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Shopping Guide

Some travelers buy nothing in China while others come back loaded with souvenirs; it largely depends on what you're interested in. There are a variety of goods available and a variety of places to buy them. Before you buy, you should learn a little about Chinese marketplaces and stores. If not, so you may find occasionally that the shop can't sell you what you want to buy.

Where to Buy - Chinese Marketplaces and Stores?
Friendship Stores - In the past, referred to shopping in China cities, a lot of large government-run department stores called "Friendship Stores". In China, friendship stores are appointed to provide services to foreign visitors. This kind of stores is always run by the state with a variety of goods available including silk, jewelry made from gold, silver, pearl and jade, embroidered tablecloths and blouses, paintings, four treasures of the study, porcelain, pottery and handicrafts. All goods are marked with prices and quality is guaranteed. Bargaining is acceptable. Travelers' cheque can be changed there. Prices may be slightly higher than at other Chinese stores but the goods are of higher quality and some items are unavailable elsewhere.

Nowadays, the friendship stores become much less and give way to specialty stores or franchised store, exclusive agency and specializing-in markets.

Department Stores - Most of department stores are run by the state with others by individual or joint venture. They mainly cover all kind of articles of everyday use. Bargaining is seldom acceptable. Look for sales. Now only one or two department stores can be survived in a city.

Markets & Factories - Markets are an ideal place to purchase some cheap and piddling articles. The price is flexible and you could practise your bargaining skill there. Chinese markets are currently grouped into many categories according to products or trades. If you prefer to buy some artwork at a lower price, you could go directly to the factories. Every arts and crafts factory has a showroom where visitors can buy what is made there.Beside, most of the luxury hotels have their own shopping mall where various souvenirs and daily articles offered.

Shopping Center, Shopping Mall, Supermarkets - Now everything has changed greatly. Large shopping malls or centers are prevailing in cities; supermarkets and specialized stores are very popular even in a small county. All kind of marketplaces spread over towns and countryside.

Everything from jewelry to chopsticks is available and you'll get a greater variety and often cheaper price at shopping mall and centers in city. Depart from the ordinary, domestics, cloth, garments, household goods such kinds of down-market or daily-used end of merchandise in the supermarket, there a lot of stores specializing in a wide range of products. For a traveler's concerns, you just need to have a concept of 'two types of stores'; 'China Products' and 'China Works of Art and Craft'. The first sells ordinary goods or local specialties all over the country. The second stocks the furniture, the arty, crafty, curio/antiquity stuff. You can learn what to buy and where to buy souvenirs from a tour guide or local people as you get to a place.

What are Good Things to Buy
There are many exotic and unusual things to buy in China which make wonderful souvenirs and gifts for relatives and friends back home. In China, commodities are priced in one of the following three ways. First, fixed prices by the state; second, regulatory prices by the state; and third, market prices. Most of the tourist merchandises fall under the third category of market prices. Therefore, you may pay visit to several shops to get the best price.

You won't fail to notice China's efforts to expand it arts and crafts industries with a view to profiteering form the tourist trade. Like other countries, China is plagued by shoddy and counterfeited products, especially on street stands. Tourists are advised to make informed choices and shop accompanied by local guides. Also, big department stores and tourist stores designated by the government tend to have better credibility. Also, always ask for a receipt.

There is an incredible choice of boutique shops, department stores, hotel shopping arcades, even big shopping mall to browse through. Or you can try bargain hunting at one of the new "free markets" that are springing up all over the country. You're sure to be dazzled by the unique array of aesthetic and practical gifts available in China. You will find everything from high quality silks and porcelains to antique screens and traditional Chinese herbal medicines. Throughout China shops offer unique ceramics, paintings, stone rubbings, embroideries, carpets, furniture, jade carvings, custom-carved signature chops, antiques, books, and much more. Another example, if you have chance to get around some good places such as Zhuji in Zhejiang, Hepu in Guangxi and Guangzhou don't forget to buy quality pearl jewelry. Shop personnel will often pack and arrange for shipping bulky purchases back home. Prices are usually clearly marked in stores and shops, and English is spoken in most tourist areas. Don't miss browsing through one of the state run Friendship Stores; they are still some of the best places to find an excellent selection of quality merchandise, plus you'll find a complete supermarket of Chinese delicacies to bring to friends back home.

In nearly all cities, your guides will take you to visit the tourist stores (state-run or private-owned) as part of your tour. While they may be convenient places to see what's available locally, to look at good examples of the products and to determine what the high end of the price range is, you'll generally find better bargains elsewhere. As a rule, if you see something you want, buy it when you see it - prices don't vary greatly, but selection does. Be aware that examine items carefully before buying them.

