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Beijing pictures, Paper-tearing works of 12 Chinese birth-years

On my visit to Baigong Handicrafts Museum recently, I discovered a paper-tearing shop on the second floor, which made me gasp in admiration for the dexterous hands of paper-tearing masters.


Paper-tearing, originated more than 1,500 years ago, is a branch of the paper-cutting art. Compared with regular paper-cutting, this art looks more original and more improvised, reminiscent of the Chinese traditional brush painting. A paper-tearing artisan tears the paper into an imagined design following his inclinations.


The shop owner, an elderly woman, is a master of this art. She told me she has been in love with paper-tearing since her childhood days. Today she is very renowned, and frequently asked to make head portraits for international celebrities. With the upcoming 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, she even made paper-tearing portraits for Jacques Rogge and Juan Antonio Samaranch, current and former Chairmen of the International Olympic Committee.


Among the works on display, I saw many familiar figures. Chairman Mao¡¯s portrait was one of many historical figures made. I also saw works depicting ladies in the classic Chinese literature, Dream of the Red Mansion. In addition, you can find different paper-tears of each of the 12 traditional Chinese birth-animals. All above paper-tears cost RMB 40 each.


What I appreciated

Delicate paper-tearing works, skillful workmanship


What customers appreciate

Traditional Chinese handicraft, outstanding artisanship


Sunny Embroidery, a fashionable embroidery shop, is located in 798 Art Zone. Like many other shops in this modern art area, Sunny Embroidery is distinguished with its unique embroidery of posh style.

The owner, Ms. Li, opened this shop with her Australian business partner. Her embroidery works mix modern western style with traditional Chinese art. She told me that for this reason, many of her customers are from overseas.

I first found an eye-catching embroidery based on the artwork of Van Gogh. It looks just the same as the original one, except embroidered. Many items here are based on western themes.

Then I noticed a photo of a British man holding his embroidery with the word "nothing". I asked Ms. Li why she made that. She told me that a British man came and asked for an embroidery of the word "nothing." As Sunny Embroidery accepts custom orders, she agreed. She learned that in Britain, the word "nothing" sometimes has the special meaning. When it's read in the mirror, you can see the converse word of "nothing". So it is in fact, something.

There are also some other embroideries. Some are based on the murals of Naxi Nationality. Some are done on lotus feet shoes. They make good souvenirs.

As the shop takes custom orders. Some customers send their pictures or postcards to the shop to have their embroidery work done.

What I appreciate:
The traditional Chinese art demonstrated in a stylish way

What customers appreciate:
Fine craft, easy to communicate with the shop owner in English

Beijing pictures, Jadeite necklace pendants

Although not well known in the west, Jade is a very popular jewelry among Chinese people, especially women. Jade is known for its graceful color and elaborately carved patterns, as well as mythical powers in chasing away bad luck.


At Baigong Handicraft Museum, I found a shop specializing in jadeite ware. The shop assistant guaranteed that all of their jewelry are made of top grade jadeite, which are the best. Raw jade is imported from Burma, and they are then carved by master craftsmen in Guangzhou.


For ladies, the shop offers bracelets and necklace pendants with Buddha and Ping An Kou (literally means button of protection). A bracelet usually costs several thousand yuan. For men, they have pendants such as Guanyin (the Goddess of Mercy) and Pi Xiu (legendary animal which eats and retains wealth). A yellow-colored Pi Xiu cost about 600 yuan.


Also on display was a big, crude, black-colored jadeite stone. The shop assistant turned on a small flashlight against the stone, so I could see beautiful, charming green light shining into it. It was amazing to see graceful jadeite ware made from this kind of stone.


What I appreciated

Top grade jadeite jewelry


What customers appreciate

Top-quality jadeite articles, intricate workmanship


Beijing carved lacquer, or Diao Qi in Chinese, originated in the Tang Dynasty over 1,400 years ago. It used to be made only for the royal family. But today, carved lacquer has become a Chinese folk handicraft available to everyone.


