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China Travel FAQ - Shopping

  1. Shall we have time to buy some souvenirs? Where can I find the shops? Could you give me the suggestion about shopping?
2. Will the tour guide allow us to decide what kind of factories we can go?
3. What should be careful if I want Shopping in free market?
4. What should be careful if shopping in local department store or super market?
5. Can you tell me if there is special regulation in china if I want to buy the antiques?
6. Can you give us some idea what is best to buy in china?
1. Shall we have time to buy some souvenirs? Where can I find the shops? Could you give me the suggestion about shopping?

Most visitors want to bring home something for their relatives and friends. China is the right place for buying the souvenirs because china is famous for many products like silk, jade carving and cloisonné which are cherished by foreigners. As our itinerary is not very busy, normally there is some free time for you after sightseeing. If you agree, the guide will take you to the designated tourist shops to buy the souvenirs. But remember if you think you have no desire or interest, you do not feel embarrassed to let our guide know DIRECTLY (since some of our guides are enthusiastic in taking you shopping)

Shopping in China is an interesting thing, but alsotime-consuming, effort taking and confusing. The following tips may make it easier for you:

1. Better choose the shops run by the state When buying expensive articles.

2. Do not shop everything in one city.
As you know, china is a country with vast territory and rich culture, so every place has its unique local products which worth buying.
For example, Beijing is famous for jade carving and cloisonne, Xian is famous for replica of Terra Cotta soldiers and rugs and antiques, and Shanghai is famous for silk carpet, Hangzhou and Suzhou for silk products, Guilin for scroll paintings and China Southern Sea Pearls.

3. Do not feel obligate to shop.
When you are inside a shop, you will have Chinese attendants around you, because we Chinese believe that it is not polite if we do not have someone hanging around with you to be ready at your service. But do not also feel obligate to buy anything only because the shop attendants are very kind to you.

4. Be smart consumers.
Do not spend big money on things you are not familiar with. Do ask for shop guarantee, contacts and certificates when purchasing big items like antiques, jade, arts pieces.

5. Leave plenty of time for transactions.
From the time you decide to purchase an item until the time the transaction is completed will take longer than you expect. When you see something you like - buy it. You would not find it elsewhere and you would not have time to go back.

6. keep receipts after buying
Make sure you keep receipts and try and hang on to the bag of the shop where you bought each item in case you need to return the item.

7. Always verify the date of antiques before you purchase them.
Antiques dated before 1795 can not legally be exported.
Articles made from rare wild animals are contraband and will be confiscated by customs without compensation.

2. Will the tour guide allow us to decide what kind of factories we can go?

Usually the local guides may provide option for you. You can always let your guide know your interests and needs. Discussion is always a good way with your guide.

3. What should be careful if I want Shopping in free market?

Foreigners always find it very interesting to stroll in the free market in china, where they can see different kind of people selling all variety of products. Maybe everything in the market is a novelty to you. If you have interest, you can also buy some products. But please keep in your mind that the quality of the merchandise is usually lower than in large stores, so it is not advisable to buy the food here. Also extensive bargaining is expected here, so better learn from local guide how to bargain before you go. If you want to buy something, prepare some small bills in Chinese currency, because the peddlers here are reluctant to take USD or any other foreign currency. As the free market is very crowded, please take good care of your valuables in crowds.

4. What should be careful if shopping in local department store or super market?

There are many department stores and super markets in tourist cities in china, it is advisable to buy the food and drink here, because the quality of products here can be guaranteed, but the price is not low. Normally there is a department store or super market in close proximity tothe hotel you are staying. If you do not know the location, you can ask local guide or the front desk of the hotel.
Language may be a problem but with a little ingenuity, you can usually manage to communicate through a variety of gestures.
In most department store and super market in china, the prices are fixed and bargain is not allowed. Foreign Credit cards normally are not accepted here, so better exchange some Chinese currency before you go. Keep in mind that you should always ask for the receipt for what you paid.

