Noting a fusion of old and new within a d¨¦cor can be refreshing, an increasing number of people are buying antique furniture for their apartment.
A shop named ¡°West Mountain Village¡± in Beijing offers a nice collection of Chinese antique furniture: chairs, armoires, tables, dressers, cabinets, bookcases¡ allowing for a large choice to give your home a distinctive feel.
The ancient beauty of each piece is impressive. Carvings of dragons mounting a screen, flowers decorating a dresser, latticework in a panel, openwork around a table¡ each one looks delicate and gorgeous.
However, whether it is a walnut screen, or a sandalwood desk, the items here are in good condition, and of practical use. A 17-century mahogany cabinet with delicate flower carving, for example, actually offers larger storage space than a lot of modern ones. These were indeed originally made for daily use.
Antique here were all collected from deep China. They are authentic. Each piece is the only one the shop could find, so everything is rare. ¡°Originality and rarity mean that the value tends to hold and increase¡± says one customer.
Knowing that many of the clients don¡¯t know much about the time periods or history of Chinese furniture, the owner, a senior antique furniture collector, is eager to share his knowledge.
(Note: according to Chinese law, Chinese antiques cannot be exported.)
What I appreciate
Rare antique furniture, welcoming atmosphere
What customers appreciate
Originality and rarity of the products, friendly atmosphere
These days there is an antique rush in Beijing. . Amid the chaos, a shop named Rui Ji Xiang still offers antiques and jewelry items that are hard to find anywhere else.
Antiques in the shop are highly collectible, the ages ranging from several hundred years to over one thousand years: a bronze cup, one of the shop owner's favorites, is around 2500 years old. A Ming dynasty blue-and-white bowl is around 600 years old. And a set of earrings is 300 years old. It¡¯s really amazing that the shop carries antiques from different periods of ancient China.
I had a fun time there by checking out interesting stuff.. I found a tiny pot, which turned out to be a snuff bottle. Snuff bottles were European items, so this one might have been brought to China by some European merchant or soldier.
The shop is especially for girls looking for vintage-look jewelry. It carries a nice collection of old earrings, bracelets, necklaces and rings. I even noticed a pair of earrings said to have once belonged to a Mongolian princess.
The shop owner is a senior connoisseur, and shares his knowledge generously. He speaks a little English, and has received a lot of foreign customers.
What I appreciate
Rare and gorgeous antiques
What customers appreciate
Rare-to-find antiques, welcoming atmosphere
In Baigongfang, aka Beijing Handcraft and Art Museum, there exist a special collection shop with some of unique items. All merchandise inside are limited in amount, and generally quite pricey for casual shoppers.
As a lover of calligraphy, I was particularly enthralled by the three pieces exact replicas of works by Wang Xizhi, Wang Xianzhi, and Wang Xunzhi. These three works by the most famous calligraphers were 5 meter long each, and framed in gold. Each piece is sold at RMB 18600 due to their high collection value. In case you are wondering, the originals are at the Palace Museum,
Other collections include a set of four golden watches which had undergone the Buddha's consecration ceremony, sold at RMB 28600, and a commemorative book of Mei Lanfang, China's greatest opera star. The "Mei Lanfang's Art on the Stage" is pegged at RMB 9900.
What I appreciate:
Wang Xizhi's calligraphy
What customers appreciate:
Rare collectible items
There is a place you should visit when you come to Beijing: West Liulichang Street, a venue famous for Chinese painting and calligraphy.
During the Yuan Dynasty, the local government begun to build kilns and burn for glazed tiles. The place got its name ¡ª Liulichang ¡ª from its specialty: Colored Glaze Plant. Liulichang has a long history of 700~800 years, and is regarded today as a fine example of the distinct regional and cultural features of Beijing.
Liulichang Street is 790 meters long. It is divided into two sections by South Xinhua Avenue.
The section named West Liulichang Street is 340 meters long. The other section is named East Liulichang Street.
All the shops on West Liulichang Street are in traditional Chinese styles that make you feel like you were in ancient times.
At the entrance of West Liulichang Street, the first shop greeting you is Hua Xia Painting and Calligraphy Society.
On the first floor, there are the Chinese four treasures of study (writing brush, inkstick, inkslab and paper), Chinese paintings and calligraphic works, China seals, cloisonn¨¦, lacquers and handicrafts on sale.
As to prices, writing brushes range from RMB 6~430£»paintings from RMB 300~32,000; Shou Shan stone seals (a translucent stone found at Shoushan, Fujian province, highly prized as a material for seals) cost RMB 20; a seal with your name on it costs RMB 60.
On the second floor, Zhao Hua Art Gallery holds a paintings exhibition. Visitors may not take photos.
Hucksters in the street place reproductions of paintings and calligraphic works on the ground, and try to coax passersby into purchasing.
A reproduction of calligraphic work only costs RMB 10, and repros of paintings range from RMB 50 to RMB 150. These can make a good souvenir or gift.
The street counts other famous shops, such as China Bookstore, Hong Bao Tang, Rong Bao Zhai, etc.
There are many small shops at the end of West Liulichang Street, which sell miniature engravings (RMB 60~80), China seals, artifacts, ancient coins, pottery, porcelain, cloisonn¨¦, jade ware, wood ware, tea-things, hand-painted fans, etc.
Liulichang Street embodies traditional Chinese art. Its long history and interesting sights make it worth visiting, even if you don¡¯t buy anything.
Things can¡¯t be left unfinished halfway through. I wrote about West Liulichang Street. I could not avoid visiting East Liulichang Street to complete the picture.
The entrance area of East Liulichang Street is crowded with automobiles. In my opinion, cars and traditional architecture don¡¯t mesh well together, and the clutter lacks harmony. On a more joyous note, several rickshaw pullers wait for patrons there. This is a reminder of ancient China.
The first shop to attract your attention is Ji Gu Pavilion, a three-storey traditional building. Two stone lions keep guard on each side of the main entrance.
The first floor of the Pavilion displays the Chinese four treasures of study, as well as antiques, porcelains, silk, rugs, Chinese paintings and handicrafts. I noticed some leaves and feathers with delicate paintings on each, priced at RMB 20 each.
On the second floor, an art exhibition was going on. In the western wing of the second floor, there is a teahouse where you can enjoy a cup of tea, or purchase tea things.
The third floor shelters the studio of a famous artist.
In a narrow lane on the North side of the street, there is a cultural relic appraisal center named Guya. There you can have your antiques appraised for RMB 50 per item.
Dai Yue Xuan is a shop with a long history. It specializes in writing brushes, ink stones, China ink, rice paper, Shou Shan stone seals, and other calligraphy-related articles.
Towards the middle section of the street, on the North side, the Tian Fu Tea Shop carries jasmine tea, green tea, black tea, oolong tea and pu¡¯er tea.
As I was strolling along, I became suddenly aware of a Buddhist music melody. I turned into the direction the music was coming from, and it turned out to be coming from Ping Gu Zhai, a shop specializing in selling Tibetan ornaments, jewelry and clothes. An attractive and mysterious atmosphere permeated the place.
The other section of the street counts several small curio shops. The owners are warmer and friendlier than the employees of large shops, and prices here are much lower as well.
May you find out some treasures at low prices. Good luck!
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