China is a country that entertains all its visitors with numerous festivities and countless historical tourist attractions to learn from and be awe-inspired by. For the Muslim travellers to China, even though Halal food is rare to find other than in the Muslim Quarter in Xi’an, all vacationers want to purchase the perfect China souvenirs for recounting cherished memories made in the country, or for their family and friends back home. The question isn’t really what to buy when in China - it’s what not to buy in China! In the busy chaotic streets of China, you’d often be perplexed as to what the best buy could be, to take home the perfect souvenir. Here is a list to help you on your shopping spree while touring around Beijing, Shanghai and even the spectacular Wonder of the World, the Great Wall of China.
A day in, day out beverage choice for the Chinese, tea is conveniently available at any corner store or supermarket. The black, green and white tea; in increasing order of exclusiveness, is what you should be looking out for.
Special high end tea, like the Jasmine tea carries a unique flavor and is highly fragranced. To experience this one-of-a-kind Chinese tea in the comfort of your home, you'll be able to purchase a packet of tea from famous tea markets for a reasonable price. What’s more special than green tea that’s jasmine scented is the longjing tea, translating to the Dragon well tea, a pan roasted version of the green tea, native to the Hangzhou culture, best to be bought from this city.
Once you’re at the large markets and have bought tea that satisfies your taste buds, why not have a look around for other tea-related cutlery; tea sets, teapots and maybe dinnerware too, that has Chinese inspired artwork on it. The next celebration you have at home should give you a great opportunity to showcase your novelties to your friends and loved ones.
Maliandao Tea Street in Beijing
Address: Maliandao Rd, Xicheng Qu, Beijing Shi, China
Tianshan Tea City in Shanghai
Address: 518 Zhongshan W Rd, TianShan, Changning Qu, Shanghai Shi, China
Tel: +86 21 6259 9999
Wukuaishi Tea Market in Chengdu
Address: 2 Saiyuntai East 1st Rd, RenMin BeiLu, Jinniu Qu, Chengdu Shi, Sichuan Sheng
Hangzhou Longjingshan Park in Hangzhou
Address: 104 Weng Mountain, Manjuelong Rd, Xihu Qu, Hangzhou Shi, Zhejiang Sheng,
Tel: +86 571 8796 9588
Picture Credit - Daderot, commons.wikimedia.org
Chinese silk is a popular purchase amongst female tourists as it is an apt gift for the ladies back at home. Various items of silk can be bought, from luxurious bedding to silk carpets, bags and accessories.
The best idea for either a Chinese culture lover, a member of the Chinese diaspora or fashionaista, would be to get a local tailor to make a qipao (a beautiful one-piece, body-hugging traditional Chinese garment) to your measurements so that you can brag about your tailor-made souvenir from your trip to China. Chinese silk is a comfortable material, however the quality of silk may vary from shop to shop, so if the idea of getting your own qipao excites you, be sure to check on the quality before you make the purchase.
An old, much admired favourite silk product to buy is Chinese silk carpets and rugs, that rather than placed on floors, are exhibited as wall hangings to do justice to the utterly beautiful handiwork and appreciate the effort gone into reeling and weaving the silk to produce rich and exquisite carpets with intricate designs.
Silk in Shanghai:
i) Jiannan Silk Shopping Center
Address: 289 Aomen Rd, Putuo Qu, Shanghai Shi
ii) Fabric Market
Address: 399 Lujiabang Rd, Huangpu Qu, Shanghai Shi
Silk in Suzhou:
i) Suzhou Wujiang Eastern Silk Market
Address: Xinhang Rd, Wujiang Qu, Suzhou Shi, Jiangsu Sheng
ii) Suzhou Chief Silk Tourism Products Market
Address: 678, Fengqiao Rd, Gusu Qu, Suzhou Shi, Jiangsu Sheng
Travel Tip! If your trip is limited to just a few cities that don’t include the above mentioned, but you are adamant on buying yourself a luxurious silk carpet, then check out the markets in Xinjiang and Hangzhou if they fall within your territory, and you may just be able to take home a valuable silk carpet from China.
Picture Credit - wonderopolis.org
How could one possibly miss out on the freshwater pearls when in China, more specifically when in Shanghai; where the iconic Pearl Tower resides. Pearls from China are the best gift to give a loved one, be it either authentic for the deep pocketed or the unauthentic, pearls from Shanghai are considered invaluable for the symbolism they carry. Rooted deeply in the Chinese culture, pearls signify perfection, purity, love and beauty, while also being associated with good health. Such a meaningful present can not only bring happiness, but also touch hearts.
