Chengdu's Sophisticated Buys

Authors: Victor Paul Borg


About the Author: Victor Paul Borg is from Malta. He has lived in six countries on three continents and spent much of the past 12 years in Asia. He currently spends his time in Europe and China. His travel articles and photographs have been published around the world.
Chinese people are shoppers on holidays, whether near or afar. Even weekend or overnight breaks a drive away bring out that compulsion to buy something for remembrance, even if it's just an inexpensive crafted trinket. That's why shops of knick-knacks are ubiquitous in tourist destinations throughout China; these tiny shops cluttered with colourful trinkets are prolific in small quaint villages within striking distance of Chengdu.
While holidaying in Chengdu, such trinkets are ubiquitous in tourist attractions, particularly at Kuan & Zhai Alleys, Jinli Street, and the streets around Wenshu Monastery. They are small and inexpensive mementos, children love them, and they are the kind of trinkets that, once they begin to appear jaded after a year or two, you can guiltlessly chuck away.
Among this bric-a-brac you may also find a scatter of intriguing, meaningful souvenirs that may earn a special belonging in your home.
Tea and Paraphernalia
Sichuan is the cradle of tea: it was in the mountains to the southwest of Chengdu that the culture of tea drinking emerged thousands of years ago. Tea-drinking remains ubiquitous; most people, especially the elders, sip tea all day long. Modern tea houses have now taken the culture of tea to a new level, and a visit to Chengdu without indulging in tea in one of the city's teahouses would be incomplete. These tea houses ― as well as retail shops dedicated to tea ― peddle all manner of accessories associated with the culture of tea, as well as eclectic ranges of teas, including tea that originate from other parts of China.
Buying tea is foolproof: you can get some fine teas that are hard to buy in the West, everyone enjoys a fine brew, it will stir up memories of Chengdu long after you have returned home. One of the most popular premium teas is Tieguanyin, which is a variety of oolong tea, which originated in Fujian. You can alternatively buy Sichuan's most distinct variety of tea: Zhuyeqing, an astringent green tea with pointy leaves that sink vertically to the bottom in the mug, another indigenous variety is Huangya.
If you buy tea, don't forget to buy a suitably sumptuous mug. Go to Sichuan and buy a mug with a lid ― in Sichuan philosophy, the saucer of the mug represents the earth and the lid the heaven, and in that way the tea represents a connection between earth and heaven. Once again, mugs come in a large variety of patterns and colours, as well as material they are made from ― most are made from china, yet the dearest ones are made from special rocks that add an earthy, natural flavour to the tea.
Tea shops and teahouses are scattered throughout the city, yet you can find a cluster of them near Jinli Street and on Qintai Road.
Heritage Home-décors
More exquisite home-décor accessories can be found in a variety of discerning shops in the tourist zones that stock up with Chinese symbolic or mystical figures, as well as objects d'art and icons. These can be mythical figures such as turtles, swans, guardian figures, as well as accessories such as jewelry boxes. Some shops even have authentic antiques, which can be expensive. At the Shu Brocade and Embroidery Museum they have handmade glass mounted embroideries depicting traditional motifs or mythical, archetypal scenes that make excellent mantelpieces.
Bedding and Fabric
The Shu Brocade and Embroidery Museum also does embroidered fabric in traditional designs in the form of pillow covers, sheets, even wall hangings. They can also be found in a scatter of discerning souvenir shops conveniently situated near tourist sights or even inside major upscale hotels.
Jade and Silver Filigree
China is the home of jade, and Chinese people love jade. Things sculpted from jade range from large set pieces that have to be trucked home to small items of jewelry. You can find some jade products in souvenir shops, but sometimes you can get a better deal and greater range of stuff at jade shops within shopping centres where local people shop.
Silver filigree is also a fine art in China, and you might be able to pick up great deals at jewelry shops in shopping centres. Designs or motifs of jewelry can also be distinctively Chinese, and this includes silver filigree.

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