When you visit China for the first time, you do not want to go back home without a few souvenirs to remind you of the great time that you had there. Thankfully, there are thousands of unique things to buy in China. For a country that is as rich in history as this one, you can buy something to remind you of the special moments that you had there. You can also buy several items that you will keep as a collectibles, things that can stay in your family for a long time.
But China is not all about souvenirs. Even if you want consumable, you know, something for your wardrobe that you can wear every so often, you will get many such items. Perhaps you are into alternative medicine and you want some of the Chinese millenia-old teas and medicines.
Maybe you need traditional Chinese clothes, ceramics, jade or porcelain. All of these and more are available at incredible prices. Talking about price, dig in your heels and bargain your heart out. You will find the prices quite favorable. However, for the sake of supporting local businesses, do not drive the vendor to the wall too much.
So what can you buy as a souvenir in China? Keep reading. These are only ten of the items you can buy there:
1. Chinese Silk
Fabric Market and Jiangnan Silk are among the best places to buy silk items in China. While it is female tourists who tend to buy silk items of clothing, carpets, bedding and others, there is something for everyone. If you prefer customizable items, just go to one of the shops and let them make you a qipao, which is a traditional Chinese garment for women, a one-piece like the Japanese kimono.
If you would like carpets and rugs, get high quality ones. However, you do not want your costly Chinese silk to be laid on the floor where people are going to step on. You want to hang them on your walls. The work is so beautiful that you just want to hang it where people can see it and gasp in admiration. If you thought that Persian carpets were the in-thing, wait until you see Chinese silk carpets. Incredible does not even begin to describe them.
The amount of money that you will spend on Chinese silk items depends on the quality of the silk. Once you check the markets, you will see that Chinese silk makers target all market segments. Therefore, check the cost of the silk carefully. The higher the quality the higher the cost, but it is worth it. If you are on a low budget, just get smaller items such as throws, cushions or pillows.
2. Chinese Jade
No write-up on the best stuff to buy in China can be complete if it does not include jade. You can get awesome jade items such as bracelets, necklaces, earrings, bangles and many more. You can even get small jade rings for very affordable amounts of money.
If you know your gems, then you know that jade is one of the most sought after gems in the world right now. The reason for this is that it never loses its luster and at the same time, it is quite affordable. However, counterfeiters take the opportunity to scam people of their money by selling them fake jade. Therefore, it is important to knowhow to tell genuine jade from fake jade. However, if you are looking for fake jade, that is OK and it is not illegal to sell or buy such. However, the seller should disclose that it is not the original jade.
If you are after the real jade item, it is important to buy from the shops rather than from the street vendors. You can try the boutiques in Shanghai or the Lama temple in Beijing. What is the most appropriate budget for jade items? It is hard to say outright, but you should have a budget of between $3 to $6 for jade earrings, $8 or more for pendants and up to $80 for bracelets.
There are many reasons why you should buy your pearls in China only and not anywhere else. In point form, they are as follows:
- China is the largest producer of pearls in the world
- There is a large variety of pearls – some costly and some cheap
- You can buy what you need at affordable prices
- You can get many freshwater as well as seawater pearls
Sea pearls are costlier than freshwater pearls. They come in better colors like black and golden with different tinges of other colors. This is the reason they cost more as compared to the more common gray, white, pink and peach freshwater pearls. Whatever budget you have, it can buy you a good set of pearls.
Just as we said with jade, it is very easy to buy counterfeit pearls thinking they are the real deal. But there is a simple way to check. Just scratch one with your teeth and some sand-like particles will come off. However, when you look at the pearl, it will look fresh, unscathed and it will still be appealing.
You can get your pearl necklaces, rings, earrings, brooches, bracelets, watches and other wearables from different outlets. If you are in Shanghai, try the AP Xinyang Fashion & Gifts Market, Hongqiao International Pearl City to name butjust a few of the places.
4. Chinese Tea
They say if you have not taken Chinese tea, then you truly do not know what tea is. Tea is a ritual drink in China. Therefore, it comes in all types, styles and flavors. Whether you love green, white or black tea, plain, mildly or heavily fragranced, you should get your tea in the country. Almost every store has different types of tea on their shelves. It is little wonder then that tea is always listed as one of the best things to buy in China.
Is there any special tea that you should try? You might want to try the fragranced Jasmine tea, which is very popular in the world but is only made in China. You might also want to try the Dragon tea, which is just a pan-roasted version of the popular green tea.
The good thing about buying your tea in China is that you can also buy the serving sets for your tea. There are wonderful tea sets made of ceramic or other material. These are keepsakes, things that you will want to keep for special occasions, for example, when you have invited friends over for tea. They are that good! They are especially attractive because of the cultural themes and the Chinese artworks.
5. Chinese Traditional Medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine, also abbreviated as TCM has been used for millennia to cure various illnesses. It is based on the concept that the best treatment for man’s ailments comes from nature. Therefore, a lot of this medicine is herbal in nature. It can be made of grass, stem, flowers, fruits, leaves, roots or any other part of plants.
Today, alternative medicine owes some of its ingredients such as Ginkgo Biloba, Ginseng, Ginger root and others to TCM. Because most of their traditional medicine is food-based, it is considered safe to drink.
If you have chronic ailments such as arthritis, inflammation, diabetes, high blood pressure, slow metabolism and so on, try Chinese traditional medicine. The long history of this medicine is enough evidence of its effectiveness. While some people may have reservations because of the use of animal parts, you can avoid what you don’t like and buy plant-based medicines only.
