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Beijing pictures, Bronze and copper wares

In China, bronze ware has been in use for over four millenniums. Chinese bronze ware is highly valued for its consummate workmanship and primitive beauty. On my visit at Baigong Handicraft Museum, a bronze and copper ware shop drew my attention.


As I entered the shop, an old artisan was working on a piece of bronze using a magnifying glass. Several beautiful metal ornaments were displayed on shelves. The darker ones were made of bronze, while the others were made from copper. A pair of bronze unicorns with fine, clear markings looked especially stately and exquisite.


I tried to break the ice with the artisan, and he raised his head and turned to me. We talked about various things. He told me that each unicorn cost 400 yuan. And that his key goods were copper incense burners made by his own hands. I tried to lift a square-shaped one. To my surprise, it felt rather heavy. The artisan told me that the copper had passed through the purifying process five times. It cost 4000 yuan.


What I appreciated

Hand-made bronze and copper ware, outstanding workmanship.


What customers appreciate

Exquisite bronze and copper ware, excellent workmanship.

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

Beijing pictures, the art of fire

As the oldest slanted lane in Beijing, Yandai Xiejie still retains its traditional style, and attracts a number of domestic and overseas travelers every day. On my visit there recently, I found a unique small shop called "Feng Nian Tao Fang", which features homemade pottery. In Chinese, "Feng Nian" means "a good harvest year", and "Tao Fang" means "a studio making pottery"


The shop keeper, Mr. Liu, was easy to talk with. My new friend introduced that he started learning to draw ten years ago, hoping to become an artist.


Eight years later, that dream came true when he made up his mind, came to Beijing, and opened this shop with his beloved wife. Since then, he has been designing and crafting earthenware himself, which you can find all over the shop. His original, exclusive works reflect his powerful and unbridled imagination.


One of his favorite works depicts a beaming man in thick clothes and hat, making a bow with hands folded in front. This is a common gesture to congratulate someone in the Chinese culture. Around his neck hangs a copper coin. It is entitled "Congratulations for Getting Rich".


I also discovered a lot of colorful plates and figurines with fish designs on walls. Mr. Liu told me that thousands of years ago, our ancestors regarded fish as a totem. Therefore, they are used for praying for continued prosperity.


The shop also carries various Peking opera facial masks, and exquisite vases in different sizes and colors. Mr. Liu can speak some English for communication.


What I appreciated

Homemade pottery, traditional Chinese culture


What customers appreciate

Original designs, delicate handicrafts

Beijing pictures, Beijjing Specialty Shop

If you walk along the Forbidden City to the east, a Beijing specialty shop on the north side of Donghuamen Dajie awaits you to drop in. Actually, it¡¯s an outlet of Beijing XiHongXuan Foodstuff Company, which specializes in Beijing traditional snacks.


The shop looks like a corridor, and a great many local products are displayed on both sides, including preserved fruits, roast duck, cooked food, and bread. Beijing has long been famous for the first two items.


There is a wide variety of preserved fruits for you to select, such as apricots, cherry-apples, hawthorns, peaches, and jujubes. They come in small boxes of 200 grams each. All are made with fresh fruits and taste great. If you wish to sample them all, get a box of assorted preserved fruits, which cost 28 yuan per 400 gram box.


Beijing roast duck, which has been famous for more than a century, is also sold here. It¡¯s vacuum packed in case you can¡¯t make time for having it in a restaurant. The meat is tender and not greasy at all. A bag of a two and a half pound duck costs 58 yuan.


What I appreciated

Beijing specialty, traditional snacks


What customers appreciate

Beijing traditional snacks, reasonable prices

Beijing pictures, The Gate of the shop

At the southeast of Xuanwumen lies a Yunnan Pu¡¯er Tea Market, only five minutes by cab from Tian¡¯anmen Square. For a tourist, this is a convenient place to taste Pu¡¯er tea, considered the ¡®health-giving tea¡¯ by many Chinese. Drinking this tea help you lose weight, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of cancer.


Yesterday I visited a nice Pu¡¯er tea outlet called YiWu HongQing on the second floor there. The shop assistant was Mr. Hao, who warmly invited me to sit down and taste their tea. He introduced to me the company¡¯s natural tea plantation at YiWu, the most famous tea mountain area in Yunnan province. All of their Pu¡¯er teas were hand-plucked from ancient trees, and processed entirely by hand.


You can buy two kinds of Pu¡¯er teas: Sheng Cha, which is raw, unfermented tea, or Shu Cha, which is fermented tea. Unfermented tea soup looks golden brown. They taste a bit bitter at first, but give a slight sweet after-taste. Fermented tea looks like red wine when brewed, and tastes a bit sweet. They give you a primitive feel.


