This narrow street beside the Great Mosque is one of the most interesting places to find chinese junk to nice pieces of handicraft. And at a reasonable price.
Of course, you need to exercise your oriental patience and bargain a lot...
If you ask some price, please, do not give your price back unless you really want to buy it. If the vendors accept your price, you just HAVE to buy it...
Stick to your price and bargain...
What to buy: Handicrafts...
What to pay: Much less than asked the first time... if you do business for more than 1/3 of the first price, it's bad business.
Shuyuanmen Gate is a small street with 400 history . It was the gateway to the Guanzhong Shuyuan (Guanzhong Academy), one of the four famous Academies of ancient China. The Forest of Stone Stele is on the end of the street.
There are hundred shops established in the ancient style. You can see various size of writing brushes hang from above the gate of shops. Many of the owners know a lot about Chinese calligraphy, painting,and other cultural things. Some of them are real artists. Maybe you can be permited to visit their small workshops, which are located behind the shops, to see how they make those crafts.
Many local people, including amateurs and artists look for things they want here.
The condition is comfortable and tidy.
What to buy: Four treasures of study (writing brush, ink stick, silk paper and ink stone);
Rubbings of calligraphy and paiting from the Forest of Stone Stele;
Shaddows of shaddow play (made of donkey skin or bull skin, totally handmade);
Xun (the oldest instrument, decovered from Banbo Village, yes, 6000 years ago)
and other folk arts.
What to pay: Bargain
I don't know why, but I always buy flags and other ceremonial stuff at one of the many shops just off Xidajie. There are streets with the same stuff in Beijing, but it has become a habit now.
The best street runs to the north into the Muslim quarter, about three blocks west of the Drum Tower. There is another shorter street which runs south of Xidajie, just to the west of the Bell Tower Hotel, but with less shops.
What to buy: Flags of every nation, in every size. You can buy versions on little stands, or huge affairs big enough to drape over your house. Also huge numbers and sizes of Chinese emblems and Communist Party symbols that are hung on municipal buildings. These are particularly cool souvenirs of China, but are about three metres in diameter! Go on, shock the neighbours: hang one of these beauties on your porch and tell them you've been officially appointed the local Chinese consulate.
What to pay: Varies.
We were taken to this shop before we went to the actual archaelogical site and so were a bit concerned about agent commissions etc. We made it quite clear we would not be buying anything.
This factory has reproductions of Qin terracotta warriors and horses and lacquer ware products. It also has traditional wooden furniture, lacquer wood, rosewood, jade screens and other souvenirs.
We found prices quite reasonable and actually better than at the actual site.
PS We did end up buying two small pieces for 100 Yuan each !!
What to buy: Replicas of the terracotta warriors, jade screens, rosewood furniture, other souvenirs
What to pay: Anything from 50 Yuan upwards
We found the shopping in Xian to be even cheaper than Beijing, but we still had to restrain ourselves as we had 20kg baggage limits on our internal flights!
All of the shopping we did in Xian was done in East Street, and was only a short walk from our (crappy) Hotel. There were a few good Department Stores on East Street, plus lots of smaller good value shops.
The Main Dept. Stores we went to were Kai Yuan Mall and Mincheng Department Store. Also in the Kai Yuan Mall was a fantastic Food Court up the top. Tracy and I shared a bowl of rice noodles for only 6rmb in total! The shops in both Stores were not very cheap, but there was a bargain basement in the Mincheng Store (I think!)
In ChangLe XiLu, there 2 wholesale market for the locals. The final transacted price is reasonably cheap. Lots of Bargaining required.
Never be afraid to offer (final) at 20% of the initial asking price.
Lots of stalls, shops and you can shop around for the best price.
I spent a whole afternoon there!
What to buy: Clothing
What to pay: Start with 10% of asking price and settle at about 20% of the asking price.
Don't go back home without buying your own Terracotta warriors!! Buy them to the local vendors outside the museum as it's way cheapier and you can't tell the difference. The box brings 5 warriors and a horse. Make sure to pack them well so they arrive safely home. Pay them with exact cash!
What to pay: Bargain a lot... from 10 yuan I got them for just 3!
If it is department shopping you want this is the largest store in Xian with 4 levels of various goods ranging from electrical, homewares to clothing. A must just to compare prices!!
Open every day 9am-9.30pm
When shopping, and this goes for anywhere in China that sells tourist souvenirs, please, please, please, haggle with the vendor. I'm not trying to suggest screwing the vendors, I'm trying to keep cheap souvenir trinkets cheap for future travelers. Of course prices will change with time, but we don't need to help them along! When I was last in China, about 8 years ago, prices were much lower, as I remember. I know they have to make a living, but there is a belief among vendors that tourists are stupid, as I've heard and experienced, and that exists because tourist pay the asking price.
Haggling is a common part of Chinese culture and the cultures of many places- you don't need to haggle at restaurants and hotels, but for souvenirs keep in mind that if you don't haggle, that helps pave the way for higher prices. Besides, it's part of the culture, and though it's sad, it may be the only way to interact with locals if you are on a tour.
