What to buy and where to shop in China?

Old Oct 16th, 2001, 03:39 PM
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What to buy and where to shop in China?

I am traveling in November into Tokyo Beijing Nanjing Wuxi Suzhou Hangzhou Zhouzhuang and Shanghai and would love pointers on what are great buys and where to find them. What did you pay and where were the best places to go. Also any pointers with packing what you could not live without, what you missed most etc. I would greatly appreciate it. We will be gone for just over 3 weeks. Thanks everyone you're the best!!!
Old Oct 16th, 2001, 05:25 PM
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I don't know what kind of purchases you are interested in. I like to buy local crafts when I'm traveling, so I always pack one suitcase with clothing, etc, and the other with bubblewrap, tape, styrofoam popcorn and such. I can toss any extra packing material, but I come home with my fragile purchases well-protected. I've never had anything break in transit.

Things I've purchased in China: a handcarved inkstone, jade carvings, sets of calligraphy brushes for gifts, silk embriodery, a hand-knitted cashmere sweater, Xixing teapots (both new and old) and tea (jasmine pearls are my favorite). Price depends on quality, of course. Bargain! In street markets, particularly, haggle over price. In fixed price store, you can sometimes still get 10-20% off if you buy several things.
Old Oct 28th, 2001, 05:41 PM
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I love the paintings and the silk embroideries that you can get really cheaply at stalls. I got some very inexpensive silk blouses and a couple jade bracelets really cheaply at stalls also that I love, but the best buys I made were at the Hong Chow Pearl Market near the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. I bought tons. Email me if you would like more info on this. Also the porcelain and cloisonne is great.
Old Oct 29th, 2001, 11:09 AM
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Just returned from China last week. In Beijing I suggest that you shop at Hongqiao Market. The 3rd floor is full of stalls with freshwater pearls at very, very good prices. I especially liked Judy at Stall #154. You can get a strand of pearls for about $10. I bought several for gifts. Chops also make great gifts. Be sure to bargain... you can almost name your own price.
I did not visit any of the other cities you have on your itinerary, but Beijing was very modern and I can only suggest that you carry tissues with you....
Have a wonderful trip..... we did.
Old Oct 31st, 2001, 06:26 AM
Peter Neville-Hadley
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This advice comes from the beginning of the 20th century:

'Approach all curios, and most dealers, with caution. A thief may be considered innocent till he is proved guilty, but a first-class KÕang Hsi vase (according to the merchant) should be held guilty of fraud till it is proved to be above suspicion by some one who knows and is disinterested... Whenever a Chinese offers to let a good piece go at a sacrifice, be sure that the sacrifice is on the side of the buyer and the victim is the customer, not the shopkeeper.'

Juliet Bredon, 'Peking', 1919

Nearly a century later BredonÕs advice is still sound. The Chinese have a long history of manufacturing fake antiques, and unless you are particularly expert you will find that you have paid a high price for something of no value. Bredon had the advantage of knowing what a good Kangxi vase should cost, but you probably donÕt even have that. Unless you are a specialist your chances of success here are not good, so stick to modestly priced items which appeal to you whatever their authenticity may be.

Realise that you may be asked 10 to 15 times more than Chinese for fake and real goods alike. That chipped Song dynasty bowl with its luminous celadon glaze was quite likely manufactured last month, deliberately distressed, and buried for a week or two. Its price is not Y400, but Y40 or less. The same is equally true for Cultural Revolution items with cracked glazes over transfers of Mao Zedong and Lin Biao, which, because of their rarity and therefore high value, have recently been appearing in rather large numbers.

Precious and semi-precious stones should similarly never be bought, even at 'official' outlets, unless you are fully experienced in the differences between nephrite and jadeite (for instance) and know exactly what you are doing. The chances of acquiring genuine goods and at a fair price is very slim.

Similarly for Chinese carpets, furniture, ceramics, etc.--if you are not accustomed to buying these, haven't fully familiarised yourself with prices and quality available at home, you should not be considering a purchase in China.

Reject without a second thought any claims of uniqueness ascribed to paintings--anything which a tourist will buy is simply repainted as often as it can be sold. That's no reason not to buy, but it's also no reason not to offer at most 10% of the first price you are given, with a smile. Remember, at any market well enough known to be named here, they can see you coming, and they already know just how easily you can be persuaded that what you've just paid a fortune for is a bargain.

Stick to modestly priced items which will bring back pleasant memories of your trip and of the bargaining process, but whose 'authenticity' or 'value for money' is neither here nor there.

Peter N-H
Old Oct 31st, 2001, 04:23 PM
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A Hong Kong merchant told us when we were there that there are factories in the interior working day and night producing antiques. LOL
Old Nov 1st, 2001, 01:20 PM
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My favorite purchase on our recent trip to China was the silk duvet from the silk factory store in Suzhou. The king size duvet cost only $65 (I heard they were $300 in the US) and it is so much fun having seen exactly how it was made - four little old ladies hand pull each layer. The store puts it in a heavy plastic case and shrinks it down to fit nicely in your luggage. I also love the small mechanical wooden toys (ours are two flying machines on springs) bought from street kids in Beijing near the Silk Market, silk embrodery handbags ($4 each in the Silk Market) and my $5 Mao wrist watch - he waves - purchased from street kids near the Temple of Heaven. We also purchased several of the brightly colored "peasant" paintings. The colors are extremely vivid and the style is a cross between primative and modern. Saw these the first time in Shanghai at the Children's Palace, but later we saw them everywhere. There is a nice collection at the Little Wild Goose Pagoda in Xian. These cost about $10 each. We also had a lot of fun at the Guilin night market bargaining for prints of old tumbled down houses. Again, $20 and we have a wonderful memory. Have a marvelous trip, Donna.

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