Panjiayuan: The Beijing Dirt Market
Where: Panjiayuan, Beijing, China
On Store: Cultural collectibles and pseudo-antiques
Essentials: Mao statuettes and jade jewellery
Go for: More Communist kitsch than you can imagine, and a sense that you’ve seen China’s whole population in one place!
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.
Tel: 6775 2405
Address: Just west of (inside) the East Third Ring Road, between Panjiayuan Bridge and Huawei Bridge
Hours: Saturday and Sunday, 4:30am – 5pm but starts winding down around 3pm.
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