If you love goods that have been passed down from hand to hand, this list of antique shops and markets in Beijing is for you. Be warned: you could spend a day (and empty your bank account) exploring each of these.
There’s no one in Beijing who doesn’t know the Panjiayuan Antique Market. The old saying goes: “Three must-dos for travellers to Beijing: climb the Great Wall; eat Peking Duck; and visit the Panjiayuan Antique Market.” Indeed, the market spanning 48,500 square metres is the biggest and most famous antique market in China. Shop for cultural artefacts, calligraphic and painting treasures, china, wooden furniture, and even katydids. Panjiayuan used to be known as “Ghost Market” because the transactions were mostly carried out at night in order to hide from city inspectors. Though the market is legal nowadays, it still keeps this “Ghost Market” ritual by opening at 4am over the weekend. While in the past there used to be a comparatively high possibility of finding genuine antiques here, it is now very rare and requires the eyes of a true expert.
Named after the coloured glaze factory that produced tiles for palaces and residences of Ming Dynasty officials in the area, Liulichang has been the cultural centre of downtown Beijing for centuries. In the Ming and Qing dynasties, it was the gathering place for China’s scholars, calligraphers and painters to produce works and purchase books and tools. The literary master Lu Xun visited Liulichang over four hundred times during his two-year stay in Beijing in the 1920s. Nowadays, Liulichang is a street where you can buy Chinese calligraphy and paintings while appreciating the architecture of traditional Chinese stone houses.
What makes Baoguosi Culture Market different from other antique markets? Baoguosi is situated in a Buddhist temple. Constructed in the Liao Dynasty (916 – 1125 C.E.), it was adapted into a book bazaar around the end of the Ming Dynasty. It was once the most famous book market in town, and has now become the trading centre of old books, coins, stamps, and small Buddhist statues.
If you are into antique Chinese furniture, then the Jinzhan Antique Furniture Market in the northeast suburb of Beijing should be your go-to. The market is in a large warehouse, and due to its far-off location there are not as many visitors, which is good for those who are tired of fending off the crowds.
Gaobeidian Classical Furniture Street is the Holy Grail of all antique furniture stores. The antique furniture sold here has all undergone renovation and is amazing quality. There’s a particularly fancy showroom on the second floor where you can find plenty of stylish furniture from Old Shanghai.
Though it is widely known as Shuangqiao Antique Market, its official name is actually Antique Furniture Another Street. The market, brimming with antiques and furniture purchased from rural regions, is popular with interior design professionals.