And, what’s more important than getting value for money? There's an overwhelming number of pearls to choose from, varying in shape, size, color and luster, and the price tag adapts accordingly. It’s essential to receive a product that you’ve paid for, especially when talking about real pearls, which are not easy to distinguish from fake ones. However, with a few tricks up your sleeve you'll be able to tell them by their smoothness. Real pearls have a rather gritty surface unlike the flawless smooth ones of the fake, and genuine pearls scrape glass while inauthentic ones don’t. Elegant and posh looking shops may try slipping in fake pearls, so it's best to be cautious.
A list of the most reliable centers in Shanghai from which to get your pearls (according to the Internet):
i) Han City Shopping Center
Address: 3rd Floor, 580 Nanjing Road (near Chengdu Road)
Hours: 10 AM to 10 PM
ii) Hongqiao International Pearl City
Address: 3721 Hongmei Road, Changning District
Hours: 10 AM to 10 PM daily
iii) Yayi Gold Store, First Asia Jewelry Plaza
Address: 3/F, 288 Fuyou Rd, Huangpu Qu, Shanghai Shi, China, 200000
Hours: 10 AM to 6 PM daily
Picture Credit - pschemp, commons.wikimedia.org
Originally limited to metalwork, cloisonné art is now seen in ceramics too. That that being said, China deals in some exceptionally beautiful cloisonné ceramics that visitors ought to buy as souvenirs. The intricate procedure in designing a cloisonné art is the reason for its popularity and rightfully, rather high price for someone on a budget trip, but if it’s a case of love at first sight of the cloisonné then there’s no doubt one must buy it ‘cause once bought this piece is not one that you will regret having purchased for the attention it draws and compliments it gets.
The absolute mastery, patience and time required to design a cloisonné ceramic makes it invaluable, carefully crafted by combining gold dust into layers of enamel to finally convert a plain and simple ceramic; be it a vase, accessory or jewelry, plates and plaque to an enticing artwork.
Incredibly, a couple of cloisonné factories allow for visitors to view their men/women at work in creating their products. Therefore, it’s a great way to spend an afternoon in Beijing, being fascinated by pure talent while you purchase a gorgeous souvenir to mark your stay in China.
The two factories in Beijing that entertain inquisitive visitors-
i) Huairou Cloisonné
A short distance away from the Mutianyu Great Wall; another famous tourist attraction.
Address: China, Beijing Shi, Huairou Qu, 郭家坞488号
ii) Beijing Enamel Factory
Likely the biggest factory in and around the Beijing area.
Address: 10 Anlelin Road, Yongdingmenwai.
Shopper Tip! For one who wants to purchase a whole lot for eager family members and friends back home, a reasonable stop would be at China’s popular wholesale cloisonné market, to get an overwhelming range of items for the best price.
iii) Yiwu Commodities Trade Market
Address: Chengbei Rd, Yiwu, Jinhua, Zhejiang, China, 322000
Picture Credit - ProjectManhattan. commons.wikimedia.org
From way back in the Tang Dynasty era, the Chinese knots have shown remarkable significance. Although used mainly for communication purposes back then, it did so in an artsy form. Nowadays, much of the skill of Chinese knotting is used to make ornaments and pieces of decoration rather than having literary meaning, like in the past, where they held great meaning, and historical & cultural significance. Like most artwork created in China that have symbolic meaning to it, so do the Chinese knots. The knots signify the divine, unity, love, and knots made specifically from red cords resemble good fortune.
Have a bunch of eager friends back home waiting for a gift from China? These Chinese knots are a perfect souvenir for them; opt for little knots to gift them as key chains and maybe larger ones for wall hangings.
Have a friend who is newly wedded? Gifting them the Chinese knots that signify love and togetherness, a meaningful gift for the newlyweds!
The highlight of your love for Chinese knots would be that there are places around Beijing that help you create your very own Chinese knots so you can take back home a Chinese souvenir that you designed and crafted.
iii) Yiwu Commodities Trade Market
Address: Chengbei Rd, Yiwu, Jinhua, Zhejiang, China, 322000
This famous handcraft market in China that sells Chinese knots in a range of variants; be it color of cord, type of cord, size of knot or complexity of knot. The particular area assigned for Chinese knots is on the second floor of District 5.