5. Can you tell me if there is special regulation in china if I want to buy the antiques?

You can find the antique shops in all major cities in china, especially in Beijing and Shanghai. But for the protection of cultural relics, china has adopted the regulation on the export of the antiques. According to the regulation, only antiques 120 years old or less (produced after 1795) are available for purchase. You have to show the permit from a cultural relic administrative department to the Chinese Customs if you want to bring along an artifact dating back to between 1795 and 1949.The rest are considered national treasures and are not permitted out of the country. Be certain your purchase has an official red wax sealaffixed to it by Tourist Administrative Bureau of china. This official seal is the best proof for the authenticity of a cultural relic and also means that the article is approved by the Tourist bureau to be taken out of china. All the products on sale in antique shops recommended in this manual bear such a seal, and the product you have bought from such a shop is always accompanied by a receipt. If not clear, inquire with your Tour Guide PRIOR to purchasing any items of great value.
For safety it is advisable for your purchase to accompany you home. But if it is a large piece, you can also mail home, but be prepared to spend time on processing the proper documents. Please ensure that all your discussions with the store are clearly understood by both parties in order to avoid any misunderstanding about your shipment.
The office of the Beijing Municipal Cultural Relics Administration opens 1:30-4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

6. Can you give us some idea what is best to buy in china?

China hasmyriads of souvenirs to offer to its visitors. Just to name a few: silks, embroideries, brocades, traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy, furniture, medicinal herbs, cloisonne, ceramics, carvings and sculptures, woven hand works, artistic fans, lacquer wares, traditional Chinese stationery, tea, beverages, folk arts and crafts of different ethnic backgrounds, and native products and local specialties.

China is a 'Kingdom of Silk" of world renown. Jiangsu, Guangdong, Hunan and Sichuan provinces abound in natural silk and products made of it. The most distinguished silk products, however, are found in Hangzhou, where they come in a dozen varieties including pongee, brocade, damask, faille, and satin. All of them are pleasantly colored and soft and smooth to the touch.

Embroideries and Brocades
Suzhou, Changsha,Guangdong and Chengdu are known as China's four major schools of embroidery. The most famous Chinese silk products include the cloudy-patterned embroidery of Nanjing, Song-style satins of Suzhou, and Sbu-style embroidery of Sichuan. Some ethnic minorities, such as Zhuang, Dai, Li, Dong and Tujia, produce silk products in distinct styles.

Calligraphy & Painting
With a long historical and cultural tradition, calligraphy and painting are an epitome of traditional Chinese culture. A finely wrought piece of calligraphy or painting always makes an ideal souvenir. Apart from the renowned xuan paper, there are a good variety of media for traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy. These include shell mosaics produced in Dalian of Liaoning, Qingdao of Shandong, Beihai of Guangxi, Guangdong and Fujian; tree-bark pictures from Jilin; cork patchwork of Fuzhou; paintings on bamboo curtains from Sichuan; wheat straw patchwork from Chaozhou of Guangdong and Heilongjiang; and feather patchwork from Shenyang and Shandong.

Ceramics is a traditional Chinese handicraft with a long history. The best pottery-making centers are Yixing in Jiangsu Province, Shiwan in Guangdong Province, and Luoyang in Henan Province. Luoyang's tri-coloured pottery in Tang style is known throughout the world. Yixing's pottery is mostly made for everyday use and is especially known for its purplish brown, glazed, polychrome and refined products. Luoyang's tri-coloured pottery, glazed red, green and white, made a name for itself as early as the Tang Dynasty. Famous Chinese porcelains include celadon ware from Longquan of Zhejiang Province; the Ru-style porcelain ware (glazed grayish blue with a jade like material) from Linru, and the highly decorate Jun-style ware of Yuxian County of Henan Province; and products from Tangshan and Xuanhua of Hebei Province. None of these porcelain-making places, however, rival the fame of Jingdezhen, the 'Capital of Chinese Percelain-making Industry', and famille-rose, blue-and-white, eggshell-thin, and exquisite porcelains are its trademark products.

Traditional Medicines
Traditional Chinese medicine is a school of its own with a profound heritage. Every conceivable variety of drug, herbal or otherwise, is being used for medical purposes, many of them with amazing curative efficacies. Drugs with a high tonic value are favorites with the Chinese. These include ginseng and its products, snow lotus, Chinese caterpillar fungus, Chinese wolfberries, licorice root, dangshen (Codonopsis pilosula), and the bulbs of fritillary (Fritillaria thunbergii). A wide range of patent drugs prepared according to traditional prescriptions, which are high in curative value and convenient for administration, are available in traditional Chinese pharmacies in China.

