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Silk Street “Antiques”

by Chris Hughes (04/30/08).
Ground level at Silk Street.
Lower level at Silk Street
Upper level floor at Silk Street.
Entrance to an

If you are in Beijing and enjoy hunting for a bargain while swarms of venders tug at your clothing and gesture in front of your face to control your attention, Silk Street Market is just the place for you!

Silk Street is a large, multi-story building filled with vendors selling various items including designer clothing, watches, jade, pearls, jewelry, and “antiques”. The one commonality these items share is that none of them are as they appear. The Coach bag I glanced at was not Coach quality leather, the Rolex watch a vendor forced me to admire did not have a sweeping second hand, and the antique pieces I saw looked like store inventory from Pier One Imports or World Market.

After 30 minutes of working through the isles, my quest to find something of interest resembled the video game Donkey Kong, where each floor was a level and the aggressive vendors were barrels I had to jump over. At this point, my wife bowed out of the search and sat on a bench far enough away so that vendors could not approach her. I continued alone.

When I reached the 4th and 5th floors, the crammed booths turned into bays and the appearance became more upscale. There were lit display cases with jewelry and large antique looking objects like terra cotta soldiers and huge urns. I decided to enter one of the shops and was immediately approached by two sales persons. They flanked me and repeatedly asked me what I was looking for while I scanned through the cases. I asked them if they had any antiques, and after showing me several items that were clearly not antique, I thanked them for their time and went to find my wife and her brother. When I found them, I explained I wanted to try and get some images and video to capture the sounds of the vendors soliciting us for this blog. This proved to be difficult.

I had my brother-in-law look at merchandise while I tried to discretely tape him. Every time we tried, the vendor told me “no camera.” Some even covered their cases with cloth. My camera repelled venders and caused them to scurry like cockroaches when a light gets turned on. As if being offered a $3,000.00 Rolex for 100 Yuan (approximately $14.00 US) doesn’t already raise suspicions regarding authenticity, having the display case covered in black velvet because you are holding a camera raises flags.

Just because Silk Street wasn’t ideal for me, it is still an experience to witness. The designer items I saw were not authentic or of comparable quality, but they were a fraction of the cost of real examples. I wasn’t looking for jewelry, pearls, or jade, but there are probably deals to be had if you know what you are looking for. If you are looking for antiques, consider shopping elsewhere.


Chris is a WorthPoint Worthologist.

Read Chris’s articles.

2 Responses to “Silk Street “Antiques””

  1. Tanya Xin says:

    I don’t think Silk Street is a place for “shopping” at all, if you enjoy a comfortable and free atmosphere, where unless requested, the shop assistants would just keep a few steps away from you to show their respects. It’s NEVER a place for “antiques” either.

    I’ve never been there tho. And I only knew it as “秀水街(Xiu Shui Street)”, and heard a lot about it from some of my foreign friends in Beijing, and learnt the English version “Silk Street” from you. Interesting that foreigners in Beijing all speak better Mandarin than I do!?

    It’s the right place, I assume, for those that enjoy “vogue” at a much lower cost, bargaining with shop keepers(NOT the employees). Then with some careful study of the article you look for; with an eye wide open but the other half closed; through “contests of wits”, you succeed! Oh yes, you have to speak English or Mandarin. Almost everyone there can speak two foreign languages.

    I think someone do enjoy shopping that way, that’s probably why a lot westerners choose to visit it second to Wangfujing, where the Oriental Plaza is totally a different place.

  2. marthascottage says:

    The Silk Street Photos :

    The photo of Perfume Bottles are actually Snuff Bottles.

    The market that Chris is referring to is not The Silk Street Market ,it’s The ‘Pearl’ Market, an indoor multi level market consisting of fresh fish in the basement,a cheap Electronics/watches level, a Clothing/shoes/baggage level and a Semi-precious stone/Pearl/Amber/jewelry and China ware level.
    This is the market where Bush,Clinton and other famous people and myself purchase their Pearls.
    The Pearl Market is well known for the best quality and prices for pearls in Beijing.
    The Silk Road/Street Market is an open outdoor market consisting of several rows of tent like permanent booths,very crowded and a good place to freeze your buns off while shopping in the winter !
    I hated the extremely cold winters but loved the people,experience and wealth of history while living in Beijing.

    M.

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