Picture Credit - 毛抜き, commons.wikimedia.org
Love the Chinese culture and tradition? Looking to go Chinese when you’re back home? A must buy item is chopsticks. For one who loves the art and idea of eating with chopsticks, there are plenty of shops to choose your best pair from, and chopsticks that differ in all aspects - the material used, the design on it, the technical touch, for example, wooden chopsticks, chopsticks made from bone, chopsticks that have been painted on or engraved, and the technically advanced chopsticks that are attached to one another, for the amateurs.
The perfect gift from your China trip for family and friends back home. Buy a compilation of a set of chopsticks; 1 to 10 pairs with identical design embedded on them, a chopstick holder that comes with a similar design, and amazingly pots and bowls too, following the same pattern. You can present them a China inspired cutlery and crockery which culture enthusiasts will appreciate to the core.
Tricky tip! For the eastern culture lovers, a wide range of chopsticks and chopstick-associated products can be purchased online too.
A ladies’ favorite, jewellery items: bracelets, bands, anklets, necklaces and a truckload of choices. Buy what you love - the accessories are cheap and lasting. Have a bunch of stylish and trendy friends back home who are eager to receive a China related gift from you? Jewellery from China is without doubt the most ideal gift for them. Jewellery inspired by Chinese culture and traditions can be purchased from either near temples or ethnic markets. To name a few: Beijing’s Lama Temple, Tibetan temple and the markets in Chengdu, are well known for these items. What’s even more convenient is that local vendors are often seen at tourist attraction spots with their products hence making the market more accessible.
Shopping Tip! It's not advisable to plan on purchasing jade or pearl jewellery from some local boutique by the roadside as many may sell fake pieces that only look genuine. If your budget for jewelry is higher than the trendy beaded jewelry that is sold at small boutiques, then you must visit Shanghai.
Reread Point 3) Pearls.
For the artistic visitors of China, a splendid addition to your agenda when touring in Beijing is to book tickets for the popular Beijing Opera. Here, the tickets, the masks and the memories made will be the best souvenirs to take home for the art and culture fanatics. The oldest and possibly largest show is played in Chengdu, Sichuan Opera.
The art of showcasing a story in opera form by the medium masks is called “face changing”, in which the actor changes masks for the sake of better entertainment. Masks are an essential prop in Chinese Opera entertainment and can be purchased from various stores around the Beijing theatre to add a perfect artwork on a blank wall. The masks come in a range of size, colour combinations and exhibit different festivities and eras.
Address: Chengdu Culture Park, Qintai Road, Chengdu
Performance time: 8pm to 9:30pm.
Ticket price: There are 4 classes of seats:
Bing class for 140 yuan
Yi class for 180 yuan
Jia class for 240 yuan
VIP class for 320 yuan
The art of Chinese calligraphy is one that has been preserved in the Chinese culture for about 1000 years. Its beauty, sophistication and pristine clarity makes it eye pleasing and awe worthy when hung up as a wall decoration.
A pretty cool souvenir would be getting your name, or something you hold dear to you, written in Chinese calligraphy so that it can be displayed on your wall at home. The traditional Chinese calligraphy is in five styles: seal script, cursive script, running script, official script and formal character. All these forms date back to the Han, Zhou, East Han Dynasties (to name a few) and hold historic value.
For the typography lovers, a worthwhile buy would be the supplies for learning Chinese calligraphy which could easily be bought from a store selling the artwork.
Shop for Supplies at:
Man Luen Choon
Address: 2/F, Harvest Building, 29-35 Wing Kut Street, Central.
Best place to visit for painting, calligraphy and crafts is Liulichang Street in Beijing. According to tales, this street has historic significance as it was here, during the Ming and Qing Dynasty that painters, scholars and calligraphers gathered and shared their passion.
Also called Mao collectibles in laymen terms.
A growing trade in China is the collectible business. From stamps to coins, paintings and photographs, the Mao Memorabilia is a good buy for picking souvenirs. Buy school supplies, watches, accessories, any item that you can possibly think of is at the Panjiayuan antiques market in Beijing. Special sales come up like the Communist Party and the Cultural Revolution sale which is famous for the 'Red Memorabilia' offering items like the little red book.
However, the most noticeable trade ongoing in Panjiayuan market is that of antiques; needless to say involving a lot of money.
Enjoy your stay in China while taking a fair share of time off for souvenir shopping, for the deep-rooted culture, tradition and craftsmanship give you a wide array of options to choosem from. A shoppers’ tip would be to spend your cash wisely, ‘cause there is an overwhelming choice offered for souvenir shopping in China, so do not settle for the second best option.