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Beijing pictures, Time-Old Tradition

If you are an admirer of Chinese calligraphy, or seen a piece of traditional Chinese painting, you may have wondered what created such beautiful works of art. The answer lies with the brush pen, and its uniqueness which remains a main fixture of Chinese culture.


As one of the oldest and most renowned antique shops in Beijing, Gu Yi Zhai in the Xuanwu District sells a large variety of brush pens. The brush pens range from the size of a small pen to the size of a mop. They can be used for both writing and drawing.


The owner, who spoke to me in short bursts of English, told me that their top quality brush pens were made from weasel hairs. Also of good quality were pens made from goat or rabbit hairs. However, for beginners he would recommend the mixed-hair pen, which is much easier to use. A normal size brush pen sold for RMB 30 to RMB 1000.


In addition to quality brush pens, the shop also offers a variety of Chinese seals all made on site.  Each sold for around RMB 100.


The owner and other 2 shop assistants could speak some English, so communication was not be a problem.



What I appreciate

Beautiful products


What customers appreciate

Wide selection and good service

Beijing pictures, Sofa Cushion

Yu Hai Ying Zhou is an excellent shop for fans of Chinese ethnic products. Located behind the Palace museum of the Forbidden City, it carries a wide selection of deep Chinese ethnic handicrafts and accessories.


Most accessories, like sofa cushions, tea sets, tablecloths, Chinese knots, and china vases, make for wonderful interior decoration. While the handicrafts cover a wide variety of items from silk handbags to Shanxi shadow puppets.


I found the shop assistants, who speak a little English, easy to engage. They recommended, among other things, the shadow puppets coming from Shannxi, the home province of leather-silhouette show. This ancient art uses puppets made of donkey or ox leather to create shadows on a piece of white cloth, with performers behind the scene controlling the action. The puppets can be surprisingly detailed, such as a framed ¡®General¡¯ Puppet on display (RMB 120).


Two items I personally liked were an embroidered silk pillow(RMB 65) and a silk handbag (RMB 60). The pillow felt very soft, and had a dedicate fragrance. The silk handbag looked beautiful and would make a great gift.



What I appreciate

Embroidered fragrant pillow, handbag


What customers appreciate

Wide selection of Chinese ethnic products, reasonable prices

Beijing pictures, Suo Yi hat

A gift shop hidden behind the Forbidden City, Hua Fu Yi Yuan offers amazing Chinese ethnic products. This Wusi St. shop carries a wide range of handicrafts of Yi Ethnic group in southwestern China. Selections include Suo Yi rainwear, silver bracelet, and straw hat. The prices start cheaply. For example, a beautiful vanilla-scented pouch cost RMB 10.


The owner was easy-going, and very enthusiastic in showing me his wares. He recommended one of their new items, an 8-piece instrument called Ba Yin Qin. The instrument, when played with water drops in a tea ceremony, can produce euphonic sounds similar to the ones you hear in a chime-bell performance. The Ba Yin Qin cost RMB 180.


He also showed me a Suo Yi hat, a traditional Yi ethnic rainwear for hundreds of years. It has been used for so long, in fact, that Suo Yi has become a symbol of the Yi people. For RMB 120, you get the hat and a pair of shoes.


I also loved a variety of colorful kites coming from Weifang, the kite hometown of China, and various Chairman Mao products.



What I appreciate

Affordable prices, large variety of Chinese ethnic products


What customers appreciate

Wide selection of Chinese ethnic products, reasonable prices

Beijing pictures, Yi De Ge

As a century-old ink maker, Yi De Ge offers a variety of ink using techniques passed down from generation to generation. To calligraphy writers and traditional Chinese artists, this is one of the best places in Beijing for quality ink. The shop was established almost 150 years ago when a failed imperial exam contender came up with the idea. He wanted the ink to be bright, solid, fragrant, and lasting.


