Shopping in China
The vast territory of China, and its vast difference in climate and abundance of natural resources, has given rise to a dazzling assortment of products to meet the varying demand of visitors form foreign countries. The country¡¯s age-old history and splendid culture have enabled Chinese artisans to come up with traditional craftworks known for sublime workmanship and superb artistic value. There are also folk crafts distinguished by their association with the country¡¯s legendary folklore. To bring home a souvenir to two or artistic and practical value helps the tourist enhances his understanding of China. Whether the souvenirs are given to friends or for keeps, they add a touch of romance to the tourist¡¯s indelible memory of his China tour.
China has a myriad of souvenirs to offer to its visitors. Just to name a few: silk, embroideries, brocades, traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy, furniture, medicine herbs, cloisonn¨¦, ceramics, carvings and sculptures, woven hand works, artistic fans, lacquer wares, traditional Chinese stationer, tea, beverages, folk arts and crafts of different ethnic backgrounds and native products and local specialties.
China is a kingdom of silk of world renown. Jiangsu, Guangdong, Hunan, and Sichuan provinces abound in natural silk and products made of it. The most distinguished silk products, however, are found in Hangzhou, where they come in a dozen varieties including pongee, brocade, damask, faille, and satin. All of them are pleasantly colored and soft and smooth to the touch.
Chinese Embroideries and Brocades
The abundance of silk sets the stage for the emergence of embroidery and silk weaving handcrafts. Suzhou, Changsha, Guangdong and Chengdu are known as China¡¯s four major schools of embroidery. The most famous Chinese silk products include the cloudy-patterned embroidery of Nanjing, Song style satins of Suzhou, and Shu style embroidery of Sichuan. Some ethnic minorities, such as Zhuang, Dai, Li, Dong and Tujia, produce silk products in distinct styles.
Chinese Calligraphy & Painting
With a long historical and cultural tradition, calligraphy and painting are an epitome of traditional Chinese culture. A finely wrought piece of calligraphy or painting always makes an ideal souvenir. Apart from the renowned xuan paper, there are a good variety of media for traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy. These include shell mosaics produced in Dalian of Liaoning, Qingdao of Shandong, Beihao of Gangxi, Guangdong and Fujian Provinces, tree bark pictures from Jilin, cork patchwork of Fuzhou, paintings on bamboo curtains from Sichuan, wheat straw patchwork from Chaozhou of Guangdong province and feather patchwork from Shenyang and Shandong.
Ceramics is a traditional Chinese handicraft with a long history. The best pottery-making centers are Yixing in Jiangsu Province, Shiwan in Guangdong Province. Xi¡¯an and Luoyang¡¯s tri-colored pottery in Tang style is known throughout the world. Yixing¡¯s pottery is mostly made for everyday use and is especially knowns for its purplish brown, glazed, polychrome and refined products. Objects of art, figurines in particular, are the forte of ceramics of Shiwan. The tri-colored pottery of Xi¡¯an got the reputation as early as in Tang Dynasty, due to the color. Famous Chinese porcelains include celadon ware from Longquan of Zhejiang Province, the Ru-style porcelain ware from Linru, and the highly decorate Jun-style ware of Yuxian County of Henan Province. None of these porcelain-making places, however, rival the fame of Jingdezhen, the ¡°Capital of Chinese Porcelains-making Industry¡±.
Traditional Chinese Medicines
Traditional Chinese Medicines is a school of its own with a profound heritage. Every conceivable variety of drugs, herbal or otherwise, is being used for medical purposes, many of them with amazing curative efficacies. Drugs with a high tonic value are favorites with the Chinese. These include ginseng and its products, snow lotus, Chinese caterpillar fungus, Chinese wolfberries, licorice root, dangshen (codonopsis pilosula), and the bulbs of fritillary (fritillaria thunbergii). A wide range of patent drugs prepared according to traditional prescriptions, which are highly in curative value and convenient for administration, are available in traditional Chinese pharmacies in China.
Cloisonn¨¦, also known as filigree enamel work, is perhaps the most famous of all traditional Chinese metal craftworks, with Beijing as the producing center. The making of cloisonn¨¦ involves a complex enameling technique- from soldering to a copper surface delicate metal strips tent to the outline of a design, to filling the resulting cellular spaces with vitreous enamel paste, before the object is fired, ground smooth and finely polished. Cloisonn¨¦ is called ¡°jingtai-Lan¡± because its popularity reached a peak during the Jingtai Reign (1450-1457) of the Ming Dynasty in Chinese history. The Chinese cloisonn¨¦ comes in such forms as vases, bowls, plates, table lamps and cups used as prizes.
