10 Handmade Souvenirs to Buy in Shanghai

Shanghai at night
Shanghai at night | © Prashant Ram/Flickr
Rachel Deason

Instead of being the person who comes home from Shanghai with three bags full of cheap chopsticks and refrigerator magnets, why not opt to buy something meaningful that reminds you of the time you spent in the city? Whether the gifts are for loved ones back home or a treat for yourself, these 10 handmade souvenirs are sure to impress.


Ceramics have been used in China for millennia, both functionally and ornamentally. Today, there are many handmade styles of ceramics available in Shanghai, like these adorable dumpling salt and pepper shakers from Pinyin Press. Handmade in Jingdezhen, China, this souvenir can be found at Madame Mao’s Dowry. Alternatively, chose to learn the art of ceramic-making for yourself at the Pottery Workshop, an educational center and shop that sells products designed by Chinese and foreign artists.

Pottery Workshop, 168 Fumin Rd, Jingan Qu, Shanghai Shi, China, 200000, +86 21 5403 1366


1. Bespoke Clothing


With the ubiquitous availability of talented tailors and seamstresses, you can’t visit Shanghai without getting a custom piece of clothing made. Whether it be a traditional qipao or a western style suit, the best place to do this is at the South Bund Fabric Market. Show a picture of your design to the shop attendant, and come away with a perfectly tailored outfit only days later. For an expedited process, choose a design that the shop already has on hand. The general rule of thumb at the market is that the quality of the work increases the higher the floor of the building (of which there are three).

2. Blue Nankeen

Building, Museum

Blue nankeen
© surtr / Flickr
Nankeen fabric, similar to batik, is a 3000-year old art in China, originating on the Silk Road. Lucky for you, it’s available right in the heart of Shanghai, and one of the best places to obtain it is at the museum devoted solely to the creation of the fabric. The Chinese Printed Blue Nankeen Exhibition Hall contains photos and instruments related to the making of nankeen as well as a shop that sells cushions, clothes, bedding, and more. The products available for sale at the museum are all handmade in Nantong, just outside of Shanghai.

Local Snacks

Shanghainese food makes up one of eight great cuisines in China and is characterized by its sweetness. If you’re in Shanghai during the Mid-Autumn Festival, test out your sweet tooth with locally-made moon cakes. Moon cakes, known as yue bing in Chinese, are round pastries typically filled with red bean or lotus seed paste. They come individually packaged, making for easy transport. Find them at any bakery or market around the beginning of October, or at Shanghai First Foodmall year-round.

Shanghai First Foodmall, 720 Nanjing Rd Pedestrian St, NanJing Lu, Huangpu Qu, Shanghai Shi, China, 200000, +86 21 6322 2777

Yue Bing

3. Propaganda Posters

Art Gallery

The Propaganda Poster Art Centre is a private museum located in the basement of an apartment building
© EQRoy / Shutterstock
Used throughout the 20th century to inform, persuade and entertain, propaganda posters have more than just artistic value, offering a voyeuristic peek into China’s history. Many originals have been destroyed, but tucked away in the basement of an unassuming apartment complex is the Propaganda Poster Art Centre, where these cultural relics have been preserved. For a pretty penny, you can even buy some of the originals in the gift shop.

4. Fans


4. Fans
©Benjamin Thomas/Flickr
Fans were originally used as a feminine accessory by concubines during the imperial era. Nowadays, fans make a great souvenir, especially during Shanghai’s hot summer months. Prices vary based on the quality of the material but usually start at CN¥20 (US$3) for a handmade fan. They are typically made of silk or paper and often display patterns involving animals, such as birds. Fans are available all over the city, but for the handmade variety, go to the shop on Jiu Jiao Chang Lu.

5. Ethnic Handicrafts


Ethnic souvenirs
© KittyKaht / Flickr
Did you know that China comprises 56 ethnic groups? The nation’s culture is not as homogeneous as many are led to believe. While the largest concentration of ethnic minorities live in southern China’s Yunnan province, their local handicrafts have made their way to Shanghai. Such products can be found all over the city, like Yue shop, which sells unique Tibetan arts and crafts such as jewelry and clothing, home accessories, and antique furniture.

6. Shanghai-style paper cuttings


Paper art
© kafka4prez / Flickr
Shanghai-style paper cutting, part of the broader Chinese art form, is unique for its use of a single-sitting cut. Unlike the traditional red paper-cutting, Shanghai-style uses bright colors to depict landscapes, flowers, birds, animals, and human figures. Your best chance of finding a handmade paper cutting is at the shopping streets around Yu Garden.

7. Embroidery


Gu embroidery
© Gary Stevens / Flickr
Chinese embroidery dates back to the Neolithic age. Specific to Shanghai is Gu embroidery, a local style originating from the eponymous family during the Ming Dynasty. The inventor of the style was a family concubine. Differentiating itself from other styles of embroidery, it specializes in painting and calligraphy-based designs. Find handmade embroidery at Fangbang Zhong Lu.

Culture Trips launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes places and communities so special.

Our immersive trips, led by Local Insiders, are once-in-a-lifetime experiences and an invitation to travel the world with like-minded explorers. Our Travel Experts are on hand to help you make perfect memories. All our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

All our travel guides are curated by the Culture Trip team working in tandem with local experts. From unique experiences to essential tips on how to make the most of your future travels, we’ve got you covered.

Edit article