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Shopping in China

If you feel like shopping, then you'll find China is a shopper's paradise. You may need to ask the right questions to find the kind of venue or experience you are looking for. Be prepared to barter. Learn some Chinese or take someone Chinese along with you.

Tip: every place that you go to - ask for a business card. That way, the next time you want to go there, you can simply show the business card to the taxi driver. It makes life much easier and you gain a lot of personal independence.

Shopping in China - Downtown
In China, everywhere is downtown. It is not like the west, where we separate the single-family dwellings from the business and shopping areas. In China, on the ground level, is store after store after store of small privately owned shops. Every neighborhood has it is own market. In most cities in China, and in Hong Kong, products are usually found grouped together in districts. So if you wanted furniture, you would go to the furniture district. If you needed office supplies you would go to the office supply district. If you needed fabric, you would go to the fabric district.

Department Store Shopping in China
There is usually a specific downtown area where you will find at least one main department store and a market. In the department stores, you pay the price shown on the ticket. There is no bartering. Department stores are much generalized, carrying everything from shoes to appliances. They will have a lot of products - but maybe available in only one style or one color. When you make a purchase - it is generally not returnable. There is seldom a guarantee. There are no fitting rooms to try on clothes. Women go shopping with a tape measure and generally just know their size when they see it.

Bartering in the Market and Small Shops
Generally, you can barter down about 30% off the price quoted - however, if you are a foreigner - they may double the price quoted and try to make some money off you. So, for the first little while, when shopping in China, it is best to take someone Chinese with you, or know the going prices before you decide to barter. It is considered in bad taste to barter a good deal and then walk away without purchasing it. However, some of the best bartering happens when you decide that the price is just too high and you don’t want it that badly, you turn and walk away, and then the store owner comes running after you and concedes to the price you originally wanted. Best to learn a little Chinese - especially numbers, currency, and how to say "too expensive" (Tai gui le)

Shopping in China for Fakes and Knock-offs
There is a lot of fake stuff for sale in China, so the Chinese tend to trust a department store just a little more than a local retailer - for purchases of value - like a cell phones, name brand watches, TVs or computers. However, even department stores can be selling fakes. Be cautious of fake items

Antique buyers should know that many experts have been disappointed to find that their find of a lifetime is beautiful but fake. Antiques should be officially certified to be exported legally. The penalties are severe. Keep all receipts, certificates and official documents that are received when you purchase any antiques. Antiques are those items over 120 years of age. Downtown Shanghai has an export market that is full of knock-offs at fantastic prices. You can buy high end knock-offs and low-end look-a-likes. The high end knock-offs you pay much more for - but the quality is good and it is quite difficult to tell if it is real or not.

Shopping in China's Shopping Centers and Walking Streets
In the large coastal cities like Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and many others, you will find high-end malls with brand name retail stores. Hong Kong is full of these high-end glitzy malls. Larger cities also have a walking street of shops - which is always a favorite place to spend several hours looking for a bargain.

Most travelers want to take home some bargains or mementos. With so many options available, shopping can be time consuming, confusing and exhausting. The following tips may make it easier for you:

    Don't buy everything in the first day or two. Each city has its own specialty. Some of the best buys are:
    Beijing: Cloisonné; Fresh water pearls
    Xi'an: Replicas of the Terra Cotta soldiers; Tangsancai (Tang Dynasty hand painted China); Antique Furniture
    Shanghai: Silk carpets
    Hangzhou: Longjing Tea; Silk
    Suzhou: Silk
    Guilin: Scroll paintings; China Southern Sea Pearls
    Yunnan: Mounted Butterflies; Pure tea; Dali Batik (tie-dyed fabric)
    Xinjiang: Carpets; jade articles
    Tibet: Thang-ka(tanka)(Sheep skin wall hangings)

Measurement System Comparison

  Metric System Traditional Chinese Imperial
Units of Length     1 centimeter     3 fen     0.394 inches
    1 meter     3 chi     3.281 feet; 1.094 yards
    1 kilometer     2 li     0.621 miles
Units of Area     1 square meter     9 square chi     10.764 square feet
    1 square kilometer     4 square li     0.386 square mile
Units of Weight     50 grams     1 liang     0.110 pounds
    1 kilogram     2 jin     2.205 pounds
Units of Capacity     1 liter     1 sheng     1.056 quarts
    4.546 liter     4.546 sheng     1 gallon

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