Beijing’s Panjiayuan Market: You’re Gonna’ Need a Bigger Bag!

I want to live in Beijing. Now there’s something I’d never thought I’d say.

It’s not the history. Nor the opportunity to feast on my favourite, Peking Duck, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. That’s all good, mind you, but it’s really more than that.

I want to shop. Specifically, I want to shop, daily, at the fantastic Panjiayuan Market. I want to buy, everything that I see. I want to live in Beijing purely to be able to fill a home with the treasures that cram all 520,000+ square feet of this place.

Located on Beijing’s 3rd Ring Road, Panjiayuan Flea Market, (also known as The Dirt Market), is one of the largest markets of it’s kind in China. Ceramics, traditional and modern original paintings, fabric art, unique furniture pieces, antiques, beads, pearls … all are available here, just name your price. Be prepared to haggle hard, though, the bargaining typically starts at a point at least 80 to 100% inflated over the item’s true value.

There’s quite literally something for everyone here. Just perusing the tables of antiquities, (some of real historic value, most however, copies), can consume you for hours.

Peddlers from across China, including the ethnic of Mongol, Miao, and Hui, (to name a few), present their handcrafted wares in a true feast for the eyes.

Embroidery, batik, and hand-dyed silks are crafted into wall hangings, table coverings, bed linens, pillow covers, and clothing. Hand carved wooden shelving and decorative boxes, colourful lanterns, leather goods, cloisonne bowls, servingware….really every and all manner of Chinese handicraft is available here.

Being the sucker that I am for these sorts of things, it was extremely difficult to choose just one or two items to lug home with me. I truly wanted it ALL. As I remarked (ok, whined), to my husband, (who was strongly reminding me of our baggage limitations), “This is like bringing a kid to the most fantastic toy store in the world, then saying he can’t get anything!”

Alas, the gorgeous tall vases I longed for would have to stay there, as well as the heaps of amazingly intricate textiles. No, that brightly painted cabinet won’t fit in the luggage, either. I finally had to settle on two items, a small table top curio shelf, and a hand-dyed batik table runner. Leaving Panjianyuan with just these two might possibly rank amongst the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, (within the travel shopping realm, that is).

Panjianyuan Market is an absolute must do whilst in Beijing. Here’s my tips on how to make the most if your time there:

1) Arrive early. An extremely popular tourist destination, Panjianyuan Market gets progressively more crowded as the day goes on, so do head there early to avoid the worst of the crowds and to better see all of the wares.

2) Know how to bargain. When you find an item that you’d like to buy, ask about the price of like-items first. Don’t point-at, reach for, or otherwise indicate which item you really want. Be nonchalant. Sellers are looking to capitalize on your weaknesses.

3) Barter hard. Generally, cut whatever price they state to you by at least half, and work towards a final price from there.

4) Be prepared to walk away from the item, if you’re not getting close to a price you’re comfortable with. You’re likely to find the same item a few tables down the row or in the next aisle, and sellers are extremely competitive.

5) If it seems to good to be true, it most probably is. This means, you’re very unlikely to find a real Ming vase here. There are many valuable true antiques here, however, so do your research and know what details to look for, if that’s your thing. Keep in mind that the Chinese are adept at the copy game.

6) Get a receipt. If you do happen to decide on a purchase of any great value, (such as original artwork), be sure to request an invoice.

7) Beware of restricted items. Don’t purchase things that may be restricted in your home country, such as animal hides, snake skin, or bone items.

8) View some history. Don’t miss the adjacent buildings housing propaganda posters and literature, it is a tour through the country’s remarkable history.

9) Bring a shopping bag, (or even a small suitcase!), to carry your purchases.

10) Bring water, small snacks, hand sanitizer, tissues, and so on. You’ll be making a day of it, so come prepared with the necessary comforts.

How to get there:
Bus Route: Bus 36, 51, 802, 674, 28, 368, 627, or 638.

Beijing Metro Station : Panjianyuan.

Hours:

Panjianyuan Market is open weekdays, 8:30am – 4: 30pm. Weekend hours are 4:30am – 4:30pm

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