Where Buddha Sides with Mao
Among thousands of sites particularly interesting to foreigners that Beijing has to offer, one definitely deserves attention and is mainly popular among single day or "weekend tourists", when at the same time many expats permanently residing here, are not even aware of its existence. The place I want to briefly introduce in my today's post is the Panjiayuan Antique Market located in the vicinity of Line's 10 Panjiayuan station.
If believing some of the banners proudly stretched at the site it is supposedly the biggest antique market in the whole of China! From humble and as befits the nature of Chinese people rather spontaneous beginnings in the 80's the place has grown up to impressive size and for the day houses about 10 thousand sellers of various antiquities. All in all, Panjiayuan is also reminiscent of the exceptionally troubled history of China, where after many an ideological battles fought, nowadays statues of Buddha and Confucius literally side with the ones representing Chairman Mao. Judging from the expressions artfully carved on the faces of the aforementioned statues they seem not to sport any hard feelings against each other and the mysterious smile hiding at the corners of their mouths indicates their absolute ignorance of the utterly earthly and resulting from that petty affairs of the past. Not less surprisingly, at some of market's countless stalls, Chinese version of the Bible can be seen lying peacefully in the vicinity of the Red Book, both preaching their own truths and both still meeting with considerable appeal and reverence.
Impressive as the marketplace is, please don't get yourself fooled, for apart from some telephones, gramophones, statuettes of Mao or books, at least seemingly belonging to the bygone ages you are not likely to find many ancient things here. Most of the so called "antiques" sold are so to speak "factory" new and for the most part, local peddlers don't even try to pretend that it's otherwise. Keeping this in mind, the place is still extraordinary and showcases an exceptional variety of goods resembling almost mythical richness of Chinese material culture. To shed some ray of light on it, try to imagine 50 stalls located next to each other, selling exactly the same product, while none of them faces difficulty finding customers!!! That's precisely how it works with majority of the "antiques" being sold at Panjiayuan.
Examples of some interesting things to buy/see include: traditional Chinese calligraphy and paintings (they are by no means old, but no less interesting because of that), jewelry, pottery, old food coupons and tickets, incense sticks, gramophones, statues and statuettes of Mao, Buddha and various characters related to rich Chinese mythology, ancient style furniture and lamps, and anything else that you may need if you want to give your place a slightly more oriental touch.
Apart from visiting the main hall it's really worth to devote some of your time to the task of discovering numerous back alleys, as rather hidden from the spotlight there also exists some old school outdoors place full of makeshift stalls offering staunchly communist propaganda posters and books, where enjoying the sounds of the accordion played by a man who quite likely experienced the times of Chairman Mao himself, you can observe new and old China coexisting and influencing each other as posters of Mao and Xi Jinping side with each other – some of the booths actually putting the latter in the most exposed place. Symbolical triumph of the future over the past?
Don't be surprised if some of the sellers try to cheat you, initially offering their goods at exorbitant prices. That's how it generally works with tourists in Asia. If despite your wearisome attempts the seller isn't in the least willing to substantially reduce the price, you can always proceed to the next stand, as there is an incredible abundance of them offering most often highly similar products, so it shouldn't take too many efforts to save some of your hard won RMBs. Prices generally vary depending on what you intend to buy, but as a rule I can safely say that you can get most of the goods for 30% of the price initially disclosed to you.
The only real downside to the place is the fact that there is no on site way to examine the authenticity of the goods displayed, no certification system or services of experts in the field.
How to get there:
The place is located close to the Panjiayuan line 10 subway station (marked as white A on this map). The easiest way is to use exit B and follow the line of the street peddlers, that leads to the main entrance.
Opening time- 4:30 - 18:30 Saturday and Sunday; 8:30 - 18:30 from Monday to Friday
For you own safety don't bargain if you don't intend to buy, that really outrages Chinese sellers
Please keep in my mind that most of the things sold here are NOT old
Bargaining is absolutely mandatory, as long as you don't want to pay 200 kuai for a thing worth 30