What to buy: Recent examples:
280 yuan for a cheaply made fake Rolex that didn't even work. The vendor girl told me "high quality, very good price for you". I bet. I know watches, I know quality. It was a terrible piece of junk that wasn't even worth the 7 yuan I offered for it... not that I wanted it, I just wanted to see the real value it had. She dropped to 20.
60 yuan for a large chop ink pad. No way.
260 for a large (4x6) Quotations of Mao book... down to 50- 25 from a vendor down the way.
30 yuan for a taxi from the train station to the south gate (about 3km). Go by the meter.
8 years ago, I bought an 800 yuan sword for 100... I could have gone lower, I bet. He made money off me, but I got a cool sword.
On this trip we visited a painter who sold other people's work in his shop in the Muslim Quarter (on the souvenir street). He seemed like a reasonable guy who sold real work (not just stuff stamped out (or quickly painted) at factories). At least he seemed real enough, and had a different feel to him (genuine or a good act?) that felt different than the others, with no pressure or hawking.
What to pay: I typically offer much less than half the asking price. Again, that Rolex, I offered 5, then 7. She moved from 280 to 100 to 20, and would have given me less if I pressed. I only had 7 yuan to spend, but it wasn't worth a broken watch. My current fake Rolex is much higher quality. ;) Figure out what you want to pay, then leave yourself room to come up to that number.
Here is a rough idea on prices I paid for stuff bought in Xian :-
3 pairs socks = 10rmb
Fake CK boys undies = 12rmb each
Internet use at Hotel = 15rmb for onehour
2 x Terracotta Soldiers at site = 300rmb
Various bracelets = 5-15rmb
Mens jumper = 39rmb
Bras = 10rmb each
Womens pyjamas = 15rmb
Mens fake addidas jacket = 59rmb
Hand painted canvass shoes = 89rmb
The prices are ridiculously cheap and you are still expected to haggle. The quality of the goods varies considerably. The area around the market, especially on Changying West Road, has some wholesale shops as well.
What to buy: Clothes, especially jackets (very cold in winter), shoes, bags, fabric.
What to pay: Pay less than half of the asked price, 30-40% is usual.
There is a gift shop inside the Museum of the Terra Cotta Soldiers. As usual the prices are very high...even more so than some of the other tourist gift shops we've seen .
If you want to buy a set of the Terra Cotta Warriors You might want to buy them from the venders outside .
Inside they wanted $70.00 ( we saw then everywhere in other gift shops for $25.00)
From the venders we bought them for $2.00...the same set even in the same box. I caution you to watch how many yo buy though as they are heavy to pack!!
Zhongda International is known as the most luxurious shopping centre in Xi'an. If you need clothing or shoes suitable for a business activity or a banquet, you can go there. Of course the price is not cheap.
What to buy: Wold-famous bands: Louis Vuitton?APRADA?AMaxMara?ACerruti 1881?AGivenchy?AAquascutum?AVERSACE?AGIADA......
BeiYuan Men pedestrian street is the all-in-one place to go for local snacks, local meals and local souvenirs. It's right next to the Drum Tower, parallel with DongDaJie (East Street). The entrance's on the left side of the entrance of Drum Tower. Once inside, u'll see a sheltered market (large red umbrellas) on the right; small alley leading to the Great Mosque on the left; and BeiYuan Men, a street sheltered with trees and old-styled shop signboards ahead of u.
What to buy: Besides souvenir shops, the street also houses many famed restaurants that is worthy of trying. Many guidebooks that i read, including LP, mainly introduce cheap local dishes, and they certainly weren't joking. Popular dishes are like 'yang rou pao mo' (bread crumbs with noodles in lamb stock soup), 'liang pi' (cold noodle in peanut sauce), 'yang rou chuan' (lamb in sticks), dumplings with lamb or beef, etc. As u can guess, the local stars are the lambs & beef, mostly owing to the Muslim chinese minority in this city called the 'Hui's. Coming from a Muslim country myself, i find it odd having the Chinese-faced-but-wearing-songkok-Muslims speaking to me in fluent Mandarin.
The local snacks from street stalls are a great delight too. I tried the persimmon (a fruit) cake with different variety of filings (0.50yuan per pc) and 'jing gao' (1yuan; flour with sugar & a choice of filings- see 3rd photo). I just love the local feel of cosy street stalls in a small alley, especially along HuaJue Xiang (it's a street name).
Local souvenirs are abundant in shops along BeiYuan Men. The unmistakable handicrafts like lipstick box, coin purses, fridge magnets are reasonably priced, and most have a trusty price tag above them (those without, may have to bargain). On the end of the street towards the Drum Tower, the sheltered market sells local dry food like red dates (of all shapes & sizes), raisins, preserved kiwis, pistachios, cashew nuts, etc. Miniature handicrafts like terracotta warriors (dirt cheap; minimum 8yuan- for a set of 5 in a box), decors from most tourists spots in the city can be obtained here at a fraction of the price too.
What to pay: Local dishes from 2yuan (for 'liang pi') to 13yuan for 'yang rou pao mo'.
This shop was right next to the Nanpo Village and you could easily miss it-it is a bit nondescript. However, it did seem to have a reasonable collection of carved Jade ornaments including the one in the photo.
Out the back were various cheap jade ornaments.