where for centuries the country's best and brightest came to take their exams for the civil service. Inside, 40 excellent varieties of tea are served with as little fanfare as you like. Outside the window, the temple's deep red walls set off its sloping yellow roofs and gnarled cedars. And if you sit and gaze,...

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