Points for Attention When Shopping
Shopping in China is both an interesting thing and a challenge.

When you are going to buy, the first thing, also an important thing is decide where to buy. We believe that a good beginning is half the battle. In Chinese cities, specialized stores and marketplaces are recommended. These carry the sort of luxury goods: silks, jewelry of gold, silver, pearls, jade, embroidered tablecloths and blouses, paintings, four treasures of the study (writing brush, ink stick, ink slab and paper), handicrafts and pottery. At hotels entrusted to receive foreign visitors, there are also shopping centers.

In addition, foreign visitors are free to do shopping at any other shops. It was unusual to bargain in the state-run shops and warehouses. But at many souvenir stands, it is a good idea to bargain because of the greatly overpriced goods on offer. It is also worth comparing prices in the free market and watching how much Chinese customers pay.

It is worth looking for local products in the smaller towns or in the places where ethnic minorities live. These products will be difficult to find anywhere else in China. The most usual articles are craft objects for everyday use and specially worked or embroidered garments.

Once you have fixed a place for you shopping, the second step centers on the price. If the price offered is reasonable and acceptable, you could buy it directly. If not, bargaining is needed to beat down the price. Besides, some points for attention should be remembered when shopping in China:

1. Do not buy any antiques that date before 1795, which are all cannot be legally exported.

2. Make sure that the antiques you bought carry a wax seal indicating that it is authentic and is able to be exported from China.

3. Keep all purchase receipts, especially that of Chinese medicine herbs, antiques, gold and silver articles, jade ware and etc.They would be asked to produce by customs when leaving China.

4. Do not buy those articles made form rare wild animals. All the contraband articles would be confiscate without compensation.

5. Examine items carefully before buying them. 

Bargaining
Bargaining is usually allowed in most of the stores in China. Sometimes, bargaining is more enjoyable than the purchase itself. Below are some suggestions for bargaining:

Firstly, when you prepare to buy a certain article, you'd better ask the price in several different shops to get a general idea about the price. Then you can start to bargain.

Relax your tongue and keep some tips in your mind:
Offer half of the asking price and work from there
Try to find some flaws on the article as a excuse of depreciation
Be stubborn and persistent when bargaining, but keep smiling
Walk away if you find the price unacceptable
If the salespersons detain you, it indicates either he accepts your counter offer or he has already been oscillatory. A calculator may help you to overcome the language barrier. Once the salesperson accept your price, do not try to beat down again since it appear to be discreditable.

It is really enjoyable to buy at a price you are satisfied with, but make sure that the article you take is the one you want since there are also some stingy salesperson would replace the fine products with shoddy ones.

Tips for Antiques Buying
Chinese antiques come into the following six categories: porcelain, calligraphy and paintings, books, jewelry, curios, and furniture.

The first consideration is whether the antiques are allowed to export. According to Chinese laws, only antiques dated after 1797(during the reign of Emperor Jiaqing of the Qing dynasty) can be traded and taken out of China. Antiquities to be taken out of China must carry a little seal (in sealing wax) certifying that the item has been passed for export and be stamped by the National Administration for the Preservation of Cultural Relics, or secure a license for export. The Administration has officers stationed at various department stores and antique markets to help shoppers verify their purchases.

Since there are many imitations in the market, you should be careful when buying expensive items. My advice to anyone is to buy Chinese antiques, but know what you are buying before you make any decisions. As the saying goes, "beauty is in the eye of the beholder", so if you like something, you are the one who will have to live with it.

Duty-free Shops
The Duty-free shops, while under the supervision of customs, will mainly offer duty-free goods for overseas tourists. The beauty of these shops is that the tax is not charged.

Duty-free commodities, because of their competitive prices, have been in existence for a long time in other countries. China started to deal in such goods in March 1980.Now duty-free shops are almost everywhere-airports, ports, train stations, border posts, and tourist cities. All the chain stores are managed by the China Duty-Free Stores Co. The company has trade links with major duty-free exporters around the world.

The China Duty-free Group currently operates a network of 153 duty-free shops in 90 cities and border regions of 24 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions. Annual sales top 200 million U.S. dollars, ranking it among the world's top 20 dealers in duty-free goods.

Foreign exchange in US dollars, Japanese Yen and Hong Kong dollars are accepted at duty-free shops. There are money exchange shops in each store.

The duty-free shops in China sell famous-brand cigarettes, wines, perfumes, cosmetics, pens, watches, candies, food, daily necessities and electronics. Almost all brands can be found, and prices are cheaper than in most Western countries.

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