Panjiayuan market and selecting antiques

Panjiayuan market and selecting antiques

I arrived in Beijing on Friday evening and woke up on Saturday to sunshine and beautiful blue skies. This time of year is a good time to visit as although there is still a chill in the air the smog and haze that often hangs over the city in the summer months and that so many of us in the west associate with the Beijing is rarely to be seen.

I met up with my main contact here – a lovely lady that I have worked with now for around seven years to source most of our Chinese antiques, and we headed straight off to Panjiayuan. Saturday is one of the busiest days at this enormous covered market, with crowds of people descending on the hundreds of stalls hoping to find a bargain or grab a memento. The stalls range from general bric-a-brac to huge stone statues, with aisles and aisles stretching for hundreds of yards. It would be easy to spend days checking out what each stall had to offer but we tend now to go to trusted suppliers for most pieces, while trying to spot new items that might be of interest. I selected a good number of smaller accessories to ship with our next container of antique furniture  calligraphy brushes in jade and bone, silk embroideries, some more black and white photographs to display in the showroom, decorative tassels and other pieces. We also spent some time checking out all the stoneware that was on offer – rows and rows of pieces from dozens of different suppliers. I picked up some nicely carved stone Buddhas as well as stone ‘foo dogs’ (temple lions) – great as door stops or bookends. After Panjiayuan we went to another smaller indoor market to visit the supplier of many of our silk lamps and to arrange pieces for our next shipment.

Panjiayuan market entrance
Chinese chop stall at Panjiayuan
Cultural Revolution Figures


Sunday was spent at a couple of antique warehouses starting to choose the pieces that we will ship hopefully around the end of April or early May. It was a long but very productive day and by the end I had selected around fifty items to go on the container. Among them are some beautifully decorated sideboards and cabinets from Qinghai and Shanxi – all in a very original condition rather than being repainted, as well as carved coffers and tables, wooden chests and painted opera trunks. As ever the difficulty is in choosing what not to take. The second warehouse in particular, run by a good friend of my contact, had a large amount of stock of good quality pieces – all sympathetically restored and nicely finished. It was also good to see that, as well as the few hundred pieces that were already available, he had a similar number that had been brought in more recently from the provinces and that are currently waiting to be repaired. I will quite likely end up ordering many of these pieces once they have been restored over the coming months.

Amongst the more regular furniture I chose one or two pieces that are at the higher end of the scale in terms of rarity and quality. As I’ve mentioned before, Shanxi armoires are becoming more and more prized so it was nice to find another in a highly original condition, still with its paintings lacquer and hardware intact. A beautifully carved, large temple cabinet, also from Shanxi , was another special purchase. Unfortunately I seem to always be drawn to the more expensive options and so sometimes have to hold myself back. A wonderful pair of painted Mongolian side cabinets therefore stayed off my list. If only I had seen them five years ago when the price was half what it is now!

Tomorrow and Tuesday will be spent visiting two or three more antique suppliers to select the final pieces for the container, so I hope to have as much success as I did today. Over the next weeks we will write up descriptions and edit photographs of each piece before adding them onto our website, hopefully completing everything around the time the container leaves Beijing. In the meantime let me know if you are looking for a specific piece and I will be happy to share a sneak preview of what we will have available.

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