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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, card case

If you have a chance to visit Yandai Xiejie, an old lane famous for small antique and handicraft shops, you may find a shop named "Naxi Po Po", only a few steps away from the eastern entrance. "Naxi" is the name of an ethnic minority mainly lives in Lijiang, Yunnan province. "Po Po" means grandma in Chinese. So, the name sounds quite genial.


On my visit there, the characteristic façade of the shop caught my eye. Its name was written both in Chinese and in Dong Ba pictograph, a picture language created by Naxi people over a thousand years ago. It is the only pictograph language still used in use today. With curiosity, I stepped in.


The shop owner, Mr. Yang, greeted me and told me about this shop. He once visited the ancient town of Lijiang, and was fascinated by the unique local handicrafts. He couldn¡¯t remove the deep impression from his head. And so he decided to open this shop, and bring the mysterious Naxi culture to Beijing.


Looking around, I found various handmade items on display, such as clothing, bags, tapestries, and lacquer ware. Most of them are decorated with Dong Ba pictograph. These blessings are considered bringing good luck to you and chase away evil spirits.


The colorful bags, called "Tong Pa", are popular with young people. The picture shows a pledge of love between a girl and a lad.


For presents and souvenirs, the beautiful Naxi dolls wearing bright ethnic costume and accessories look very lovely.


What I appreciated

Local handicrafts with Naxi minority features


What customers appreciate

Handicrafts from mysterious Naxi nationality

Beijing pictures, Indian guy with matches

On my recent visit to Yandai Xiejie, the oldest, famous lane in Beijing, I found a number of antique or handicraft shops. But to my surprise, I also discovered a match shop. Nowadays, we use electronic lighters instead of matches any more. So what can a match shop offer? To find out the secret, I decided to check it out.


The small shop is named ¡°Match Quotes¡±. A huge match is keeping guard in front of the shop. As soon as I got into it, I immediately realized that this is a unique, magic world of matches.


The shop owner, Mr. Huang, greeted me, and drew my eyes away from the wide variety of matches. He told me that last year he saw a box of foreign matches, and was deeply attracted by the pattern on it. Suddenly, an idea struck him. He could also design his own match boxes, and add in some traditional Chinese elements. With a degree in Art, he felt confident with his designs. So He carried out his plan and became successful today.


His works consists of mainly three categories: modern designs, historical patterns, and graffiti. Youngsters usually go for the stars like David Beckham. For overseas tourists and collectors, there are Peking opera facial masks, and the red booklets with quotes from Chairman Mao. Actually, his original match boxes have become works of art for collection. When you visit this shop, I¡¯m sure you will find the one appealing to you.


What I appreciated

Original designs, catering to your interests


What customers appreciate

Unique designs with traditional Chinese characteristics

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, 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

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



Maliandao Tea Market is the oldest and most famous building on the west side of Maliandao Tea Street. On its third floor, I recently found a booth (No.7) selling quality Pu'er tea. And it was a great find indeed, a first class agent that sells the "National Treasure" brand of Pu'er tea. Their teas have won many prizes in tea competitions over the past several years. All teas come from their own ancient tea plantation.


When I approached the booth, a middle aged woman warmly invited me over to have a seat and sample their tea. She introduced herself as Manager Chen, and told me that many customers have stopped by and realized how great their tea tastes. I sampled, and I couldn¡¯t agree more.


Their cake teas weigh a bit less than a pound (380/400 g). Prices range from RMB 90 to RMB 6,000 per piece. The expensive ones are made from ancient tea trees more than 2,700 years old.


Their Tuo Cha, or bun-shaped tea, has two ranks: grade A and extra grade (top grade). The original price for one bag of Grade A tea that contains 5 buns (100 g per piece) is RMB 180. But aiming to let more customers know their products, you can buy a set for only RMB 58. For extra grade, you can have one bag at RMB 70, although its original price is RMB 220.


As for gift boxes, they offer one containing two big-leaf tea cakes (100 g per piece), one big-leaf tea brick (150 g), and a chisel to chip at the cakes. It costs 120 yuan. A green package containing 120 grams of ¡®Jade brick tea¡¯ only costs 30 yuan. Plus, they have more small packages of Pu¡¯er tea quite fit for presents.


What I appreciated

Prize-winning Pu¡¯er tea, a wide range for choice


What customers appreciate

Healthful Pu¡¯er tea, high quality, small packages for gifts

Beijing pictures, Old Beijing Life

Handicrafts, especially the Old Beijing handicrafts, are an essential culture of Beijing.


Located near the Forbidden City in inner of Beijing, Ya Xuan carries a large selection of traditional Chinese and old Beijing handicrafts. They offer cloth soles, Peking opera masks, clay figurines, Chinese knot, and more.


Browsing through the shop, I can¡¯t resist picking up a grinning ¡®Huan Xi Wa Wa¡¯ ¨C Happiness Doll. People believe it brings good luck to families and gives newlyweds a life-long bond. Each sells for around RMB 20.

The pottery works of old Beijing residential gates (RMB 150) really brought back old memories. The weeds on roofs, the mottled bricks of the walls, and the worn-away footsteps, are all beautifully reproduced here.

Another interesting item is the zodiac pendant. They have one for each animal, each with a different meaning. For example, fish means ¡®abundance¡¯, ¡°Fu¡± symbols ¡®blessing¡¯, and the boar is for ¡®Happiness¡¯. Each of pendants sells for RMB 50.


The owner is very nice and speaks a little English.


What I appreciate

Art on the old gates of Beijing


What customers appreciate

Beautiful baubles of Old Beijing, quality service


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      

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Beijing Shopping: 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.