For being carried more conveniently, Pu¡¯er teas are compressed into different shapes like cake, bun, brick, and melon. Prices vary by age and quality. The longer preserved ones could cost up to RMB 5600 for a 400g cake. But newer teas can be bought for as little as RMB 70 per 400g cake.


What I appreciated

Healthful Pu¡¯er tea from the most famous YiWu Mountain


What customers appreciate

Health-giving tea, top quality Pu¡¯er tea


Beijing pictures, Pu'er tea packed in Yunnan local style

In order to keep my body in shape, I like to drink Puer tea, which can lower cholesterol and help lose weight. One place I frequent for my tea is the Beijing Yunnan Puer Tea Market, located on Maliandao Tea Street. Here I visited an outlet of Yunnan Puer Tea Factory. I like it because the factory owns a plantation in Puer County, so they grow and harvest every single leaf they sell. 

The hospitable shop owner, Mrs Yang, greeted me as I walked in. She told me that overseas tourists like their tea giftsets, which are very uniquely packaged.

One is called Tuo Cha, or bun-shaped Puer tea -- it cost 60 yuan for 100 grams. This giftset is wrapped in a Chinese silk with a light yellow pattern, which symbolized royalty in the Qing Dynasty.

Another tea, Bing Cha, is a Puer tea presented in the shape of a cookie. It cost 80 yuan for 100 grams, and comes in a brown linen bag decorated with handcrafted embroidery made by Yunnan natives.

Finally there is Jin Ya, which means Golden Tip. It cost 150 yuan for 100 grams. As its name implies, this small decorated carton contains the very tips of the leaves. Its quality is so good that the Yunnan province used to send it as tribute to the royal court.

Mrs Yang can speak a little English when dealing with prices. And she's also an ex-tea ceremony instructor, so you just might catch her perform a ceremony when you go.

What I appreciated:
Wholesome Pu¡¯er tea, unique small packages

What customers appreciate:
Famous Chinese tea, ideal for gifts

Beijing pictures, Westlake Longjing Tea Outlet

When it comes to traditional Chinese teas, Longjing tea ranks near or at the top. In fact, one shop in the basement of Beijing International Tea Market sells Longjing tea exclusively. Here you can find quality Longjing tea at inexpensive prices.


The first thing I saw when I stepped inside were big boxes of tea stacked on the ground. The shop owner told me all these teas came from the tea farmers directly.


They offer two types of Longjing teas, both from Zhejiang province. Xihu Longjing comes from the West Lake region, and Zhejiang Longjing from other parts of the province. As Xihu Longjing tea is rarer, they generally cost 50% more than Zhejiang Longjing.


There are many differences between the two teas. Xihu Longjing is greenish yellow, has thicker leaves, and gives a strong bean aroma. Zhejiang Longjing is greener and features thinner leaves and weaker flavor.


Prices for Xihu Longjing tea range from RMB 50 ¨C 500 per 500 grams, while Zhejiang Longjing sells for RMB 30 ¨C 500, depending on the grade. The shop owner is a nice fellow, and will give you a good price as long as you buy at least 500g. If you buy more than 1.5 kg though, you will get the wholesale price.


What I appreciated

Xihu longjing tea at reasonable prices


What customers appreciate

High-quality Longjing tea, directly from the farm

Beijing pictures, Hunan Dark Tea Outlet

Chinese tea lovers know there are six types of Chinese teas: green, black, dark, yellow, white, and oolong. Among them, dark tea mainly includes Hunan dark tea and Yunnan Pu¡¯er tea. And people see them as ¡®brothers¡¯ due to their similar history, shape, and health benefits.


It¡¯s not common to see dark tea retailers on the famous Maliandao Tea Street. But I did find one on the basement of Beijing International Tea Centre. The shop is run by two ladies. One comes from Anhua, the hometown of Hunan dark tea. The other comes from Yunnan, home of the Pu¡¯er tea.


The two first met in Yunnan, and almost as if by fate, immediately became friends. They soon decided to open a shop together in Beijing to sell the ¡®brotherly teas¡¯.


Dark tea is a fermented tea whose health benefits are known in all Oriental countries. Japanese call it ¡®slim-keeping tea¡¯, Koreans call it ¡®beautifying tea¡¯, and Chinese people call it ¡®wholesome tea¡¯. Drinking dark tea can help you lose weight, sober up, improve digestion, and lower your blood pressure.


Prices vary by the tea¡¯s age. For casual drinkers, you may try a 2007 two kg brick of dark-flower tea for RMB 230. Whereas a two kg brick of 1992 dark brick tea would set you back RMB 1680.


What I appreciated

Healthful Hunan dark tea, Yunnan Pu¡¯er tea


What customers appreciate

Health-giving Chinese tea

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Beijing Shopping: In China, bronze ware has been in use for over four millenniums. Chinese bronze ware is highly valued for its consummate workmanship and primitive beauty. On my visit at Baigong Handicraft Museum, a b...