When it comes to buying handicrafts and accessories from the land of Tibet, one should not miss Ping Gu Zhai in Xuanwu District. I loved the shop¡¯s a large variety of everyday products from the Himalayan region, mainly the Tibet.
As I walked through their long exotic aisle into their well-lit showroom, I was amazed by their extensive array of items. Colorful prayer flags, rosaries, and prayer wheels only covered a small portion of their selection.
Sherry, the shop owner, told me that their tangkas¡ªTibetan scroll painting of the Buddha-- and carpets were all quite old. They were also more expensive than similar items in other Tibetan shops. For example, a twenty year old tangka was priced at RMB 3000. And it was not even their most expensive tangka. ¡°Their originality and antiqueness make for them all worthwhile¡±, Sherry explained.
While their carpets and tangkas targeted collectors, most of their items were still priced for casual shoppers, for as low as RMB 10. Sherry and other 2 shop assistants spoke a little English, and were experienced in dealing with foreign customers. The shop also offered discounts to repeat customers.
What I appreciate
Great Tibetan handicrafts
What customers appreciate
Great Tibetan handicrafts, good service
Just as I was about to wrap up my visit to East Liulichang Street, I found an old, small and distinctive shop at the end of the street. Outside the shop, there were many souvenir badges of Chairman Mao, studded on a board covered with red velvet. Some old books were lying on a shelf.
I stepped into the shop, and the owner greeted me immediately. He looked like he was 50 years old or so. He proceeded to introduce his assortment of items to me.
In the display cases, there were many old watches, pocket watches and some jade ware. Among others things on display, I saw old paintings, calligraphic works, furniture, porcelain ware, and small ornaments.
Prices for watches and pocket watches ranged from RMB 200 to RMB 10,000; some of them were gold or silver plated, with a history of 100 to 300 years. The owner can repair watches, he showed me his old repairing machine.
A souvenir badge of Chairman Mao was tagged RMB 10. Some of the porcelain items dated back from the Ming or Qing Dynasties. Prices here seemed reasonable compared with other antiques shops, with paintings and calligraphic works selling at a tenth of other shops¡¯ asking prices. Why such a difference? The premises belong to the owner¡¯s kin.
This shop is rated as ¡°Most Honest Dealer of Year 2006.¡± The owner told me 60% of his customers are from abroad. When I asked him why, he replied it was due to the shop attractive features.
The owner, Wang Dexian, was very easy to communicate with. He recounted before me how he became his own boss.
Wang Dexian used to be a model worker in Xuanwu District No. 3 Clocks and Watches Factory. People took after his model, but he could not get out of poverty. In 1998, the factory closed down, and Wang Dexian was laid off.
After going through a bitter period, he decided to put his best skill to good use, and so continued to repair watches. All the while he started collecting old watches and porcelain items. Over time, he became the owner of his own shop. Today, he owns his house, a car, and paid for the education of his children.
An artist as well as a craftsman, Wang Dexian has composed many poems. He recited two of his creations on the spot. Their implication was to encourage people to be independent.
Wang Dexian was even interviewed by CCTV, the Chinese government TV channel.
Here is a man worthy of respect. May his business thrive.
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