What to buy in China

What to buy in China? – China 2024 souvenirs

What is worth buying in China and what are the best souvenirs of Chinese craftsmanship to take home after our trip to this fascinating and vast country in the Far East ? During your tour, it will not be uncommon to come across numerous colorful markets , which offer the best of Chinese craftsmanship, the result of the history of this country and the various cultural influences that have arrived here, thus purchasing something unique, but also immense shopping streets in major cities. So let’s find out together what to buy during your trip to China, bringing home an authentic souvenir, for yourself or for a special person.

Chinese Crafts

Local craftsmanship has ancient origins, which are rooted in the history of China. Among the most populous countries in the world, Eastern Asia features mountains, rivers, coasts, prairies and deserts in its vast territory. Here, thanks to its incredible history, each region has developed its own craftsmanship and very different characteristics. From its capital, Beijing , between ancient and modern sites, such as Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City , you will find immense shopping streets , which combine with shops where the techniques of local craftsmanship are still preserved today, as in Shanghai . Thanks to its thousand-year tradition , handed down from generation to generation, combining ancient and modern elements, it uses many materials and techniques.

Among the most popular ancient Chinese craft objects we find porcelain workmanship and lacquer , a natural resin used to decorate many objects. How can we not mention silk , of which China has been one of the main producers worldwide since the times of the Silk Road caravan route. Furthermore, among the things to buy in China don’t miss jade jewelery or refined wooden objects . In Suzhou , among the best Chinese souvenirs, you will find the best embroidered silk in the world, while Jingdezhen is the capital of porcelain and in the Yunnan region bamboo is worked with ancient techniques .

So let’s see what is worth buying in China and the best Chinese souvenirs to bring home from your trip!

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Top 10 – What to buy in China

In fact, there is a vast choice of souvenirs to buy from China, coming from local craftsmanship. Thanks to its tradition, the art and the quality of the materials present, you will find unique objects, generated by the various influences and history of this country. It won’t be difficult to find what is worth buying, bringing home a unique souvenir from your trip to China . This way, you can remember your experience forever or give a gift to a special person. So, what to buy in China?

Here are our recommendations on the 10 best Chinese souvenirs !

1. Chopsticks

Among the first things you should buy in China, among the Chinese objects of local craftsmanship we undoubtedly find chopsticks. A high quality product that reflects the history and culture of a people through their culinary traditions . The best chopsticks, to bring home as a China souvenir, are produced with natural materials , such as bamboo and wood, but also in silver if you are looking for something refined, handcrafted.

They can have many sizes and shapes, for a standard of about 25 cm . The finest Chinese chopsticks, often those made of silver, can be decorated with traditional motifs , such as mythological figures, flowers or other. The process for their creation can also be very laborious , working them by hand, sanding them and finally obtaining a shiny surface. Among the best Chinese souvenirs, both culturally and artistically, as well as being an ideal gift for a lover of Chinese cuisine.

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Chinese chopsticks

2. Traditional tea

A trip to China also means immersing yourself in its colors and scents , as well as its traditions and history. Among the best Chinese souvenirs, therefore, tea cannot be missing , which has a very long history in China, with its roots in the Tang dynasty . Even today, the leaves are processed following ancient methods and a legend has it that the drink was discovered in 2737 BC by Emperor Shennong . Tea, among the things that should be bought in China, is an integral part of the culture of this people, considered one of the seven fundamental necessities of life.

Also, you can classify it into oolong, black, white, green, and post-fermented , but they all come from Camellia sinensis . But why is this a must-buy souvenir in China? Most of its variants are not exported , thus purchasing a truly unobtainable product. Chinese tea culture has many differences from that of Japan, although there is always a ceremony . In fact, tea in China is also used in traditional medicine and not just as a drink. Also associated with philosophy and the arts, as with religion. Absolutely among the things to buy in China.

Land of Pu Erh
Pu Erh tea leaves

3. Seta

Among the things you absolutely must buy during your trip, unmissable among the typical Chinese souvenirs, we find silk and its various processes. Born with sericulture 8500 years ago, developed under the empress Xi Ling Shi , between history and legend, silk was intended for royalty who wore precious, finely decorated robes at court . In the past a luxury with hidden secrets, today a thriving industry . Widespread in Europe thanks to the ancient Silk Road , today China is still among the main producers . Its characteristics , including resistance and softness, are appreciated all over the world and it is used for objects, furnishings and clothes.

