Panjiayuan market and more antiques

Panjiayuan market and more antiques

Back at the hotel and a chance to draw breath after a couple of hectic but productive days around Beijing. The rain on Friday turned to beautiful, clear blue skies in the past couple of days – or at least as clear as Beijing gets in August.

The agenda for Sunday was to visit Panjiayuan, the main market in the city for smaller antiques and handicrafts. I normally source smaller items for our showroom and website either through the workshop in Shanghai, or by visiting smaller wholesale markets with our main antique supplier. So despite coming to Beijing for several years this was the first time I had visited the market. The sheer scale and number of traders is bewildering – with thousands of stalls selling everything from huge stone sculptures to ‘relics’ from the cultural revolution.

You’ll find a dizzying array of artwork of varying styles and quality, pottery, jade, jewellery, brassware and just about anything else that has some vague connection with the world of ‘antiques’ – I even spotted a couple of old telephones and a transistor radio. In among the general bric-a-brac are some interesting items and I picked up some lovely little framed paintings and some nice silver bracelets, made by the ‘Miao’ ethnic minority in Southern China.

If you’ve been to the showroom in Saltaire then you will probably have seen the large silver necklaces, traditionally worn by the same tribe. We display these on stands as they make great ornaments and we have a few in frames – we’ll get around to putting some of these up on the website soon.

Yesterday I met up with one of the antique ‘agents’ that work here in Beijing. Normally I deal directly with one or two antique workshops that we now have a close relationship with and who we know will provide us with beautifully finished, quality pieces. This time round I wanted to get a further idea of what else was available with a view to picking up some alternative styles and finishes, so that we can offer a greater variety of pieces in the future.

Agents have relationships with several workshops and have a good knowledge of which one will be able to supply which type of piece. So this is a good way to get around to visiting a large number of warehouses in a short space of time and to source specific pieces for certain customers. I have quite a long list of requests and I’m pleased to say that, after an exhausting day in which we managed to get to six or seven different workshops (I lost count in the end) I was able to find pieces that should fit the bill for most of these. I also picked up several other pieces, including some wonderful painted cabinets, trunks and sideboards from Shanxi province.

Qinghai painted sideboard

Among the more unusual pieces that I lined up to ship with our other antiques at the end of September was this lovely sideboard from Qinghai in western China. It includes three shallow drawers at the top, a shelf in the middle divided into four sections and cabinet space at the bottom. Originally the two sets of doors with moulded frames would have given the only access to the lower section. This design is typical of furniture from Qinghai, with the idea being that it made it more difficult for would be thieves to grab valuables from the less accessible recesses of the cabinet. The other four doors were initially fixed panels, but have been converted to make the cabinet more practical for the modern day.

Everything else about the cabinet, including the simple carving that frames the left and right shelf sections and the now faded paintings of flowers on each of the drawers and door panels, is entirely original. I’ve not seen anything quite like this piece before and I think it would work wonderfully in a reception room today as a very unusual book cabinet.

This morning was spent at another market putting together an order for some more silk items for the showroom. Photo albums, notebooks and boxes – all perfect gifts for Christmas as they will arrive at the end of October. Then it was back to our main antique supplier’s workshop to finalise a few things for the next container.

Tomorrow I fly to Shanghai for a few days to visit the workshop where our Classical Chinese range is produced. The guys there have managed to get some tickets for the Shanghai Expo, so I’m looking forward to visiting there on Friday – more to follow on that later.

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