With the growing free market economy in China, business is booming. Beijing offers many choices and shopping venues, from sidewalk entrepreneurs to mega shopping malls.
What to Buy in Beijing
Some of the most popular items for visitors are the following:
- Silk has been one of China’s major products for centuries. Friendship and government tourism stores are the best places to buy pure silk because they offer a wide selection and good quality.
- Chinese paintings and calligraphy can be found for sale all over Beijing. Paintings and calligraphy scrolls vary in terms of quality and price. Most come with custom made boxes which makes them safe to transport. Sometimes calligraphy artists will demonstrated their skills and even give customers a brief lesson.
- A chop is a personal seal. Chops, rather than signatures, have been used on official documents in China for thousands of years. Chops are made from stone, jade, wood, and metal. Names are carved into the end of the chop. Carvers often have a list of English names with their Chinese equivalent for visitors to select.
- Freshwater and cultured pearls are a wonderful keepsake and a good buy. Shops all over Beijing sell pearl necklaces, bracelets, earrings and pins in a range of sizes, shapes and hues.
How to Shop in Beijing
- Visitors should be prepared to bargain. In general, shoppers should not accept the first price quoted and should be ready to walk away. A sense of humor helps since many shopkeepers enjoy bargaining and approach as a game.
- Sellers often use a calculator to tap out the price. If they won’t take the buyer’s offer, they will often shake their heads and laugh, saying “You’re joking.” This means the offer is too low but there may still be room for negotiation.
- Most shops don’t accept foreign money so it is best to bring Yuan (RMB) in small denominations. Credit cards are also accepted but may result in higher prices.
- Some of the street and shop peddlers in Beijing can be aggressive. The best way to avoid being bothered is to “walk with a purpose” and avoid eye contact. A good phrase to use, should the sellers be overly persistent, is (pronounced phonetically), “Boo Yao”, which means “don’t want” in English.
Where to Shop in Beijing
- For visitors shopping for pearls and other jewelry, Beijing’s Pearl Market offers good service and reasonable prices. Bargaining is allowed. The market houses three floors of shops where visitors can browse and even sip tea while examining the quality and types of pearls. After the type and size of pearl is selected, the necklace or bracelet is strung by craftspeople on site.
- The Silk Market is a good place to shop for silk goods, clothing, souvenirs and a variety of consumer goods. But shoppers should be wary of designer label knockoffs, polyester masquerading as silk and over zealous shopkeepers.
- For those who want a taste of ultra modern shopping, the Wangfujing section of the city has many western style malls with designer clothes and non-negotiable prices. Prices are higher and sizes are small.
Shopping is an educational and entertaining aspect of travel to any country. Beijing’s wide array of offerings will not disappoint and will open a window into this fascinating culture.