Traditional Chinese Stationery
Traditional Chinese stationery is more popularly known in this country as ¡°Four Treasures of the Study¡±, namely, writing brush, ink stick, ink slab and paper. Through the ages the Chinese have developed unique techniques for the making of these ¡°treasures¡±, resulting in countless products with superb quality and distinct local styles. Among the more famous products are Xuan Paoer produced in Jingxian County, Anhui Province; Huizhou- style ink sticks in Shexian County, Anhui Province; writing brushes in Huzhou, Zhejiang Province; and ink slabs include those made in Shandong province and by the Taohe River of Gansu Province, and those fashioned out of baked clay and Helan Stone. Among all the souvenirs available on the Chinese market, the ¡°Four Treasures of the Study¡± are a fitting symbol of traditional Chinese culture.
Chinese Lacquer Ware
Raw lacquer is a native Chinese product which can be processed and mixed with gay color pigments for the making of traditional Chinese lacquer were with consummate craftsmanship. Famous products in this field include Beijing¡¯s carved lacquer ware, Fujian¡¯s bodiless lacquer ware, and lacquer ware from Sichuan and Jiangsu Province¡¯s Yangzhou.
Chinese Basketry and Matting
Bamboo rattan, palm fiber, grass, corn husk and wheat straw make inexpensive, yet excellent raw materials for basketry and matting, so popular that they can be found virtually in every nook and corner of the country. Famous products in this category include woven bamboo ware from Nanjing, sleeping mats from Anhui, woven bamboo mats from Hunan, articles of woven straw and plaited corn husk from Shandong and Henan provinces, rattan products from Guangdong Province, and woven straw and hemp products from Zhejiang Province.
Chinese Artistic Fans
Handy, artistically decorated, superbly crafted and incessantly upgraded, fans are favorites with visitors to China who regard them as brilliant flowers in the Chinese garden of arts and crafts. Chinese fans come in a rich variety, including folding fans from Hangzhou, feather fans from Jiangsu and Zhejiang Provinces, woven bamboo fans from Sichuan Provinces, and wheat-strew fans from Zhejiang Province.
China is one of the world¡¯s earliest tea-producing countries and Chinese tea is as famous as Chinese culture. Processed in different fashions, it falls into such categories as red tea, green tea, jasmine tea, and wulong tea. Among the better-known brands of Chinese tea are ¡°Longjing¡± of Hangzhou, ¡°Biluochun¡± of Dongting Lake, ¡°Tunlu¡± of Anhui, ¡°Maojian¡± of Mount Huangshan, ¡°Qinghong¡± of Anhui, ¡°Yihong¡± of Hebei, jasmine tea of Beijing, and ¡°Teiguanyin¡± of Fujian. The Chinese take great delight in nursing a cup of tea while chatting with loved ones or friends.
China is one of the world¡¯s earliest winemaking countries. There are an impressive array of Chinese beverages, such as spirits, rice wine, grape wine, fruit wine, beer, and cocktails. Famous Chinese alcoholic beverages are Maotai, Fen Jiu, Wu Liang Ye, Yang He Da Qu, Jian Nan Chun; Chinese red wine, Vermouth, Qingdao White Wine, Special Fine Brandy, Dong Liquor, Beijing Special Brandy, Luzhou Old Cellar, Shaoxing Jiafan Wine, Zhu Ye Qing, Tsingtao Bear, Red Wine and Chen Gang Jiu from Tantai.
The inexhaustible list of Chinese tourist commodities also includes carpets, tapestries, silk umbrellas of the West Lake, New Year¡¯s Printings, paper cuts, kites, folk customs and ornaments, and toys. Among the native and special products are candied fruit from Beijing, preserved honey melons and raisins from Xinjiang, cashmere and camel- wool products from the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, lamb skins from Qinghai Province, fine sheep pelts with thick wool from the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, and marten pelts from Jilin Province.
Among visitors to China are quite a few antique hunters. Along history has endowed the land of China with innumerous cultural artifacts. With the passage of time, so many of them have found their way into the market place. All sorts of antiques and curios, traditional Chinese paintings and worked of calligraphy, old time-pieces, carpets and ancient books are available in antique and curio fairs and shops operating in different places with government authorization. Browsing through these markets and shops and bargaining for a good price prove a fascinating experience in China.
The official seal is the best proof for the authenticity of a culture relic. All the products on sale in antique shops recommended in this manual bear such as a seal, and the product you have bought form such a shop is always accompanied by a receipt which shows the name of the product and the year of its making. Nobody is allowed to bring out of China the cultural artifacts dated to 1795 and earlier. You have to show the permit from a cultural relics administrative department to the Chinese Customs if you want to bring along an artifact dating back to between 1795 and 1949. The office of the Beijing Municipal Cultural Relics Administration opens 13:30-16:30 in the afternoon.
Every year, china publishes 110,000 titles of books and large amounts of periodicals. Foreign-language books are available in the Xinhua and Waiwen (Foreign Language) Book Stores and their branches, where visitors can also purchase musical tapes, CDs, small arts and crafts, and greeting cards. Many overseas friends, especially compatriots from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, love to buy books in China because of their good variety and low prices.