This weekend will be the fifth time I’ve boarded a flight from Beijing Capital Airport bound for London, to spend Christmas in my home country. I’ll admit I’ve struggled this year to come up with original and imaginative gifts for friends and relatives back home. They’ve had chopsticks, Chinese New Year stuffed toys, qipaos, ceramics, silk scarves, and Uggs. On the quest for inspiration, I carried out a survey amongst friends, to find out what was on their Christmas gifts shopping list. Here are just a few gift ideas and where to find them in Beijing.
Pearls are now a girl’s ultimate best friend, having had a recent resurgence in popularity. Quite apart from their flattering effect on the complexion and their go-with-anything charm, they have a history of sophistication about them. There are plenty of markets selling pearls in Beijing, but Hongqiao is the mother of all pearl markets – the largest of its kind in Asia. Stall after stall, including the massive Fanghua Pearls store, span three floors and sell pearls, jade, jewelry, and much more.
Scarves, gloves, jumpers, and socks, you’ll find plenty of good quality cashmere at most markets, and who doesn’t love the feel of cashmere on a cold winter morning. If you really want to treat them, take a look at the collections from Cashmere Crush, the brainchild of Prisca Ongonga-Daehn from Australia and Yangsu Kim from Korea. Their designs are youthful and effortless, using cashmere sourced from the Alashan region of Inner Mongolia. Only limited-edition designs are produced each season, ensuring that your knitwear is both exclusive and valuable.
Mahjong tiles are used to play mahjong, of course, as well as other games. Traditionally, Mahjong tiles were made of bone, and often backed with bamboo. Bone tiles are still available but most modern sets are constructed from various plastics such as bakelite, celluloid, and more recently nylon.
Hand Painted Glass Baubles
It’s wonderful to watch the stall holders at the Silk Market, paint these delicate glass baubles, depicting scenes from Chinese culture, history, and landmarks. They will personalize the baubles by painting individual names on the inside, a lovely gift for someone of any age.
Personalized Chinese Chops
The Chinese chop or seal is used in Taiwan and China to sign documents, artwork, and other paperwork. The chop is most commonly made from stone, but can also be made in plastic, ivory, or metal. The chop is used with red ink or cinnabar paste, it’s then pressed lightly into the paste, and then the image is transferred to paper by applying pressure to the chop.
Hand painted ocarinas can be found in several art stores in 798 Art District. The ocarina belongs to a very old family of instruments, believed to date back over 12,000 years. For the Chinese, the instrument has played an important role in their long history of song and dance. They make a unique gift, one which kids especially will love to receive.
We all know that everyone loves to receive a “designer” bag, and this year it seems that Kate Spade handbags, that are known for being bold and stylish, and lightweight yet luxury style Longchamp backpacks, are the choice items to take home this holiday, try YashowMarket for some good deals.
Finally, you must always take back anything that’s in high demand in your home country. The UK currently has a shortage of Disney Elsa Snow Glow Dolls. The one where you lift her arm, she sings that rather “memorable” song from the film, and her dress glows. There are waiting lists in major UK stores, and panicked parents everywhere. In Beijing, there are plenty of Elsa’s to go around. I have two choices, be the best godmother/friend/ex-colleague in the world and save Christmas by hauling a few back in my suitcase, or make a quick buck via eBay.
beijingkids Shunyi Correspondent Sally Wilson moved to Beijing in 2010 from the UK with her husband and son. Her daughter was born here in 2011 and both her kids keep her happily busy. In her spare time, Sally loves to stroll through Beijing’s hutongs and parks. She is a (most of the time) keen runner and loves reading: books, magazines, news, and celeb websites – anything really. Sally is also a bit of a foodie and loves trying out new restaurants.