Shopping in China
China is an incredible place for shopping. With China’s ancient history and culture, the variety of items available is almost unlimited. Each city, town, and village in China has its own unique culture, art, and clothing, so there is so much to choose from. Shopping can be a great deal of fun in China, but there are things to keep in mind and watch out for.
Larger department stores and supermarkets in China have fixed prices, but virtually every retailer in China does not, allowing for bargaining. Without a lot of experience, it is impossible to know what a retailer’s bottom line is, so a good rule of thumb is to bargain down to a price that you are comfortable with.
In China, credit cards are becoming more prevalent and can be used in hotels, and major restaurants, but most retailers do not accept them, so cash is a better option. Credit cards that are accepted in China include: Master Card, Visa, American Express, JCB, Diners Club, Million, and Federal.
There are a large amount of fakes on the market in China, especially with antiques, and higher-ticket items. If you wish to purchase jade or jewelry, it is highly recommended that you purchase from official shops, unless you are experienced.
Bargaining is expected in China. Few places will have prices marked and those that do often will accept bargaining. You can try to bargain wherever you may do your shopping. You may wish to bring a calculator along with you to help you do the conversion rates. Bargaining is expected in China, but if you do make a counter offer, and it is met, you are expected to buy the item. Always check the item you are given for flaws, or damage. You should also always ask for a receipt in case customs asks for it when leaving the country. When in a tourist area, look around and ask prices before purchasing an item. It will give you a good idea of the price ranges, and you will know where else you can get the same product if a shop will not lower its price to what you are willing to pay. A general rule for bargaining is to respond with an offer half the price of what the shop keeper asks and bargain your way up there. If they will not meet your price, a good tactic is to simply walk out of the store. Many times they will call you back and agree to your price.
What to Buy:
Virtually every area in China has its own specialty items, especially the more famous cities. Different cities have different local specialties. Beijing is known for its cloisonné enamel, clay toys, and opera masks. Shanghai is known for its jade and silk. Xian is famous for its rugs, and terracotta warrior reproductions. Guilin is known for its traditional Chinese paintings. Suzhou and Hangzhou are famous for their silks. Hangzhou is famous for Dragon Well Tea. Tibet is filled with unique Buddhist art and carvings. Xinjiang is known for its rugs. Yunnan Province is known for its Ethnic Minority art and tea. Guizhou is very well known for its Ethnic Minority cloth, and art. These are only a small selection of the items available in China.
We generally recommend that visitors do not purchase antiques in China. Most of the items available for sale are fake, and unless you are an expert, it is very hard to tell the difference. Common sense is a great way to deal with antique buying. If it looks too good to be true, then it probably is. If you see an imperial piece, it is a fake. Most pieces made for, or used for the Emperor or royal families are already in museums, and are not sold in markets. The really good pieces are not even put out for show. Generally if an antique dealer gets a really nice item, he calls those, who he knows collect that particular type of item, and it never goes on display. If you do purchase a piece, predating 1912, it must have a wax seal, which will allow it to be exported from the country. Any antique earlier than 1912 cannot be taken out of China legally.
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