Destination: China: Beijing
Beijing is not a shopper’s paradise. Recent years have seen the emergence of many Western-style luxury malls that are filled with international brands. One of the newest Sanlitun North, does have a lower level gallery of shops of Chinese up-and-coming brands and there are a few special boutiques such as Spin Ceramics and Dara but don’t expect to come home with unusual treasures.
Beijing's Best Shopping
Consumerism is new in China—and expect to find that service and selection is not at the level of the more developed markets of Asia such as Hong Kong. Also, fakes are rife, thanks to a government that has a half-hearted attitude to copyright protection, witnessed by the fake DVDs that are peddled by hawkers for $1 wherever foreigners congregate. “Let the Buyer Beware” should be stamped on everyone’s passport at entry point. Anyone who is seriously considering acquiring, say, a fine Chinese carpet would do well to check on prices at home before leaving the States. While the showroom sticker price may look attractive, once shipping and import taxes are added, it is no longer such a great deal. Having said that, this is the place for variety, with fine-woven Chinese rugs and imported vintage rugs from Tibet. Feel free to bargain vigorously: it’s a fair bet that the carpetmaker was paid a pittance and the markups are huge.
As for antiques, buy for fun only. Hong Kong is the world center of the China antique market. Stores there can guarantee provenance: in China, that so-called Ming vase may well have been made by the same factory that supplies Main Street with its dishes. The other, and far more serious, risk would be to try and export genuine antiques from the country without the necessary seals and certificates. China is very sensitive about “foreigners” having plundered some of its treasures over the centuries; they talk about British explorer Aurel Stein’s haul of priceless Buddhist scriptures from Silk Road caves a century ago as if it had happened yesterday. Laws prohibit the export of antiques, and being on the wrong side of the law in China is not advisable. Anyone set on taking an artifact out of the country legally has to go through a convoluted paperwork process with the customs department.
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