Carving & Sculpture
Traditional Chinese carving and sculpture are based on every material imaginable: jade, stone, wood, bamboo, black amber, crystals, tree roots, shells, and whatnot. Whatever the material, the products are distinguished by the ingenious integration of likeness of imagery with graphic expressiveness and spiritual resonance. There is no lack of exquisite works at your choice.

Cloisonne, also known as filigree enamel work, is perhaps the most famous of all traditional Chinese metal craftworks, with Beijing as the producing center. Cloisonne is called "jingtailan" because its popularity reached a peak during the Jingtai reign (1450-1457) of the Ming Dynasty. The Chinese cloisonne comes in such forms as vases, bowls, plates, table lamps, and cups used as prizes.

Traditional Stationery
Traditional Chinese stationery , more popularly known in this country as 'Four Treasures of the Study', namely, writing brush, ink stick, ink slab and paper, are a fitting symbol of traditional Chinese culture.
Among the more famous products are xuan paper produced in Jingxian County, Anhui Province; Huizhou-style ink sticks in Shexian County, Anhui Province; writing brushes in Huzhou, Zhejiang Province; and ink slabs produced in Zhaoqing of Guangdong Province, Shexian County of Anhui Province, Wuyuan of Jiangxi Province.

Lacquer Ware
Raw lacquer is a native Chinese product which can be processed and mixed with gay colour pigments for the making of traditional Chinese lacquer ware with consummate craftsmanship. Famous products in this field include Beijing's carved lacquer ware, Fujian's bodiless lacquer ware, and lacquer ware from Sichuan and Jiangsu Province's Yangzhou.

Basketry and Matting
Bamboo, rattan, palm fiber, grass, corn husk and wheat straw make inexpensive, yet excellent raw materials for basketry and matting, so popular that they can be found virtually in every nook and corner of the country. Famous products in this category include woven bamboo ware from Nanjing, sleeping mats from Anhui, woven bamboo mats from Hunan, articles of woven straw and plaited corn husk from Shandong and Henan provinces, rattan products from Guangdong province, and woven straw and hemp products from Zhejiang Province.

Artistic Fans
Handy, artistically decorated, superbly crafted and incessantly upgraded, fans are favorites with visitors to China who regard them as brilliant flowers in the Chinese garden of arts and crafts. Chinese fans come in a rich variety, including folding fans from Hangzhou, sandalwood fans from Suzhou, feather fans from Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, palmleaf fans from Guangdong Province, woven bamboo fans from Sichuan Province, and wheat-straw fans from Zhejiang Province.

Chinese tea is as famous as Chinese culture. Processed in different fashions, it falls into such categories as red tea, green tea, jasmine tea, and wulong tea. Among the better-known brands of Chinese tea are "Longjing" of Hangzhou, "Biluochun' of the Dongting Lake, "Tunlu" of Anhui, "Maojian" of Mount Huangshan, "Qihong" of Anhui, "Yihong" of Hubei, jasmine tea of Beijing, and "Tieguanyin" of Fujian. The Chinese take great delight in nursing a cup of tea while chatting with loved ones or friends.

China is one of the world's earliest winemaking countries. There are an impressive array of Chinese beverages, such as spirits, rice wine, grape wine, fruit wine, beer, and cocktails. Famous Chinese alcoholic beverages are Maotai, Fen Jiu, Wu Liang Ye, Gu Jing Gong Jiu, Yang He Da Qu, Jian Nan Chun; Chinese Red Wine, Vermouth, Qingdao White Wine, Special Fine Brandy, Dong Liquor, Beijing Special Brandy; Luzhou Old Cellar Te Qu, Shaoxing Jiafan Wine, Zhu Ye Qing, Qingdao Beer, Red Wine and Chen Gang Jiu from Yantai.

A long history has endowed the land of China with innumerous cultural artifacts. With the passage of time so many of them have found their way into the marketplace. All sorts of antiques and curios, traditional Chinese paintings and works of calligraphy, old time-pieces, carpets and ancient books are available in antique and curio fairs and shops operating in different places with government authorization. Browsing through these markets and shops and bargaining for a good price prove a fascinating experience in China.