A carved lacquer ware coats a copper or wooden lining with up to hundreds of layers of lacquer. Then intricate patterns are engraved on its dried and hard surface. It usually takes three months to two years to finish. Most carved lacquer pieces features a red-on-black design.


Recently, I revisited a carved lacquer shop on Zhushikou East Street. Its name has changed to Xiang Hong Lacquer Ware. The shop keeper, Mr. Zhu, greeted me warmly.


I then proceeded to look at the carved lacquers around the shop, all made at his factory in Gu An County, Hebei Province. They offer both handmade and machine-made products. The former is much higher priced. All of them are sturdy, elegant, and forever keep their vermilion color.


Looking around, I noticed that each small pendant of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals cost only 5 yuan. Prices for bracelets range from RMB 20 to RMB 150, necklaces from RMB 20 to RMB 200, and vases from RMB 100 to RMB 3000. Carved lacquer plates are ideal for decoration, present, or souvenir.


What I appreciated

Folk handicraft, ideal for present or souvenir


What customers appreciate

Traditional Chinese artwork, exquisite workmanship

Beijing pictures, Pyrographic gourd: Kiss

Burning designs on gourds is a unique handicraft, which is rarely seen today. As gourds are natural fruits, the artists must base their imagination on a concrete object, rather than from scratch.


One place you may find them is at a small shop inside the Baigong Handicraft Museum. The shop is run by an elderly couple. The husband is a master at carving gourds, while his wife is an expert at painting handkerchiefs.


Curious, I entered the shop. Inside are different sized gourds with interesting pictures displayed everywhere. As 2008 is the Year of Mouse, the model figure was a huge gourd made into a drawing of a fat mouse.


There are a variety of patterns, like various beautiful sceneries and animals. Ladybird looked appealing as well. All of them beautifully took advantage the natural shapes of different gourds.


The shop owner told me that his most popular design was called ¡°Kiss¡±. The gourd is laid on the ground, and its two spheres show a boy and a girl kissing face to face. This piece cost 580 yuan.


There¡¯s a counter which showcased hand-painted silk handkerchiefs, created by the wife. Her patterns include landscapes, characters and animals. The workmanship looked superb. Price for one small silk handkerchief was 20 yuan.


What I appreciated

Beautiful gourds, painted silk handkerchiefs, superb workmanship


What customers appreciate

Unique Chinese handicrafts


With a history of more than 160 years, Clay Figurine Zhang is a famous brand in clay sculpture circle. Since Mr. Zhang Mingshan created this fantastic skill in the mid 19 century, five generations from Zhang's family have witnessed the development of this art.

I visited a studio of Clay Figurine Zhang in Bai Gong Fang. Inside I saw many lively clay figurines depicting different characters from the folklores, classical literature works, and Peking Operas.

I especially like a group of clay sculptures featuring three old men sitting around a little table, tasting tea. Even the biggest figurine is no more than 40 cm high. The cute figurines make easy to be collected and kept on the shelf or desk.

The most remarkable character of Clay Figurine Zhang is its unique workmanship. The head and hands of a figurine are removable and can be separated from the main body. So the body parts won¡¯t be broken during transportation.

Prices of figurines are from RMB 20 to RMB 200.

What I appreciate:
Wide choices of styles and sizes.

What customers appreciate:
Patented clay figurines, wonderful workmanship

Beijing pictures, Yaxuan Chinese Folk Handicraft Shop

At the north end of Nanchizi Dajie - near the eastern gate of the Forbidden City - lies a small shop, with a red signboard hanging on its gate that reads ¡®Chinese Folk Handicraft¡¯. It is run by Aunt Cheng, an old Beijinger. After retirement, she set up this shop in 2007.


