What to buy in Beijing - Beijing Shopping Guide - Things To Buy in Beijing
For over 5,000 years the history of silk and the history of China have
been closely intertwined. The methods of production were carefully
guarded secrets for most of those years. For centuries silk has been
one of China's most important items of trade. It is hard to believe, but
one small cocoon can yield an incredible two kilometers of silk thread.
CHINESE MEDICINE (中药)
China's system of traditional medicine is over 2,000 years old and it
is more popular now than ever throughout the world. More than 90%
of Chinese traditional medicines come from plants. Other sources are
of mineral or animal origin. Some of the animal origins are quite
Chinese Medicine Hospitals as well as pharmacies sell herbal remedies
in pill or tonic form. Schedule an appointment at a hospital and have
your "pulse read" and prescription written before purchasing items
unless you know what you are doing and know what you want. Some
pharmacies that sell the medicines also have 'doctors' on staff who
can 'read your pulse and prescribe.
China's 7,000 year ceramic history continues to the present day and is
still flourishing. The Chinese invented porcelain and tightly held the s
ecrets of its production for hundreds of years. It became a favored item
of trade with the Middle East and the West. Antique and current pieces
are for sale almost everywhere in Beijing Since the Yuan Dynasty,
Jingdezhen (景德镇), southwest of Shanghai, has been the primary
production center for porcelain in China, producing most of the famous
Imperial porcelain of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Museums around the
world house some of these beautiful pieces.
Export of genuine antiques is not allowed without special government
permission these days. But, a special wax seal, usually red, does signify
permission. Many of these items can be found at government stores.
A certificate is also given to allow legal export. Buying antique porcelain
without the seal or proper paperwork can be risky.
It could be a fake, or it could have been stolen by a grave robber at some point thus not eligible for export and could
be confiscated upon departure from China.
Reproductions of Ming and Qing Dynasty pieces are sold, but they are stated as such and the prices are not bad.
Many other beautiful ceramic items can be purchased such as the famous 'purple clay', or Yixing Teapots. Some of
these come in sets with the tea cups. Learn the Chinese Tea Ceremony, quite different from the Japanese. The
Yixing Teapots come in many shapes and designs and quite loved by tea connoisseurs around the world. Great
Chinese freshwater pearls produced in southern China account for
over 90% of the world's total freshwater pearls. China's Hepu or
South Seas pearl is considered better than other cultured pearls
and is far more expensive.
There are pearl necklaces, bracelets, earrings and pins sold
everywhere and they come in a range of sizes and shapes as
well as in many colors or hues. Do not confuse these with the
Japanese Cultured Salt Water Pearl.
JADE CARVINGS (翡翠)
The material most highly valued by the Chinese for carving smaller
figures and vessels has always been jade. The Chinese word for
jade, Yu, refers not only to the minerals nephrite and jadeite, but
also means "precious", "pure", and "noble" as well as "stone worthy
Remember that the only two minerals internationally accepted as jade
are nephrite and jadeite. Jade is difficult and time-consuming to work
as it is extremely hard. It is worked today much as it has been for
centuries. It is very difficult to scratch read jade, nephrite or jadeite,
with a pin.
Chinese consider jade as a stone descended from heaven, and they value its hard, cool texture and translucent
Embroidery is one of the original folk arts of China. According to many
historical accounts, embroideries were added designs on dresses,
skirts and other clothing over 4,000 years ago. The history of silk and
embroideries parallel as most embroideries have been done in
Elaborate embroideries were added to imperial and court robes, the
most elaborate ones were done during the Qing Dynasty, but had
been done since the Yuan and Ming Dynasties.
Because of its place in Chinese history Beijing attracts antique-seekers
from all over the world. Before you think of buying, learn something
about your subject. There are lots of antique shopping areas such as
Liulichang Cultural Street and Beijing Curio City with more than 250
shops under one roof.
In China anything made prior to 1949 is considered an antique.
Antiques that date prior to 1795 are forbidden for sale or export.
Those dated between 1796 and 1949 should bear a small red wax
seal and a Certificate for Relics Export from the Beijing Cultural Relics
Bureau (BCRB) to allow them to be taken out of China, and also
proves the genuineness of the item. Don't loose receipts and/or certificates.
Upon leaving China one could be asked if any antiques had been purchased, and luggage could be inspected at
the whim of Chinese Customs. Items purchased that are antiques, but have no seal or certificate should be taken to
the BCRB and application made, but it can be a long process, not an overnight one. Government owned stores
should provide everything the purchaser needs.
Furniture, porcelain, garments, calligraphy scrolls, painting scrolls, and jade are the most popular purchases.
The carpet factories in Beijing make close woven fine wool carpets.
Using a specially designed knife or scissors tool they sometimes sculpt
the various patterns of the rug to accentuate the design.
Silk carpets are made in other areas of China, and these carpets can
be sculpted as well, but not always. The charm of the silk carpet is that
it has one look, but when reversed from end to end, the color hues
change significantly adding to the beauty. A silk carpet is the most
luxurious of all.
New silk and wool carpets are sold at many places in Beijing as well as
are antique ones. Wonderful traditional design Chinese carpets can
feature dragons or phoenix designs. Many carpets are available at
bargain prices and could be used as tapestries or wall hangings as well.
There are many quality levels of carpets. Always check the back of the carpet, it should not be cloth covered. Ask
how many knots there are per square inch and ask to see examples of each. The higher number of knots per
square inch, the better and more expensive the carpet will be.
