Memories and memorabilia make a trip, and Beijing has just those genuine keepsakes for the traveler's home or those just-right knick-knacks for auntie's parlor. Marketplaces and shops abound, as do their selections.
For the visitor, nothing says China and Beijing better than the region's arts and craft Cloisonn ivory, jade are lacquer ware items have long been the most popular. Silk embroidery, jewelry, the "four treasures of calligraphy" (writing brush, ink stick and slab and paper), paintings and art pieces have their appeal, while a. range of sometimes exotic article also tempt the buyer.
Relics and Curios
Nowhere is better than along Liulichang Street, the 500-year-old roadway whose arts and crafts shops, led by the Bong Bao Zhai painting and calligraphy treasures shop, offer officially-approved articles.
Other noteworthy businesses include the China Book Store, specialists in antique books and publications, the ancient coin handling The Coin Shop and the newly opened Beijing Curio Town, with 250 separate departments the country's largest curio and folk art emporium. Overseas visitors and buyers also have six other establishments whose ancient wares have been approved by the Beijing Historical Relics Board for sale and export.
Representing a peak of Chinese handicrafts, cloisonne enamelware (jing tai lan) originated in Beijing, with the earliest examples dating back to the Yuan Dynasty. From its Bronze origins in the early years of the Ming Dynasty, enamelware evolved quickly, with a dark bleu Blaze developed in the later Mina years. Copper, and eventually gold in the very expensive pieces, became common, with cloisonne jewelry and everyday decorative items coming about.
Jade has been the Chinese peoples' stone of choice for thousand of years, with personal ornaments of jade used as status symbols in the Imperial courts.
This ready market caused many carvers to settle in Beijing, in time making it the nation's capital of the trade. However, where yesteryear's carvers earned respect and relatively good incomes, today's likely work in handicraft factories and shops. Jade items are divided into two categories. The larger pieces comprise incense burners, vases, tea sets, human, animal and bird figures and life size fruit trees, the smaller include rings, broaches, necklaces, seals and chops.
Available in both large and small pieces, Beijing-made lacquer ware is also designated as carved and gold inlaid. Developed in the 14th century BC, carved lacquer ware has multiple layers of lacquer applied, followed by the incision of the layers. Gold inlaid pieces may use gold and silver together or replace the gold with colored lacquer, silver, mother of pearl.
Carpets and tapestries made in Beijing are woven in local, Dunhuang, floral and plain styles, usually in an assortment of grid patterns or in ancient patterns that include dragons, phoenixes and other mythical creatures. Fine carpets from Inner Mongolia, the northwest Xinjiang autonomous region and Zhejiang provinces are available in Beijing specialty shops.
Along with jade, silk defines China's artistry the world. Fine quality items can be purchased by the visitor in the Friendship Stores or in a wide variety of shops. The traders and shopkeepers in Beijing's Xiushui and Yabaolu markets specialize in these products.
White goods such as tablecloths, bed sheets and napkins are decorated in the time honored cross-stitching that made its way to the Western world eras ago. Simple designs in light, elegant colors and sales in bulk are hallmarks of the product lines.
Among China's most elegant products, snuff bottles feature attractive landscape, floral, bird and other subjects painted on the inside of the translucent, milk-white glass using a pinpoint bamboo stick. The most valuable pieces, often fetching very high prices, are usually made of jade, crystal, agar and green jade.
White flour, or kneaded, figurines are mixtures of wheat or glutinous rice with honey, paraffin and color, with the figures remarkably lifelike. Made of red-painted gauze or silk and held together by cherry wood, sandalwood or pear wood, palace lanterns are another symbol of China.
Shipped on request from the store to the purchaser's home, hardwood furniture comes in purple sandalwood, cherry wood and pear wood, with the best pieces made of yellow pear wood.
Books and periodicals in Chinese and many foreign languages are available in the head office and seven branches of the Beijing Foreign Language Bookstore, with the Beijing Xinhua Bookstore also selling audio and video tapes, CDs, small art pieces and greeting cards.
Shopping the Concourse
Central District Shopping
Century-old Wanfujing has the Beijing and One World department stores, the new Oriental Plaza shopping centre and foreign fashion items, 500-yearold Qianmen Street's shops are preferred by the locals, Xidan is near Tian'anmen Square and Dongdan has its name-brand franchises and the Longfu Snack Restaurant.
International in appearance courtesy of its star-rated hotels, office towers, upscale markets, personal care facilities and up market shopping centers, the district is best known for its Friendship Store, Guiyou Department Store, Henderson Center and Scitech Plaza, all favorites with visitors.
A new retail-commercial area, it features the Full Link Plaza and Landao Building.
Beijing Curio City/Panjiayuan Market
If you want Chinese antiques and folk art pieces, there's no better place and bargaining is encouraged by the district merchants, who are often connoisseurs and collectors. The market is open weekends only.
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