Beijing Culture Street – There are many shops selling antiques, curios and arts & crafts in Beijing. You can shop for them in proper shops such as the more reliable and reputed Gu Wang Cheng or even at the very interesting and cheaper alternative, Pan Jia Yuan flea market.
Today let me bring you to a Beijing culture street. The street is aptly named Liulichang Street of Chinese Culture.
Liulichang is a well-known “culture street” in Beijing. Liulichang is not just one shop but a ‘walking’ street with your sporadic cars and bicycles, linedwith interesting stores selling antiques, calligraphy brushes, jades, chops, seals, paintings and more.
As Liulichang dates back to the Qing Dynasty (A.D. 1644-1911), this Beijing cultural street has an old world charm that allows you to imagine what it’s like a few hundred years ago in old Beijing.
My wife (she is a local Chinese) also told me that during the Qing Dynasty, there were many scholars from all over China who will come to Beijing to take part in the imperial examinations.
And Liulichang was the place where all the successful candidates will meet each other and share information andknowledge. Thus, you can actually see more shops selling books, pens, ink and paper than anywhere elsewhere in Beijing City.
Well for me, I come to Liulichang not to meet fellow scholars or to buy antiques. I am not really into that but for the sake of my overseas clients (who are suckers for anything Chinese), I tend to bring them to Liulichang for their shopping pleasures.
My clients love shopping here and to them, the prices of antiques, Chinese painting and more are much much lower compared to back home (for example, in Italy or USA).
Usually, when I bring my client-friends to Liulichang, I would also bring my wife along. She knows how to bargain with them and it’s important that you do not accept any quoted price at face value.
For those buying antiques in Liulichang, please be advised that there are definitely genuine treasures to be found here, but it is hard to tell genuine antiques from dirty fakes.
Though most shops will try to prove to you how authentic the antique is by showing you a red official seal on the article, please do not be gullible and accept what is said. My wife told me that sometimes the real antiques don’t have it and fake ones do.
So, I guess there’s no real way except to bring a guy who knows Chinese antiques well to source for you. For myclients, I usually bring my wife’s uncle who is into antiques and he does the checking for them.
Things I do for my clients!
For those who are not into buying antiques, Luilichang is a pretty stress-free place to walk and shop. There are many stores selling smalljade articles, Chairman Mao’s memorabilia, silver trinkets, Chinese opera mask and more. Such exotic stuff make great presents when I return home to Singapore for my holidays.
For me, I usually buy chops – a stamping seal with your name in Chinese characters carved into a stone or piece of jade. I have bought them for my brothers and sister. They love it!
Usually, I bargain with the storekeeper but I do adopt this attitude: if you like it and you can bargain down to a price you can accept, just go for it. The price is still much lower that what I will pay at home, so I don’t really mind if I paid a few RMB more.
And compared to overly-crowded and over-priced places like Silk Street Market, you can shop at Liulichang at a more leisurely pace.
Just a note about Liulichang – the shops do not sell fake Prada handbags and your favorite Tommy Hilfiger t-shirts. For that kind of shopping, please visit Xidan Market.
Anyway, during festive periods like the Chinese Lunar New Year, there are many celebrations held within the Beijing culture street – Liulichang. You can watch Lion Dance and acrobats on stilts too. It’s a wonderful sight for foreigners all over the world!