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Guide to Wangfujing art emporium
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21:05, July 24, 2008

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· Beijing 2008 Olympic Games
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When going to Wangfujing Street, Beijing's main shopping area, it is recommended to drop by Wangfujing Gongmei Emporium. The five-story building is famed for its quality artwork and handicrafts, while locals flock to its discount clothing market on the top floor for the latest fashions.

At present, it is home to Beijing 2008 Olympic Flagship Shop -- the city's largest shop for Games' souvenirs.

The first floor is fully occupied by various Olympic souvenirs in a multitude of forms. These include commemorative coins, craft works, chinaware, sunglasses and baseball caps, basically anything you can think of as a memento.

The flagship shop not only has stuffed toys of Fuwa, the Beijing Olympic mascot, but also other forms made from jade, crystal and gold in various sizes.

T-shirts embossed with Olympic logos and patterns are a favorite among visitors. The t-shirt section attracts thousands of foreigners daily. One shop assistant said sometimes her colleagues and herself were so busy with customers that they didn't have time for lunch.

A South African visitor named Jeff was checking out the souvenirs with his wife and called the selection "impressive." The couple, who were on a business trip to Beijing, came to Gongmei (meaning arts and crafts in Chinese) to get gifts for their three boys. "The shop assistants here are very friendly and can talk to us in simple English," said the man.

"The price levels in Beijing are more or less the same as South Africa, so we don't find things particularly cheap here. But people from the Euro zone or America may find it much cheaper."

Not all goods in the shop, however, are made in China. Swiss watch maker Swatch has a counter here to promote its eight limited edition timepieces designed for Games.

Floors two, three and four are dedicated solely to Chinese arts, crafts and jewelry. Founded in 1954, Wangfujing Gongmei Emporium has been listed as a "China time-honored brand" by the national government and is a regular producer of gifts for foreign leaders and other organizations.

The second floor specializes in jewelry and handicrafts. Various forms of folk crafts are found here, such as chopsticks with carved patterns, wooden combs, paper-cut art, hardwood fans and handmade lanterns.

Also on the same floor is the "Oriental Life" shop selling traditional Chinese family ornaments. Walking through its display area furnished as a family memorial hall devoted to ancestors longgone, a person can get a rough idea of how people decorated their homes in ancient China. Ornaments made of rare stones, wood and metal, such as a boxwood mahjong set and jewelry box with carved flowers, can cost from 1,200 yuan (175.7 U.S. dollars) to 30,000 yuan, depending on the detail of the work.

Art lovers will want to check out the calligraphy and paintings from famous Chinese artists on the third floor. Calligraphy tool sets, or the so-called "four treasures of study," including a writing brush, ink stick, ink slab and paper, are also on sale.

Another must see here is the cloisonne collection. This is an ancient Chinese metal art combining bronze and porcelain ware with traditional painting and sculpture. There are vases as tall as an adult and mini cloisonne pandas you can fit in your pocket. There is also fine embroidery from Suzhou in Jiangsu Province and Hunan Province, in addition to batik garments and silk shawls.

On the fourth floor are numerous jade items as well as the Beijing Arts and Crafts Museum. Here visitors will find more than 3,000 items of fine arts and craft wares by famed Chinese artists, both past and present, displayed. The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on working days, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. Admission is 10 yuan.

The discount clothing market on the fifth floor is a hot shopping spot for locals. Authentic China-made and world-brand clothes at lower prices than most local large department stores can be found here.

Gongmei Emporium is in the heart of Wangfujing Street and is easy to get to. Subway Line 1 to Wangfujing Station will get you right there.


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