in Beijing is becoming more convenient by the day. Every year new shopping centers and
palazs are sprouting up all over the capital. Just a few years ago there was only a few
department stores and small bazaars, but now there are many supper-stores, mega-malls and
markets where you can buy just about anything you need. Recently, the first IKEA just
opened in the north of the city. There is a huge PriceSmart which is a discount wholesale
food stuffs market for cardholders only.
A good place to find a wide
selection of antiques is at Liulichang. Liulichang is a street in Hepingmen, and many of
the stores are quite old. This area has everything from scrolls, to jade articles to
decades-old cigarette ad posters.
Another large antiques market
is the antiques City at Panjiayuan. This is a multi-story building which is full of
antiques and general kitsch.
Beijing Curio City, gathering
more than 250 curio shops under one roof, is China's largest trade center for antiques and
folk art works.
Many of the dealers are
themselves connoisseurs and curio collectors. Antiques that date before 1795 are forbidden
for sale or export. Those dated between 1796 and 1949 should bear a small red seal and a
Certificate for Relics Export from the Beijing Cultural Relics Bureau (BCRB), to allow
them to be taken out of China. The seal also proves the genuineness of the items.
Porcelain, the original China,
is still a major industry, producing dinner services, figurines and reproductions of
antique vases, teapots and the like. The finest porcelain in the world can be easily
purchased in China.
Cloisonne is an art form developed in the 15th century, and now
used to decorate vases, bowls, lamps, jewelry and ornaments.
The art of cloisonné
(Jingtailan) is a unique combination of sculpture, painting, porcelain making and
coppersmithing that is said to have originated in Beijing during the Yuan Dynasty. To make
a cloisonné piece, a copper body is first made and then intricate engravings are made
with a copper wire. Different colored pigments are next applied to the engravings.
Finally, the piece is fired and polished.
The oldest existing piece was made during the
Yuan Dynasty, but Jingtailan underwent a major change during the Ming Dynasty when at
about 1450 to 1456, a new blue pigment was discovered and gave Jingtailan its current name
based on the Chinese word for blue (lan). Ming Dynasty cloisonné is also considered to be
the most intricate. Nevertheless, Jingtailan reached its peak during the Qing Dynasty due
to great innovations in coppersmithing techniques.
Jingtailan can be found on
large objects such as vases and other large utensils and decorative items, as well as
small items like earrings, bracelets, chopsticks or jars. Beijing people like to give
Jingtailan as gifts for it is something inherently Beijing. Jingtailan bought in tourist
souvenir shops and stalls can be either expensive or rather reasonable. Try to bargain and
you can walk away with a pretty souvenir of your visit to China's capital.
Laequerware consists of up to
500 coats of lacquer applied to a copper base and carved into designs. The colors are red,
green, yellow and black, while favorite patterns show flowers, birds, landscapes and
figures. Lacquer is used for vases, plates, bowls and screen.
Jade is regarded by the Chinese as a stone descended from heaven.
They value its hard, cool texture and translucent colors. It is extremely difficult to
carve but China's craftsmen create incredibly intricate ornaments and jewelry from jade.
For thousands of years, the
Chinese people have given jade objects as gifts or used them to decorate one's home or
person. In the past, jade was a symbol of status and rank in Chinese society and nobles
would carry jade jewelry and official stamps made of jade on their person at all times. In
modern times, Jade is often a symbol of wealth and is still considered to be lucky. It is
said that if a lady wears a jade bracelet, then any bad luck will be stopped, causing the
bracelet to break.
In Beijing, many jade craftsmen
flocked to Beijing to make a name for themselves as master craftsmen and set up shop in
the Chongwenmen area. In this way, Beijing gradually became one of the centers for
producing this art. The art of jade cutting is very demanding and requires approximately
seven years of apprenticeship to completely master. Jade cutters are very careful about
wasting the precious material and will often design a piece based on the shape of the
original rough stone.
Generally Beijing style jade
objects are divided into two types. The first is large sized objects, including incense
burners, vases, tea sets, figurines, birds, animals, or even life-sized peach trees.
Wealthier Beijingers like to decorate reception areas with one or two large jade vases.
The second type can be quite small like rings, necklaces, stamps with one's name carved on
the bottom, hair or clothes pins.
Carpets, modern and antique,
for use as tapestries or rugs, are plentiful and available at bargain prices. Those make
in Beijing are close-woven with fine wool cut into sharp, elegant patterns, such as the
dragon and phoenix design. Beautiful silk carpets and rugs from other provinces in China
are also available in the capital
Silk, which has brought fame to
China, can be readily found in a dazzling array of colors, patterns and textures. While
large State-owned stores like the Beijing Yuanlong Silk Corporation , Ltd. Can be trusted
for quality and offer ready-made clothes as well as a complete array of fabric, private
markets like Xiushui and Yabaolu sell all kinds of silk clothing from shirts, underwear
and trousers, to pajamas and bedspreads at negotiable prices.
Painting & Calligraphy Scrolls
Painting and calligraphy works
are found in hundreds of stores. They vary in age, quality and price with the finest being
true works of art. The brushes, ink slabs, ink and paper that were the scholars
traditional tools can be found in most antique shops. One of the best sources is the China
Book Store, off the courtyard-parking in East Liulichang.
Clay figurines and animals can be traced back to 1840s, and are
still one of the most unique crafts in North China.
Dough modeling is another
traditional folk art handed down from ancient times. Kneaded in half-cooked glutinous rice
flour, dough figures, flowers and birds are popular small toys and exhibits in Beijing.
Kites can be used as ornaments
and toys. One of China's favorite past times is flying kites, especially in Beijing where
there is usually plenty of wind around to send them soaring into the sky. Available in
many art and craft stores, kites are among the best Chinese presents to friends back home.
with paintings inside, represent a popular art from the Qing Dynasty and make excellent
small gifts. You and your friends will marvel for years on how the artist paints such
intricate drawings on the inside of these very small bottles.
Embroidery & drawn work
appear on table cloths, napkins, sheets and handkerchiefs, all of which are excellent
buys. The Beijing Yuanlong Silk Corporation Ltd. has a wide selection.
Chinese pharmacies sell various
kinds of nutritious pills and tonics made from herbs. TongRenTang, as other traditional
pharmacies, have a resident doctor in charge of taking your pulse and making
Most large department stores
and supermarkets have special drug counters.
Cotton shoes, Snow-Lotus
cashmere sweaters, woolen bed sheets, cotton shirts, and other practical clothing items
are some of the bargains in the world