With different patterns , colors and decorations, including flowers and animals, in red, black or white, this textile fiber is extremely versatile. Silk, absolutely among the things that is worth buying in China, is a very resistant, soft and comfortable material to wear , as well as giving any garment a refined appearance. To purchase this product among Chinese handicraft items, go to the silk markets in Beijing or Shanghai . Furthermore, in the country there are also many artisan shops that produce it by hand, such as in Suzhou, Hangzhou and Xi’an . When you buy it, always check its quality and request warranty certificates.

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Purple silk bobbin

4. Porcelain

As we will see during our trip to China, everywhere among Chinese craftsmanship and beyond we will find porcelain objects , valuable or in common use. A variety of ceramic with a very long tradition, which today also combines the innovation of different techniques . The first ceramics in China, but also in Korea and Japan , appear around 1600 BC in gatherer villages, arriving at the Yangshao culture with new techniques. Under the Mongol Yuan dynasty, the typical blue and white decorations began to be seen , which developed with the Ming and Qing. Then came the pink and green family , more popular in the West.

Among the best Chinese souvenirs, porcelain is still made with kaolin and clay , then fired at a high temperature . Initially born in the province of Henan , it then spread throughout the country and became one of the main exporters worldwide. There are different porcelain objects, from fine table services, statuettes and traditional vases . Furthermore, these feature refined decorations, with landscapes or scenes of daily life. A popular decorating technique is grand feu , with superimposed layers of enamel.

Ancient Chinese porcelain
Chinese porcelain

5. Statuette

Among the oldest and most refined art forms of Chinese craftsmanship and among the best souvenirs that are worth buying during your trip to China we find the typical statuettes. Present in many materials , such as ceramic, bronze, wood or jade, they are among the most elaborate or simple , which portray historical figures, animals, divinities or life scenes. The first figurines found in the country date back to the Neolithic , evolving over the centuries, refining techniques and styles. Under the Shang dynasty they represented divinities and characters and were made of bronze, during the Zhou their production grew, also using ceramics .

Arriving at the Tang period it reached its maximum development, evolving under the Song and Ming, with an increasingly refined style . Even today, these figurines are produced throughout the country and are among the most precious arts of Chinese craftsmanship and serve different purposes . Those representing deities serve during spiritual rites or for protection, while those featuring historical figures are commemorative . Furthermore, during our trip we can also buy these souvenirs in China that represent famous people of today or the past, such as emperors . An art that is constantly evolving and among the things that are worth buying in China.

Ming Dynasty Statuettes - Ancient Chinese Crafts
Ming Dynasty figurines

6. Art of writing

Calligraphy in China is also called the art of writing thanks to the beauty and elaboration of its characters, which can also be traced with different styles, present in Chinese craftsmanship. Even today, Chinese people normally write using a brush , following a style closely linked to the history of writing in the country. Furthermore, this artistic and cultural form is an oral and intangible UNESCO World Heritage Site . Among the things to buy in China as a souvenir of your trip, bringing home with you a piece of this wonderful and refined technique.

Perhaps taking love phrases, traditional proverbs, lucky charms or much more; also ideal for making a unique and personalized gift . Chinese calligraphy is harmonious and ideographic , representing concepts or ideas, and not individual letters, making it an expressive form capable of conveying ideas or emotions. There are also various styles, such as Zhuanshu , the oldest with thick lines, Lishu , comparable to our italics, or Caoshu , born under the Song dynasty, with fluid and fast lines. To learn Chinese calligraphy requires a lot of dedication , as well as a profound knowledge of the subject and artistic coordination .

Chinese calligraphy
Chinese calligraphy

7. Memorabilia of Mao

Among the most particular Chinese gadgets, we undoubtedly find Mao Zedong’s memoriabilia . The pins representing him, together with the little red book , were a true icon during the demonstrations , with an estimate that their production was around one billion in the period of the cultural revolution , from 1966 to 1971. The first pins with the portrait of Mao were distributed to the Chinese People’s Military College in Yan’an in the 1930s. Made by hand, they were made from toothpaste tubes . The little red book, however, contained aphorisms taken from Mao’s speeches.

