Liulichang Antiques Street, Beijing
This antiques area is the largest one I saw in Beijing. It also happens to be the only one I saw in Beijing and really close to where I stayed. It does have a wide variety of antiques and at reasonable prices.
What to buy: A short list of what I saw: Jade (fake?), ink scrolls, lots of name chops, silk clothes and pillow cases, vases, folk art, wood carvings, Tibetian items, art supplies, books, old looking coins, jewelry cases, and ornate mirrors.
What to pay: Depends. Bargin a lot. If you look rich, try to go for a third of what they say. If you look western, but poor (backpackers) go for half of what they say.
Liulichang starts with large, gorgeous art supply stores, and ends in small flea market type stalls.
This is the spot to have your "name chop" made, buy calligraphy and Mao buttons, jade trinkets and little stone carvings.
Vendors respond well to reasonable negociating.
I had a blast trying fancy teas in small and large tea houses. The teas don't come cheap (compared to CDs for instance), but they are splendid, and the presentation of the samples is a delight.
I was surprised to see that this street was so calm and quiet. We only saw tourists at the crossroads with Nanxinhua Jie (we came here in the beginning of April; maybe in the Summer there's more people). It has a lot of interesting shops, and I especially liked the paintings. We came back twice here actually because it was such a nice and relaxing stroll.
What to buy: Antiques, paintings, books ... in big shops as well as in small stalls. From the price you can see already what's real and what's not.
Liulichang is the oldest street in Beijing. Situated outside Hepingmen, this cultural street known as ‘antique street’ by many foreign residents in Beijing. Liulichang is 750m long with a long history from Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties. Now, there are dozen of shop here. The area is really a good place to these who love the Chinese culture.
What to buy: ancient books, jade, gold, pottery wares, calligraphy, paintings, musical instruments, etc.
The largest art store in Beijing selling art supplies is Gongyi Meishu Fuwubu, 200 Wangfujing Dajie, Dongcheng District (tel. 010/6512-4160). Daily from 8am to 6pm.
What to buy: The Liulichang Cultural Street has many small shops selling traditional artist brushes, ink stones, paper, and other art supplies.
Liulichang is not just one shop, it is a supposedly 'walking' street with your occassional speeding cars and bicycles, lined with beautiful shophouses selling calligraphy brushes, jades, chops and seals, antiques, paintings etc. I really liked this street because it was not sardine-packed like Silk Market and the ambiance was like old China. They dont sell your usual tshirts and fake hugo boss jackets here, they sell art, whether priceless or fakes, it doesnt matter since the whole street is like a work of art itself. Venture to the very end of the street until you get to the local's market and experience the sights and sounds of the real Beijing.
What to buy: Chops - a stamping seal with your name in Chinese characters carved into a stone or piece of jade
Liulichang Street was once a flourishing cultural center during the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911) where scholars, painters and calligraphers gathered to purchase materials, exchange ideas, compose poetry, write books and paint pictures.
In the modern age, the street renovations and have transformed the street into an antique market that resembles a Chinese village. The shops that flank the street are filled with genuine and convincing imitation paintings, calligraphy, pottery, carpets, vases, books, scrolls and chops. All genuine antiques purchased here can be taken out of China as experts have authenticated them and certificates are available in the stores.
The street is a mixture of state-run and privately owned shops and you should definitely bargain before making purchases. There are also replicas of traditional teahouses and wineshops, as well as a Confucian restaurant for tourists to rest and enjoy Chinese cuisine
If you are looking to have someone put a personal message on a scroll in Beijing I would suggest you go to the Liulichang street shopping area.
I suggest this area because many, if not most, of the shops have active painters and calligraphers on site. You can compare quality, style and price (after some negotiation)all in one little area. You will see that price drops quickly as you shop and demonstrate that you will not pay the first asking price. You might find one of the several small shops at the far western end - actually around the corner - particularly attractive both for price and setting because they seem to be one person owner-calligrapher shops. Also, because you are at the end of the street they generally know better than to initially ask for outlandish prices like you will hear at bigger shops.
What to buy: Getting a personal message into calligraphy and onto a wall scroll should be easy even if you do not speak Chinese (I do not.). The only problem might be the question of how correctly the Chinese will express your message. If you can not read Chinese how can you know for sure what the characters mean?
So your first step might be to have the message written in Chinese by several Chinese and then have others check them by translating them back to you. Many Chinese young people can do this even if they speak no English. You could then choose whichever one seems to convey most reliably your message and/or has the potential to look most beautiful.
Although lots of the shop people in this area speak some English, I think you would do best to come with the message you want written already checked out.
What to pay: The cost will depend on the size, quality of the scroll and your ability to negotiate. You can pay as much as you like. I am sure that you are aware that there is a danger that you might be asked for some exorbitant prices. This is especially likely in the area recommend because of the high Chinese and foreign tourist traffic. This is true whether you are buying a blank scroll, a printed scroll, a painting, or a personalized scroll.
There is a large art bookstore in Liulichang with what seem like very economical posted prices for printed collections of Chinese art. If you want to take home a lot of examples of good painting but can not afford the real thing, this is a good last day purchase. (Books are too heavy for an early trip purchase.)
I have made this shop a last day visit on both my trips to China and came away with a load. There are other stores nearby with much of the same merchandise, but this one seems to have the best prices. Perhaps indicative to a degree of their pricing policy was the fact that when I bought some of those decks of cards with pictures of emperors or generals, the price was the same as at the fixed price cheap store I mentioned in another tip.
What to buy: Oversized soft covered collections featuring a specific artist were between 6 and 12 USD.
The store, of course, had most substantial books, some jade and wood carvings and even had a paper cutting artist upstairs along with a collection of old books, but I have no idea about the nature of the pricing of these things compared to other stores.
What to pay: If you are like me it is more a question of how much can you carry.
This street was refurbished as a kitsch pedestrian precinct in the 1980's. It was designed in the style of the qing era [1644-1911]. The homely shops are packed with crafts, calligraphy materials and effigies of Mao.
most of the shops sell the same kind of things
What to buy: We found this district the best and relatively less "touisty" for Chinese art, calligraghy, books and antiques - of all qualities and prices.