Apparently, the best place to buy TCM is in a building alongside the East Nanjing Road that is dedicated to this medicine.
6. Painting and calligraphy
Older than 1000 years, there are no better items to buy in China than paintings and calligraphy. You will buy Chinese calligraphy for its authenticity and outstanding beauty. No matter what kind of interior décor you have at home, hang one on the wall and it will stand out immediately.
Chinese calligraphy can be painted on cloth, on pottery, ceramic, cutlery and other surfaces. Most people prefer to have theirs done on cloth or other material that they can hang on their wall.
Instead of buying whatever is already available, you can have a Chinese artist do your name or that of a loved one in calligraphy. You can choose any of the five scripts, which include formal character, running script, cursive script, official script and seal script. All of these scripts have interesting history because they come from different dynasties. Buying some Chinese calligraphy will make you feel that you have truly been to China.
If you would like to practice calligraphy when you get back home, you can also buy Chinese calligraphy supplies to take home with you.
7. Chinese Porcelain
China porcelain is without doubt one of the best things to buy in China. It comes painted in intricate Chinese art. This art can also be in the form of calligraphy. Since the porcelain trade has been around for thousands of years, you will find it more genuine than what you would get out of the country. Most people who buy Chinese porcelain items are amazed at the strength of these items. Following how porcelain is treated in a kiln under high temperatures, you can expect it to last a long time.
In the west, porcelain is also referred to as China. The reason for this is that the first items made of porcelain came from China. While you may already have chinaware at home, you can buy more in China and have it embellished with calligraphy.
Basically, porcelain is made of a special kind of clay called kaolin. What you may not know is that it also contains other ingredients such as alabaster, ash, glass and even bone. Since it comes in varying quality levels, it is best to do some research to know what to look for .
Some of the best places to buy porcelain in China include Foshan, Quanzhou and Jingdezhen.
8. Four treasures of the study
While this sounds like something that you would find in a Dan Brown novel, it simply means the four main items that were used in Chinese calligraphy and art works. These are paper, ink stone, ink stick and brush. This is also referred to as Four Friends of the Study or Four Jewels of the Study. The name itself is as old as these four librarian tools. Today, many people buy this item because of its history and not because they need to use it. Indeed, it has a rich history because poets, musicians, writers and librarians have used these tools of trade for millenia.
To make the ink stick, the manufacturer would burn pine in an earthen container, mix it with ash and glue and then compress the paste to an ink stick. To make ink, the user would grind the ink stick with the ink stone (just regular mortar stone) and then they would use the brush to write on the rice paper. Even today, these materials are made in the traditional way and when you buy them, you will be taking a good piece of history with you.
While in China, do not forget to visit the Forbidden City Museum to see some Four Treasures of the Study that are very old. This will give you an idea of just why China should get more credit for its contributions to modern learning/writing.
9. Chinese Ceramics
Chinese ceramics are renowned the entire world over, and for a good reason too. They have been used in Chinese kitchens, marketplaces, breweries and farms for millennia. Today, you can find full museums dedicated to highlighting the ceramic and porcelain works of China. In the museums, it is possible to see ceramic pieces that date as far back as the Qing Dynasty.
The ceramic pieces that you can buy in China come in all styles, sizes and colors depending on the region where they are made. With a budget as low as Y10 or as high as Y200,000, you can get awesome items to buy for your loved ones, some of them being as small as chopstick holders and others as big as complete tea sets.
Before you head out to buy Chinese ceramics, it is good to know what it is all about. For example, the green enamel with black, yellow and blue was introduced between 1662 and 1722. As time passed, the art got better until the 18th century when special glazes of flambe and copper red were added to the ceramic palette.
You can buy ceramics in China in different places. However, the big outlets such as The Pottery Workshop in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and other big cities never disappoint. You might also check one of the numerous porcelain shops located along the Fumin Road.
10. Traditional Chinese Clothes
Last on this list of unique things to buy in China is the traditional Chinese clothes. These come in all shapes and styles. The most popular ones are the hanfu, qipao and changpao. There is also the silk robe and many more items.
Apparently, the most popular Chinese wardrobe item is the qipao, which is a high-neck dress. It looks like a blend of western and eastern and anyone can wear it. You must buy one if you are a woman and if you are a man, you can buy it for someone. If you can get one that is made of silk, it would be better because Chinese silk never disappoints.
You can never go wrong with the hanfu, which is a unisex kind of tunic that is worn over other clothes. It stretches to the knees for both men and women. By design, this garment also has billowing sleeves and the cuffs have silk trimming.
Buy the Chinese silk robe. It is so comfortable and it is not costly at all. If you can bargain and you can end up paying even less than $10 for a silk robe. Like the hanfu, this is also unisex and it is good for both men and women.
When you visit China or you live and work there, perhaps you would like to send something back home to your friends and family. You do not want to buy regular items that you can find back at home. You will be looking for unique things to buy in China. Thankfully, in a country that is as old as this one, you will be spoilt for choice.
To make it easier for you to choose good souvenir items, we have compiled 10 of the best items that you can buy in China. There are many other souvenirs that you can buy in China, including Chinese knots, Sichuan pepper, Mao memorabilia, foods, paper cutouts, kites and many others. After buying what you need to take home to your family, you can find out whether you can send the items home ahead of you, or whether you can fly with them.