Where is the Chinese style furniture hiding?
Ugly Western inspired furniture abound in Beijing and the city hosts the second largest IKEA in the world. The IKEA is a tourist attraction in itself, with Chinese literally sleeping in the beds and taking selfies everywhere. And Swedish quality, so the paints that are used are safe, unlike in some Chinese furniture stores. But sometimes you want something more original than Billy or Malm, Chinese style furniture. But where to start? Here are some pointers and a word of caution down at the end.
Traditional Chinese furniture
This neighbourhood just east of Sihui is the homeland of Chinese style furniture. There is both a main street with a Chinese arch at the beginning and many small workshops around the corner. The shops mentioned here are all on the main street, though I don’t know the names for all of them. As most guidebooks feature Lily’s, I’ll use it as a location reference. Best to go and explore the area for yourself.
–Lily’s Antiques: very well known among expats, Lily provides high quality imitation and some genuine antique furniture plus accessories such as vases and pillows of my favorite brand Tu Textiles. It is all very nicely laid out in a large store about halfway the main street. You can sign up to their WeChat account to be notified of discounts (though the information is mostly in Chinese).
-“The shop with the escalator across from Lily’s”- a huge store with reproduction furniture and a whole lot of other things such as an enormous lamp shaped like a horse. It is not as nicely presented like Lily’s, but huge selection and prices are negotiable so definitely worth a visit.
–The shop with Taobao address. This shop has different cupboards, chairs etc in a variety of colours and finishes like matte, shiny or “ antique.” It has a Taobao store so you can select and take pictures to the store (and get a feeling for the prices), unless you prefer to buy online directly. My husband was very grateful that we were in and out of this store in 30 minutes because I had printed exactly what I wanted. J It is in the beginning of the street, when entering Antique street on your left after about 50 meters. However, sometimes the goods are delivered in a different colour than ordered, so best to look very closely and have a Chinese speaker at hand.
– The Wood Carving store: one of the first stores to your left when entering via the Arch. Beautiful wood carvings to decorate your walls. Also some old doors for sale.
– Tony Wai’s: This store has Chinese and South East Asian stuff, from Buddha’s to rugs and couches. When I last went about a year ago they were planning to focus on minority items in Blue and White. It is located in the street across from Lily (to the side of the escalator shop above).
There are many more stores on this street and around the corner, so it is worth to take some time to explore the Gaobeidian area.
Panjiayuan Antique Market: Don’t expect to find any antiques here, but you can have some furniture custom made (bring a Chinese speaker) and you can buy anything from Mao statues and posters to vases and old fashioned gramophones. Most lively on weekends.
Beijing Antique City: Behind Panjiayuan, 4 floors of curio’s, not so much furniture though.
Flame Tree: A small stylish shop with a nice selection of furniture across from Worker’s Stadium North Gate on the corner.
Pop Up Store Beijing: Nicely curated selection of furniture and knick knacks. Friendly staff with excellent English. Near the Bookworm, the popup site has a good route description.
Chengwaicheng is a huge (and I mean huge) furniture mall catering to all tastes, with classical dark Chinese furniture in genuine rosewood to modern sofa’s. It also has a branch of QM (Qumei) furniture, a sort of local, slightly upscale version of Ikea with Danish designs (though you will also find a QM branch more closeby in Liangmaqiao). It is a bit out of the way but very accessible by metro. If I’m not mistaken the stop is called Xiaocun on the extension of line 5.
This lesser known south of Panjiayuan area has workshops where they make eg latticework and many other things. On appointment you can visit Tracy’s dusty warehouse. She has a store selling trinkets in Hongqiao, but at the warehouse she sells old furniture such as large Tibetan boxes or traditional style cupboards. Find her on WeChat Tracy’s Antiques.
- http://www.thebeijinger.com/blog/2010/07/10/beijng-best-antiques-and-fakes-sorry-reproductions (Also see the comment to the article).
- More information about antique furniture: http://www.antique-chinese-furniture.com/blog/
A word of caution!
Don’t expect to buy any genuine antiques, not even/ especially not on Panjiayuan market. In the unlikely case you did find a genuine piece, you are not allowed to export anything over 100 years old out of China. All items made before 1949- or that look like that!!!- need to be inspected by the Inspection Bureau and could be barred from export on unfathomable grounds. Also items made from parts of houses such as doors will have to be inspected. That lovely table we bought on Beijing Mamas made of a hutong door? We might not be able to take it with us after all. Any reputable moving company should be able to advise you on the steps to take when in doubt.