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The silk capital of China is Suzhou, though some dispute this statement and say it is Hangzhou. Yet you can still buy silk in other cities, and Beijing is no exception with many silk shops. Some carry cheap merchandise, some sell expensive products. Which one should you choose?
A Cheap Silk Shop
Today, after I got out of Sundong¡¯an Shopping Mall, I was attracted by this silk shop on the left-hand side of Wangfujing Street. It wasn¡¯t hard to notice the shop: a fellow at the entrance was holding a bullhorn, touting the silk shop to passerbys.
The big sign on the shop facade reads ¡®Zhen Si Xi Lie Zhuan Mai¡¯. In English: ¡®We sell pure silk only¡¯. I noted two signs under the big one. One read: ¡®silk from the city of Hangzhou¡¯. The other read: ¡®half price¡¯.
There were many people queuing outside the entrance. When I asked the reason to the shop assistant, I was replied they were giving freebies ¡ª cheap silk scarves ¡ª to people. Everybody could go in and ask for a gift, not just customers.
There is no free lunch, and no retailer gives a freebie without a reason. The shop asked people to fill out a questionnaire.
No Pure Silk
So I walked in. There I found that the shop carries very few items made of pure silk.
There were two piles of silk scarves near the front door. In one of them, the scarves were priced RMB 10 each. In the other, they cost RMB 100 each.
I checked the quality by feeling the silk, and found those selling for RMB 10 were not real silk. I read the tag on one of them: 15% silk. A look at the tag on the expensive scarves taught me these were 100% pure silk.
The shop discounts its entire inventory. Prices of silk pajamas were discounted from RMB 228 to RMB 60, silk pants from RMB 198 to RMB 60, silk tops from RMB 60 to RMB 20.
None of these so-called silk items were made of pure silk, which is why they were so cheap.
Ruifuxiang, Silk and Cotton
After I walked out of ¡®Zhen Si Xi Lie Zhuan Mai¡¯, another silk shop caught my eye. Its name, Ruifuxiang, is somewhat famous.
Ruifuxiang¡¯s inventory of silk material is enormous. Some of the items are from Hangzhou, some from Suzhou.
I looked, felt and checked the tags: all merchandise is 100% silk. Prices here are much higher than in the other silk shops.
One meter of 70-cm wide silk material costs RMB 59. One meter of 140-cm wide silk material is RMB 128. The washable heavy silk sold in 140 cm width is even more expensive, at RMB 138 per meter.
Make Your Own
The shop offers tailoring services. The craftman officiating there can make different kinds of clothes. The cost is RMB 350 for a Qipao (traditional Chinese lady dress), RMB 100 for a shirt, and RMB 500-800 for a suit.
I checked the magazines and books he showed me. So many different designs! If you want a unique and special dress, it is a good idea to let a tailor take your measurements, and make your clothes.
By the way, the cost of the tailor¡¯s work does not include the material. According to the tailor, a Size 8 Qipao dress would require 3.2 meters of 70-cm wide material or 1.8 meters of 110-cm wide. This means about RMB 500 for the dress, labor and material included.
Other Silk Stuff
I saw other silk items in this shop, all made of pure silk. I noted some of the prices for you: silk ties were priced at RMB 128, silk scarves would sell for RMB 198-298, and silk dressing gowns were going for RMB 360-500.
Rare Jingdezhen Porcelain Covered with Gold Leaves
Fine Silk Fabrics
Gifts from the high mountains of Tibet
Carving on a piece of paper