I visited Yi De Ge, located on LiuLiChang East Street. Inside, the shop assistant introduced me to their products, and showed me their advantage over other ink brands. She performed a live demonstration, writing several characters on paper. The characters came out clearly. There¡¯s no saturation of ink. And I smelled no offensive odor. All signs of great ink. In fact, many traditional Chinese painters and calligraphers only use Yi De Ge for their works.


A box of ink (250g) sold for RMB 8. They also carry a selection of inkpad for RMB 200 to RMB 100. The shop assistant was easy-going, and could speak a little English.


What I appreciate

Applauded products                 


What customers appreciate

Good products, good service 



Many foreign tourists ask me the question, ¡°What is most quintessential Chinese gift?¡± To which I always respond, ¡°A Chinese tea set.¡± A tea set describes much about the Chinese culture, from its porcelain material, to traditional art and calligraphy, to conveying the importance of teas in the minds of Chinese.


QingCi LanTing in LiuLiChang, Xuanwu district offers a large variety of tea sets from Longquan. The area is renowned as the celadon ¨C a type of porcelain with a pale green glaze - capital of the country. Interested, I went inside for a visit.


Inside, I saw tea sets in various shapes and patterns, made with celadon porcelain. I took a close look, and noted the unique greenish color and a translucent glaze Longquan porcelain¡¯s known for. The owner said that in ancient times, they followed a sophisticated process to make these pieces, and therefore only the very rich can afford them. I looked at the set I was holding. Thankfully, it¡¯s now at a much more affordable RMB 130.


In addition to wonderful celadon tea sets, the shop also sells china, vases, jars, and pendants made from Celadon. The owner speaks a little English, communication shouldn¡¯t be a problem.  



What I appreciate

Beautiful tea sets, reasonable prices


What customers appreciate

Quality celadon, large selection

Beijing pictures, Chinese Embroidery Artistic

When I entered Chinese Embroidery Artistic in the Xuanwu district, I met an American tourist named Sara. Sara was about to wrap up her China visit, and wished to bring some souvenirs for her family and friends. She was very glad that a local friend pointed out this exquisite embroidery shop.


Chinese Embroidery Artistic sells a large variety of Chinese embroidery from Suzhou, embroidery capital of China. The people there have weaved embroideries for over 2000 years. Their works aim to create a deep sense of transparency, depth, or motion. Each piece may take weeks, months, or even years to complete.


Although Sara did not know the history behind Suzhou embroidery, she could still appreciate the product. ¡¯I am totally overwhelmed by the fine work¡¯, Sara said. She happily bought several pieces, all while listening to the owner explain a bit about the works in English.


The shop offers cross-stitch and double-sided embroidery on various subjects: animals, flowers, landscapes, and portraits. Prices start from as little as RMB 150.


What I appreciate

Exquisite work, good service


What customers appreciate

Amazing designs, reasonable prices

Beijing pictures, Shadow Play

Shadow theaters in China originated from Shanxi province 1600 years ago. Through the use of shadow puppets, Shanxi puppeteers have since put on exquisite shows through the use of light and shadows.


This 100-year-old JiGuGe in LiuLiChang, Xuanwu District sells beautiful shadow puppets made from Shanxi. The puppets mainly depict historical figures and legendary animals. A crafter had to go through a dozen of steps over at least several days to make each puppet on display, according to the shop owner.


I took a look at a finely-crafted puppet of an ancient general. The puppet looked incredibly intricate, with many matching accessories. The owner said that particular puppet took weeks to make due to its complexity.


All the puppets in the shop seemed lively and quite unique. They make good souvenirs even if you¡¯re not planning on putting on a production. Prices started at RMB 90, and included a free frame for each puppet you purchase.



What I appreciate

Lovely shadow puppets


What customers appreciate

Wide range of choices, detailed designs, reasonable prices

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Beijing Shopping: Gu Yi Zhai in the Xuanwu District sells a large variety of brush pens.