The first version dates back to 1963 and was printed by Lin Biao’s People’s Liberation Army . Initially dedicated to soldiers, from 1965 it was also distributed to the people, they spread the leader’s words as political propaganda . These objects undoubtedly contributed to creating the cult of Mao , which was widespread between the 1960s and 1970s. Today, the little red book is among the most common Chinese souvenirs on memorabilia stalls. Among the unique objects that are worth buying from China, ideal for collectors of the genre and vintage lovers .

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Mao’s Little Red Book at Sheung Wan Market, Hong Kong

8. Traditional masks

As with many other ancient civilizations, Chinese handcrafted masks have had a profound religious and ritual meaning since ancient times . According to historians, masks entered Chinese culture during the Zhou and Shang dynasties . The first paintings depicting people in masks were found along the Yangtze River . These objects, as well as being perfect Chinese souvenirs today, are also associated with the Buddhist religion and still used today in many shamanic rituals , as they were used to offer thanks to the gods. Furthermore, tradition has it that these masks can chase away evil spirits , eliminate diseases and bring blessings to those who own them.

Developing throughout history and following rituals, we can find among the things that are worth buying in China today, the result of local craftsmanship, theatrical , Tibetan , shamanic masks and much more. The most popular represents the dragon , a symbol of luck and used especially during the Chinese Lunar New Year . A wish for favorable weather conditions in the past, starting the planting season.

Traditional Masks
Traditional Chinese masks

9. Lacquer objects

Among the most valuable materials that you will find among the things that are worth buying in China, we find objects covered in lacquer. The authentic lacquer comes from the sap of trees in South Asia, Rhus Succedana or Melanorrhea Laccifera, with a height of up to 10 m. In its original state, Chinese lacquer is yellow, becoming brown with oxidation. Even today, the sap is collected from the trunk using traditional methods , eventually cutting down the tree and planting new ones, or in China they are mainly threaded using the yojogaki method .

Each lacquer has unique characteristics, being then transformed with treatments that make it very dark, resulting in a shiny compound . Chinese lacquer craftsmanship is among the oldest in the country, using thin layers , thus achieving shiny, smooth surfaces on various objects . Today, we can find Chinese lacquer furniture , from the simplest to the most elaborate, with various decorations. There are also smaller objects and lacquer table utensils , ideal as souvenirs from China. Among the things that are worth buying in China, bright red lacquer is the most common, but there is also black or polychrome lacquer.

Lacquer Box - What is best to buy in China
Lacquer coated box

10. Jade jewelry

Finally, among Chinese souvenirs, jewels cannot be missing, especially those made of jade. In fact, in Chinese culture jade is a symbol of immortality, nobility and perfection , which is why it is widely used in various creations. Through jade dust , the popular legend that Ho Hsien Ku achieved eternal life, becoming the fairy of the home . Among the most spiritual gemstones , jewelry made from lei is an expression of Chinese craftsmanship and lei culture. Refined objects, ideal for giving a precious gift or for treating yourself to a new accessory of the highest quality.

The most common jade jewelry are bracelets , made in many sizes and shapes, decorated with numerous patterns. But also necklaces, earrings, rings and much more. Furthermore, jade came mainly from rivers and Chinese artisans are skilled at working it according to the natural shape. Since the 19th century it has been imported mainly from Burma and its use is still very popular, using it as a perfect gift for weddings . Absolutely among the things that are worth buying in China.

Jade Jewelry
Jade jewelry

What to buy in China, the advice of Arché Travel

The main advice we want to give you if you want to make your purchases in China is to go to the traditional markets , where you can find the best souvenirs at affordable prices. The most popular in Beijing is Wangfujing , while in Shanghai go to Xiushui or Guangzhou market . In the shops you will find the legacy of Chinese craftsmanship , still managed by those who use ancient production methods. Among the most popular places are Xiushui , Jingdezhen and Xi’an . Finally, among the things that are worth buying, don’t miss out on traditional medicine remedies . This, in fact, uses natural substances and herbs to treat common ailments based on the properties of the ingredients. In Beijing you will find the most stocked pharmacy with natural remedies in the country.

How to Visit China?

After having an idea of ​​what is best to buy in China and having remembered to leave space for your Sri Lankan souvenirs in your suitcase, you are ready for this wonderful trip!

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