Sanlitun, also known as 'Sanlitur' in Beijing dialect, is one of the best known and most popular bar streets in Beijing. Sanlitun, which is also used to refer to the general area, is located in Eastern Beijing in the Chaoyang District and forms part of the Gongti nightlife area . Despite several threats of closure, it remains fashionable with the expat community, foreign travelers and younger locals.
The area is currently being redeveloped as part of the preparations for the 2008 Beijing Olympic games. Until 2005, bars ran from the northern street through a very busy crossing with Gongti North Road (Gongti Bei Lu) to a southern street, which had fewer bars and was more relaxed.
The Yaxiu clothing market, a popular shopping destination for locals and foreigners alike, is situated alongside this street.
Prior to 1949, the Beijing Legation Quarter was the center of diplomatic activity in the capital. After the foundation of the People's Republic of China, the government wanted to move the diplomatic district outside of the inner city and Sanlitun was chosen as the area where foreign legations and embassies were to be reallocated in the late 1950s. The area was called Sanlitun to designate its location from Dongzhimen gate . Tun, like dian (e.g. Shibalidian), means no more than "locality". San li means "three li", and a li was 0.5 km -- thus, Sanlitun was 1.5 km away from Dongzhimen Gate.
Sanlitun's business grew when, along with the economic reforms of the late 1970s and early 1980s, bars serving expats (and later, to locals) sprang up. International hotels hosted the first bars, but in the 1990s standalone establishments appeared.
The small lane known as "Nan Jie" was demolished in the summer of 2005 to make way for new buildings. However, bars and restaurants continue to operate on both sides of Gongti Bei Lu.