Beijing: Shopping Holiday
The Forbidden City
Beijing has a variety of shopping opportunities to keep you busy for a few days. Although not anything like New York, Paris or London, Beijing’s shopping is best done in the markets and antique shops that spring up throughout the city.
Throughout nearly all markets in Beijing, haggling is essential. Especially when browsing through large, "touristy" shopping areas for common items, do not put it beneath your dignity to start bargaining at 15% of the vendor's initial asking price. After spending some time haggling, never hesitate to threaten walking away, as this is often the quickest way to see a vendor lower his or her prices to a reasonable level. Buying in bulk or in groups may also lower the price. Beware that if you start your bargaining at too low of a price, such as 5% of the asking price, the vendor may just immediately give up on trying to sell the item to you. How high or low the vendor sets the asking price depend on the customer, the vendor, the product's popularity, and even the time of day. Vendors also tend to target visible minorities more, such as Caucasians or people of African descent.
China's government passed a law in May 2007 banning the export of antiques from before 1911. It is now illegal to purchase antiques from before 1911 and take them out of China. Even antiques bought in proper auctions cannot be taken out of China. As violation of this law could lead to heavy fines and a possible jail term, it would be wise to heed it. However if you let a vendor know you are aware of this law he/she may lower their prices since they know you know their "antiques" really aren't Ming Dynasty originals.
Hotel shops and Department stores do not offer the most characterful shopping in China, but are worth a look. While generally significantly more expensive, they are less likely to sell truly low quality goods. Shops with a better design sense are gradually transforming the old style of Chinese retailing and souvenir items are getting better each year. Silk clothing, and table settings such as those sold by Emperor at Kempinski Hotel and other spots around town, are worth a look, as are porcelain, specialty tea and other traditional items.
The carpet business is strong in Beijing and you will find all manner of stores selling silk carpets and other varieties. For Tibetan carpets, try Torana Gallery at the Kempinski Hotel, one of the few places selling carpets that are actually made in Tibet.
There are also companies that cater to tourists interested in buying antique Chinese furniture during their visit to Beijing.
Chic Antique can organize one-day visits to warehouses located in the outskirts of the city, as well as organizing restoration work, export documents, packing and door-to-door shipping.