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Beijing Shopping

Where to Shop and What to Buy in Beijing

Just a few years ago there were only a few department stores and small bazaars in Beijing, but now there are many superstores, mega-malls and markets where you can buy just about anything you need.

It would be hard to find another city in China that is as rich in such extraordinary antique markets with primitives, jewelry, glass, crystal, porcelain, pottery, toys, dolls, folk art and fake CD's, games and designer clothing.

All prices outside department stores are negotiable and not fixed. You can buy antiques tax free as long as they are exported. 

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All Shopping Places in Beijing

Antiques on Liulichang Street

A good place to find a wide selection of antiques is at Liulichang. Liulichang is a street in Xuanwumen, and many of the stores are quite old. This area has everything from scrolls, to jade articles to old cigarette ad posters. There are treasures to be found here, but it is hard to tell genuine antiques from the purposely 'aged' goods.

Please bear in mind that real antiques in China are supposed to bear a red official seal proving their authenticity, but then again these can be and sometimes are faked. If you are looking for small jade items or silver artefacts Liulichang is a good location to shop.

At Panjiayuan is another large antiques market called Antiques City. This multi-storey building is full of memorabilia. Here again, buyer beware as many fake items are on display but if you drive a hard bargain you'll be able to acquire a satisfactory compromise.  

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Hongqiao Market (Pearl Market)

The Pearl Market has the best of both worlds – cheap prices and good copied goods. Everything is on sale here - clothes, shoes, watches, DVD's, silks, pearls, electronics... you name it – it's all here in the five-storey brightly lit market. The selection of textiles, fabrics, tablecloths and scarves is mind boggling while upstairs you will have a hard time to determine if the gems, pearls and trinkets are genuine or not.

Store salesman have been known to be a little aggressive here and will more than likely grab you arm as you pass by but if you patiently bargain down the prices you will get what you need.

  • Location: 16 Hongqiao Lu
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Qianmen Street

Qianmen is just south of Tiananmen Square. More than 600 years ago Qianmen Street was Beijing's original commercial centre and nowadays largely deals in Chinese traditional products. Attractively renovated with Ming and Qing dynasty-type architecture, the Qianmen area features shops such as Quanjude, Pianyi Workshop and Douyichu – all selling antiques and a fabulous array of objets d'art.

The stores are lined up side by side in a polished-for-tourists Old Beijing-style hutong and the street is good for window shopping and small purchases such as the many 'chops' – stone or jade stamps, carved with your name. But beware – almost everything here is fake and overpriced. A nearby alternative is Da Zhalan Street, jammed with cheap clothing outlets, restaurants, and luggage shops. 

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Silver Street

In the Dongdan Beidajie and with a length of 2.7 kilometres from the entrance of Dongdan to the entrance of the Dongsi, Silver Street offers an amazing range of accruements from the provinces and also from Tibet.

Of course you will be able to buy specialist handicrafts such as Cloisonné, an intricate art form developed and specialised in China in the 15th century, and now used to decorated vases, bowls, lamps, jewelry and ornaments. Lacquerware is also plentiful in Beijing, as are silk items, clay figurines and animals – this is particular to China – as well as beautifully executed painting and calligraphy works.

Snuff bottles with tiny paintings inside represent popular art from the Qing Dynasty and make excellent small gifts as do embroidered tablecloths, napkins, sheets and handkerchiefs, all of which are excellent buys. The Beijing Yuanlong Silk Corporation has a wide range.

  • Location: 55 Tiantan Lu, between the north gate of Temple of Heaven Park and Hongqiao
  • Tel: 10 6701 2859
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Wangfujing

The most famous shopping location in Beijing and able to handle some 500,000 shoppers daily, Wangfujing is located at the northern side of Chang’an East Street in the centre of the city. Wangfujing became a commercial centre when the Dong’an market was founded here in 1903.The street is less than one kilometre long, but it is crowded with specialty shops.

Now considered as a sister street of the Champs-Élysées in France, Wangfujing nevertheless preserves its Chinese traditional style. Even for non-shoppers Wangfujing is an interesting place to stroll along and the good thing about it is that it is a largely car-free experience.

The main commodity here is clothes but almost everything is for sale, right down to real Rolexes. Outside of malls and large stores in the souvenir stalls make sure you haggle and bargain but always retain a sense of humour as Chinese shopkeepers do not appreciate 'losing face' in public. The actual malls themselves are relatively expensive but the choice of goods within them is unbeatable. 

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Xuishui Silk Market

The Silk Market, north of Jiangguomenwai Dajie, is a six-storey building housing 1,500 stalls selling just about everything you thought you never wanted although strangely enough it doesn't feature much silk. The trick here is to ignore the first goods and articles offered to you and insist on the best quality before you start bargaining. With so much choice you, the buyer, have the upper hand.

DVDs are hardly worth buying as they rarely are compatible with DVD players in the west. Know before you buy anything here that fake is the norm and don't believe otherwise. 

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