Liulichang is a small street lined with shops
facades bearing Ming and Qing dynasty architectural features. With brightly painted doors
and eaves and gracefully curved black-tiled-roofs buildings, a little of old
Beijings lifestyle is retained here.
Bookstore, Rongbaozhai, and Jiguge are the most famous antique stores in Liulichang. The
China Bookstore located at the back of a courtyard of the first complex on the north,
sells second-hand foreign language books. A used bookstore in China, particularly one that
has foreign-language offerings, was once a rare thing, but this one also has a curious
organizational style. All the foreign-language materials are mixed together.
English-language works stand spine-to-spine with Russian and German works. Literature
shares shelf space with psychology and history. Some of the books are stamped with
university library and church seals. Antiques like this, worth a fair amount anywhere, go
for no small sum in Liulichang. Good deals may be found among the Chinese books, however,
if you are patient and know what you want.
Along the street,
peddlers hawk snacks, groceries, toys and copper coins, all kind of small commodities.
Merchants race to their doors with a welcoming Hello, hello for all their
customers, but they all rack their brains to attract foreigners attention. Some
offer free seal-carving services and they even can find a perfect Chinese name for you if
you like. Some shop owners invite folk artists to their shops such as an 80-year-old heir
to the Qing Dynastys royal embroidery tradition. It is amazing to watch this elderly
man embroider a pair of little shoes for a pair of tiny feet.
Scholars who once
came to the capital to sit for the imperial examination started this ancient market.
Sometimes, they ran out of money and sold antiques, paintings and calligraphy to cover
their journeys home. The cultural market gradually emerged here at the end of the Ming
Old and new, real
and fake, moral and immoral, it was all to be found on Liulichang Street, it is really a
Beijing Curio City
Beijing Curio City is the first
nationally supervised second-hand market in China, and the biggest Asian center of the
With more than 250
curio shops under one roof, the market specializes in antique pottery, paintings from
China and foreign countries, jadeware, bone carvings, antique furniture, antique carpets,
antique timepieces, pearls and jade.
meeting halls and dining halls at this site provide visitors with an ideal shopping,
accommodation and office environment.
periodically organizes unique curio exhibitions, sales and seminars. Every January, May
and October, a Folk Culture Festival, Auction Week, and Beijing Chinese Curio Fair are
Many of the
dealers are themselves connoisseurs and curio collectors. Antiques that date to before
1795 are forbidden for sale or export from China. Those dated between 1796 and 1949 should
bear a small red seal and a Relics Export certificate from the Beijing Culture Relics
Bureau (BCRB), to allow them to be taken out of China. The seal also proves the
genuineness of the items. A word of caution: keep receipts, which should indicate the
name, the age of the antiques, and whether these items were bought in BCRB designated
Panjiayuan Antiques Market
Another large antiques
market can be found at Panjiayuan. This is a multi-sectioned covered shopping area, which
is full of antiques, art, books and general kitsch.
From works of
Chinese calligraphy and paintings, the four treasures of the study, old watches and
clocks, jewelry, ivory and wood carvings, carpets, to antiques from Tibet, there are
definitely treasures to be found here, but it is hard to tell genuine antiques from
worthless fakes. Real antiques are supposed to bear a red official seal that proves their
authenticity, but, sometimes, real items are not marked and faked items are. Do not worry
if an item is fake or not. Many of the things on sale are not real antiques. On the other
hand, recently a 50,000-year-old fossil was confiscated from one of the sellers there. The
fossil was on sale for about US$150, so you never know. Here it is best to bargain down a
price to a figure you can accept and go for it. Small jade articles and silver trinkets
make great presents for people at home and they are easy to take on an airplane.
The Silk Market
On the eastern side of the Embassy of
the United States, you will find a couple of narrow lanes jammed with human traffic. That
is the Silk Market, which is also known as Silk Alley or OK
Street, but it has much more than just silk to offer. Shops along the narrow lanes
are filled with silk products and other export-quality clothing at low, low prices.
Cashmere garments, down jackets, leather goods, shoes, hats, watches and some handicrafts
and trinkets can be found here.
buyers are regulars at the Silk Market. They come with cash, big empty bags, hand
calculators, and enough bartering English to get by. They leave with bags stuffed full of
silk shirts, scarves, jackets, and lingerie. Jeans and denim products are also popular and
profitable commodities for this crew.
Many newcomers to
Beijing lose all common sense in the Silk Market. You may notice quite a few famous
name-brand items, and you may wonder how a Timberland down jacket can sell for US$20. The
answer is not clear. Sometimes the goods are counterfeit, but more often the merchant has
a relative in a clothing factory that can get excess products or slightly imperfect
products for super cheap prices. At least that is one theory. No matter what the case may
be, it is a place for bargain shopping.
Silk and cashmere
goods are also much cheaper than they would be in other stores or in other countries.
These items make great gifts for friends back home, especially Silk Mickey Mouse boxer
shorts which are a must-buy.
International and domestic shoppers
mix in equal numbers at the Hongqiao Market.
antique markets, prices are much lower here. If you are crazy about a little newfangled
gadget, and if you do not have much money in your pocket, Hongqiao is your best bet.
Hongbao books (Quotations from Chairman Mao), small jade articles with a history of less
than 100 years are available, without an antiques high price. An experienced
connoisseur may find many surprises here.
In addition to
antiques, you can find articles of everyday use everywhere in Hongqiao. Silk scarves,
plastic toys, imported cigarettes, stone balls for improving health are all arranged
colorfully and the possibilities are endless.
"Beijing This Month" Issue 82