Most carpets are machine made, but there are some still made by hand, and can be very costly. Shipping is
available, but most rugs can be folded and packaged to take on an aircraft. Buyers choice. Schedule a factory visit
if more knowledge is desired before a major purchase.
A favorite purchase in China is buying a Chop, or personal seal, for
yourself or family and friends. Many larger hotels provide this service
and demonstration in their lobby.
A chop, rather than a signature, has been used on official documents
or for personal affairs for centuries in China.. From ancient imperial
times to modern government offices, the use of Chops is common.
Chops are carved from many types of stone, jade, wood, metal, or
in years past, ivory.
Some Chops are very plain, others may have Chinese Zodiac figures topping them making them even more
personal. Names are carved into the end of the Chop. Usually carvers have a list of English names with their
Chinese equivalent to select from. Make certain to purchase the small container of the red ink paste to use with it.
The carver will give instructions on the method for a clear impression.
n furniture pieces such as cabinets and the many panel screens, or room dividers so associated with China.
PAINTINGS AND CALLIGRAPHY SCROLLS (字画)
Chinese paintings and calligraphy have traditionally been affixed
to scrolls and never framed.
Landscape painting is the most highly regarded subject for paintings
in China. They and calligraphy works can be found for sale all over
Beijing varying in age, quality and price. Most come with custom
boxes making them fairly safe to transport.
Cloisonne originated in Beijing during the Yuan Dynasty, but reached
it's artistic peak during the Ming Dynasty. Pieces from that period are
nearly priceless and are prized by collectors worldwide.
Cloisonne is an enamel ware, in which the different colors of the designs
are separated by thin metal strips on a metal base. The metal is usually
copper. The process begins with the casting of bronze into a desired
shape such as a vase, bracelet, bowl or perhaps a box. A flat copper
wire is then affixed in a decorative pattern. Enamels of different colors
are applied by brush to fill the 'cloisons', or hollows. Each piece is kiln
fired three times with a new coal of enamel added each time. After each
firing the pieces are ground and polished to a gold hue. In 1904 a piece
of Chinese Cloisonne won the first prize at the Chicago World Fair.
Beijingers love Cloisonne , they decorate their homes with it, and can be seen wearing the jewellery. Cloisonne
items can be found all over Beijing in the form of jewelry, vases, bowls, and boxes. Make certain to notice some of
the large pieces which decorate the entrances to many stores. They are exquisite works of art.
The most expensive and valuable pieces are of unusual shapes and sizes.
Take a close look at an expensive piece and you will notice that all of the 'cloisons' are nearly completely filled in,
and few pin holes show in the enamel.
Cloisonne is truly the finest of traditional Chinese handicrafts.
Kites are for sale everywhere in Beijing in stores, from peddlers
on the street, and from small vendors. Kite flying is a popular
past time in Beijing as there is plenty of wind. Chinese kites
may be differentiated into four main categories: Centipede
(Skolopender Kites, derived from ancient Greek centipede), Hard
Winged Kites, Soft Winged Kites and Flat Kites.
Tea Sets (茶具)
You’ll never look at a cup the same way again. For a start, Chinese
tea cups are often three-piece affairs with a saucer to prevent burned
fingers and a lid to keep the leaves out of your mouth. They are sized
from mug to thimble, and the colors and patterning can be exquisite,
making a nicely-boxed tea set the number one gift from China.
Tea, of course is the most popular drink in China. Depending on the method of processing the tea, there are seven
types of teas in China, green tea, black tea, brick tea, scented tea, white tea, yellow tean and Oolong tea. Green
tea (lucha ,绿茶), is most common and most popular tea in China. Scented tea (flower tea, huacha, 花茶) is a
mixture of green tea with flower petals. Black tea (hongcha, 红茶) is actually called "red tea" in Chinese due to the
reddish brew that results from fermentation process. The most highly prized black tea is oolong (乌龙茶). Brick tea is
black or green, pressed into blocks.
All over Beijing are shops devoted to tea. Tea Street Market in Beijing
specializes in nothing else with dozens of shops together offering around
500 different varieties of leaf. The packaging can often be quite beautiful
too, from bright red tins to cardboard-tube containers decorated with a
|Meiguoxing.com, Your Ultimate Guide to Beijing, China
|What to buy in Beijing - Beijing Shopping Guide
Beijing is a shopper's paradise, especially for bargain hunters. From
embroidery, fake Prada bag, silk, jewelries, jade, painting, handmade
earrings to Cultural Revolution memorabilia, whatever your interest, you're
bound to be able to buy it in Beijing. As the world's factory, you can find just
about anything, if only you know where to look.
The key things to remember: bargain hard for everything. Outside of the
department stores, credit cards are rarely accepted. So carry cash with you.
It's also highly unlikely you'll be given a receipt. Nevertheless, if you are
unhappy with anything, the quicker you take it back, the more likely the
shop assistant is to fix or replace any damaged goods.
Sales items are marked differently here, showing the percentage of the
price you pay, not the percentage of the discount.
Where to Shop: Western-style shopping malls in Beijing are flexing their muscles, replacing the traditional storefronts,
Chinese department stores, and alley markets. Even the new, privately run stores on major shopping streets tend to be
versions of the boutiques and specialty outlets familiar to shoppers in the West. But there are still plenty of open-air markets
and lovely laid-back alleys full of quaint shops, offering more traditional arts and crafts, collectibles, and clothing, usually at
prices far below those in the big plazas and modern stores.