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May 04, 2005

The Panjiayuan Market

The Panjiayuan Market in Beijing is commonly called the Weekend Market or the Dirt Market. It is a massive mainly-outdoor market for Chinese arts and crafts and other goods. There are more than 3000 individual stalls, and it covers a reported 48,500 square meters. About 90% of the space is under a roof, but the outer ring of stalls is exposed. The day was hot with a blazing sun, but we still managed to explore for about four hours. As you can imagine, they have an incredibly wide range of the things for sale. It was pretty conveniently organized, with long rows dedicated to jade and coral jewelery, chinese paintings, tea pots and accessories, books and prints, statues, beads, calligraphy stuff and then a massive assortment of the true meaning of "other".

One of the most interesting aspects of the market is the necessary bargaining. Luckily, when we initially got to Beijing we picked up an english-language magazine, that happened to have an essay on bargaining tips. The most important tip being always begin the bargaining with a counter-offer of no more than 10% of their initial offer. 10% is much less that I would have known to counter otherwise. The other advice was that a happy dialog is much more effective than a stern bargaining stance.

It's 800 for this nice small metal box! (Shown on handheld calculator that's passed back and forth between seller and buyer)
Hahaha (slap sellers shoulder and smile)... Hmmm, 100?.
No no no (smiles, shakes head, points to ground indicating 'too low')... 750.
(Smile) Hmmmm. (Pause). Type 130 in calculator.
... 4 or 5 more rounds of this....
Settle on 40-50% on sellers initial offer.

(update: turns out I read the article wrong, and you're supposed to offer no more than 50%... d'oh!., But, it actually seemed that my 10% strategy worked out pretty well, and landed me about 40-50% for final price.)

It was a very enjoyable day. Bargaining was fun, and I think I did a pretty good job. Oh, there are two other tips: First, know up front how much it's worth to you. Lots of things in the market purport to be antiques, but are actually reproductions. Instead of trying to appraise each item, just decide how much you personally like/want it. I guess the other tip is to remember that you're playing with Monopoly Money: I spent 15 minutes moving a price from 150 RMB to 110RMB, only to realize that I'd saved US$ 3.50 and paid just $13.00 for something that would easily go for $50 in any asian imports store at home.

I wish we were flying home from here directly, so that I could fill a carry-on bag with stuff. Instead, Aimee and I limited ourselves to few, small and easily packable items that we can a) afford to ship home; b) manage to carry for the next 2+ months.

I'm still working to post details of our Beijing adventures to Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, and the up-and-coming Dashanzi Art District, where we're headed today. Tomorrow we fly to Xi'an, and after that we're heading 3000 km west to the mainly-Muslim city of Kashgar on the extreme western edge of China, once a Silk Road junction of China, India, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan.

Here are some (7) photos of the market, though they're not very good this time. This guy's site has some more photos and a writeup if you're interested

Thanks for reading!
Nate (and Aimee)

May 4, 2005 at 09:20 PM | Permalink


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fun stories from beijing, although i cannot shake the specter of grapefruit sized arachnids crawling towards me just beyond my view. eagerly await stories from those places you mentioned that are steeped in history and politics...and to hear of the beautiful local you meet and take along only to drop off in milwaukee so she can begin her american adventure.
happy trails nate and aimee!

Posted by: nick petty | May 9, 2005 12:31:39 PM

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