As one of China's most popular folk art, paper cutting enjoys an old history dating back to the 6th century. Paper cuts in Yi County, Hebei Province are the best in the business. And a place in Beijing where you can find a huge selection of paper cuts from Yi is the shop Jian Yi Xuan.
I found Jian Yi Xuan on the Jiao Dao Kou Street, where I was absolutely amazed by the beautiful displays. Although I see simple paper cuts all the time in Beijing, none come close to matching many of the pieces in the shop
As I watched these grand, complicated designs, I could not believe they were simply made from paper. One set I loved had four scrolls depicting the four seasons. The detail is so fine I could actually see a wrinkle on a face. The shop assistant told me a set like this, with 2 to 3 layers, took 3 months to make by multiple artists.
Scroll of the Brightness Festival on the River, the biggest paper cut in Jian Yi Xuan, measured 26 feet long. Based on an old painting, it depicts hundreds of people walking in a bustling city.
For gift ideas or souvenirs, Jian Yi Xuan offers small paper cuts. An 8 inch by 4 inch picture costs only RMB 20. These can be used on doors or walls to bring happiness and luck.
What I appreciate:
Fine workmanship, warmhearted shop assistant
What Customer appreciate:
Excellent workmanship, a wide choice of styles
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
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