Where It's At
Panjiayuan, located in No. 200 West of Panjiayuan bridge in
the Chaoyang district, used to be called Ghost, Sunday
or Dirt Market and is one of the most colourful and
fascinating markets in Beijing. It started out as an unofficial
flea market back in the early 90's but has quickly grown in
size and popularity. Open on Saturday and Sunday,
Panjiayuan's treasure trove of antiques and oddities now has
approximately 3,000 registered stallholders, 10,000 employees
and up to 50,000 visitors on a busy day.
What To Buy
Stallholders are usually villagers who have travelled to Beijing
to sell items collected from their hometowns, so you can expect
lots of records, books, hats, bags, teapots and rugs. Panjiayuan
also has a large collection of antiques and collectibles,
which are the biggest draws of this market.
Curios & Collectibles
The market also boasts a bewildering display of carved
wooden Buddhist statues, ceramic pottery, Tibetan artefacts,
Chairman Mao memorabilia, military surplus from the People's
Liberation Army, old gramophones, Chinese swords and the
list goes on. Always be sure to bargain down the offered price
(as a general rule of thumb, at least half of the original
price). Small jade pendants and Chairman Mao statuettes
make for excellent presents for people back home.
Whether you're looking for that 14th century Ming vase or
Cultural Revolution kitsch, be sure to start early. Panjiayuan
opens at 4.30am and it's best to hit the market before
everyone else does.
There are very few real antiques to be found and most of the
ones on sale are replicas that do not carry the red seal that
is used as proof of authenticity - you'll really have to know
your stuff if you're out treasure hunting. However, there
was a report on a 50,000-year-old fossil that was confiscated
from one of the sellers recently. The fossil was on sale for
only about US$150, a mere fraction of its worth. The best
attitude to have is if you like it and you can bargain down
to a price you can accept, go for it!
One of the best parts of the market is the ethnic section
where you can find all kinds of great fabrics, clothes,
jewellery and artefacts that are brought in by vendors from
almost every part of China.