Though not as famous as Hong Kong for shopping the latest fashion names, Chengdu still offers quite a full range of shopping options for those visiting and is especially well known for some of China's more traditional crafts and products, especially those of the ancient Shu culture. Shu brocades and embroidery are very popular with tourists who appreciate the intricate patterns and expert hand-craftsmanship. Moreover, lacquer wares, silver inlaid products and bamboo products are longstanding staples that date back to Chengdu's ancient culture.
Shu Brocade and Embroidery
Shu brocades and embroidery have long demonstrated the exquisite craftsmanship of Sichuan's artisans. Over time, these ornate designs have gained a high reputation for their unique embroidering techniques, elegant colors, and high artistic quality. The history of Shu brocade and embroidery can be traced back as early as the Tang Dynasty (618-907) when the patterns were exported overseas to Japan, and as far as Persia. Even today, one can find minority nationalities in southwest China wearing clothes adorned with fine Shu embroidery designs.
Although woven from silk, Shu brocades are durable and soft to the touch. In addition, the patterns can be used to decorate articles of daily use, such as duvet covers, pillow cases, clothing and shoes. Today these products are frequently given out as valuable gifts on special occasions such as weddings, birthdays and so on.
Chengdu lacquerware is renowned for its ability to resist corrosion and aging, and for its unique gloss. It appeared first in the Spring and Autumn Period (475 B.C.-221 B.C.) and the Warring States Period (221 B.C.-207 B.C.), and large numbers of exquisite Chengdu lacquerware pieces were excavated when the Mawangdui Han Dynasty Tombs were discovered in 1972.
This famous lacquerware's durability doesn't come by accident. First using wood as a roughcast base, then plastic, bamboo and paper, the complicated technique of lacquerware-making requires every single piece to go through a 72-step process before being sent to market. On top of that, the roughcast stage at the beginning could last 30-40 years before the lacquering process. As such, these lacquer products are deemed extremely valuable.
Silver Inlaid Products and Bamboo Products
With their delicate shapes, the silver-inlaid and bamboo products showcase another amazing aspect of the Chengdu craftsmanship. Nowadays, they are both used as household items and also decorations for those of higher standards of living.
Chengdu's silver-inlaid products are made with silver threads no thicker than 3mm (0.1 inch) inlaid on silver background. As a traditional area for silver inlaid handiwork, you can usually find silver-inlaid workmanship on screens, tea wares and vases.
Blessed with warm climate and verdant forests, bamboo flourishes in Sichuan and the amazing technique of woven bamboo around porcelain frames has fascinated people from ancient times to today. This technique is used in various bamboo products, such as bamboo baskets, dishes, and fans.
Sichuan Speciality Items
As the capital of Sichuan province, Chengdu offers many of the typical Sichuan specialities such as hot pickled mustard tuber, mix-flavoured fava beans, Dengying (shadow) dried beef (so thin that light can shine through it) and Liu Yang Gou dried beef.
Dengying dried beef is a speciality of Sichuan's Daxian county, and as the popular story goes, more than 80 years ago, a Mr. Liu made a living by selling pickled beef but when his business began to dry up, he was forced to find new markets and create new products. By trial and error, Mr. Liu's thin sliced dried beef came into being. Liu setup a stall, placing a lamp behind a large piece of thin sliced dried beef making the beef look extremely red and delicious. This attracted people passing by to have a try and the crispy hot beef immediately became popular.
There are a number of Chinese alcohols, teas, and local foods that also deserve a try. Top-ranking alcohol brands such as Wuliangye, Luzhou Lao Jiao, Quanxing Da Qu and Jiannanchun are all available in many Chengdu stores. Jasmine tea, Maofeng tea, Tieguanying and Longjing can be great gifts for friends back at home.
Chengdu's best shopping area converges at Chunxi Road, Zongfu Road and Luomashi Area. Here you can shop for a variety of articles from souvenirs, inexpensive street stall items, to upscale department stores goods. Chunxi Road has existed for 70 years and is the most well-known and visited walking street and shopping area in Chengdu.
Shopping malls, department stores, supermarkets and a number of small stands abounds in the areas around Chunxi Road. Anytime you go, you are sure to find find the streets teeming with people going in and out of antique shops, modern cafes, specialty shops, and fast food restaurants.
- Handicrafts: Chengdu Shu Brocade Factory - No. 1 East Caotang Road
- Sichuan Antiques Shop - No. 6 Shaocheng Road near Shudu Avenue
- Chengdu Bamboo-weaving Arts and Crafts Factory - No. 12 Jiefang Road, First Section
- Sichuan Arts and Crafts Store:
- Sichuan Exhibition Hall - No. 16 Middle Renmin Road
- Chengdu Lacquerware Factory - No. 81 Jinhe Street
- Chengdu Classics Bookstore - the south end of North Chunxi Road