As I entered the shop, Aunt Cheng immediately greeted me warmly. After exchanging greetings, I looked through her characteristic goods. The figurines depicting young women dressed in the Qing Dynasty costume look very colorful. Their smiling expressions are vivid. And you can see many details, such as figures holding fans, or wearing hats of the Qing design. Each of them costs 100 to 300 yuan.


Miniature Beijing opera facial masks are good as small gift. They feature many famous people in Chinese literature, such as the characters from ¡°Journey to the West¡±. The most attractive character is the Monkey King, character known to all as a brave, intelligent, and resourceful hero. Prices for these gift boxes range from 15 to 35 yuan.


They still carry many other things for you to choose from, such as painted small gourds, tiger-head children shoes, paper-cuts, pottery decorations of old Beijing, and more.


Aunt Cheng¡¯s shop assistant speaks English well, so you can communicate smoothly with them.


What I appreciated

Chinese traditional handicrafts, a wide variety


What customers appreciate

Handicrafts with Chinese characteristics, good for gift and souvenir


There are large numbers of handicraft shops in Beijing. But it is not that easy to find a quality one with good prices prices. So I was very happy coming across Good Old Days near the Forbidden City.


Carrying over 100 categories of finely selected traditional Chinese handicrafts, Good Old Days has been in the business for almost a decade. They offer everything from clay baubles to cloth cats, wood paintings to zodiac pendants. Everything brings and old-time touch.


In the of clay products section, I picked up a small, stripped-color kitty with its tail pointing up. This lovely animal, as the owner told me, is popular with ladies as a place to put their rings. It only sells for RMB 20.


There are two dozens of Chinese shadow puppets in the puppet section. Made of donkey or ox leather, those little figures are used for shadow play and home decoration. Each sells around RMB 150.


The owner is a native Beijinger, who speaks fluent English and would like to share his insights on Chinese culture with foreign friends.


What I appreciate

Beautiful handicrafts


What customers appreciate

Great prices, good service      


Together with jade ware, carved ivory, and cloisonne, lacquer rounds out "the great four traditional handicrafts" in China. Originated 1,500 years ago, lacquer was used to coat artwork or furniture, on which artists then carve layers of attractive patterns.


On my visit to Baigongfang Handicraft Museum in Beijing, I found this Beijing Carved Lacquer Ware Shop on the second floor.


Half of their articles are red-colored carved lacquer plates mounted upon a small, black wooden bracket separately. The delicate designs include the Great Wall and Dragon & Phoenix.


You can see other carved lacquer items, like red-colored peony-covered caskets and small elephant or unicorn-shaped sculptures. But what impressed me most was a wooden pair of lions. Each of them squats on a stone pedestal, with mouth widely open. They are so vividly carved that I felt they would just jump down the stone and chase me. The twin lions are priced at RMB 460.


What I appreciated

Elaborately carved lacquer ware


What customers appreciate

Traditional Chinese handicraft, fine workmanship


Koji pottery originated from Guangdong Province during the Qing Dynasty. Traditionally the pottery was used mainly as temple and shrine adornments. However, Koji pottery is looked at now as a style of folk art for its variety of soft colors and designs.


I visited the Koji pottery shop in Baigong Handicraft Museum. Each piece combined the art of molding, engraving, painting, and firing, resulting in colorful and lively works.


What I like most were these little colorful lions in a variety of poses. The shop assistant told me they are made in Taiwan and sold at RMB 300 each.


The shop also carries some Tang Sancai, or 3-colored-glaze pottery of the Tang Dynasty. The most figures were horses in various stances (RMB 160 each). Also amazing was a small wooden folding screen, with six tourism spots of Beijing like the Great Wall and Tian¡¯anmen Square engraved (RMB 120).


What I appreciated

Koji pottery, Tang Sancai


What customers appreciate

Chinese famous pottery wares

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Beijing Shopping: On my visit to Baigong Handicrafts Museum recently, I discovered a paper-tearing shop on the second floor, which made me gasp in admiration for the dexterous hands of paper-tearing masters.