For this month we are happy to welcome new arrivals: Riccardo from Italy, Emily from England, Dagmara and Malgorzata both from Poland, Melina, as well as Julia and Shari from Germany.
HHS Language Class Visits Pearl Market in Beijing
This month our HHS Beijing language class travelled to Pearl Market in the southern part of the
city. Our students got a chance to practice their Mandarin with a little bargaining and haggling; real Chinese experiences.
The name Pearl Market refers to the top floor of the building exclusively reserved for the sale of pearls. The original name of the market, Hong Qiao ( 红桥市场 ) means “Red Bridge”. Known as “Thief’s Market” in the past, the area was famous for harboring pick pockets as well as scheming sales vendors.
Hong Qiao has been a popular destination for foreigners since the colonial era and thrived during the capitalist boom. In the 80’s it became famous for offering cheap electronic goods. Today it’s a prominent shopping destination for anybody looking for that perfect deal while visiting Beijing.
The market began as an outdoor venue but in the 1990’s it was brought indoors. Today the gigantic building located beside The Temple of Heaven boasts five floors and hundreds of vendors. The pearl varieties include Tahitian, freshwater, south sea seawater, along with Russian amber, coral and opal.
Jewelry is only a small example of the many goods for sale. Food, clothes, carpets, electronics, antiques, silks, art, and bags can all be found at inflated prices but can be purchased for an amazing deal with a little bargaining and a lot of patience. Making the effort to use some Mandarin when dealing with vendors can go a long way towards reaching your desired price.
The participants from our class whose native languages included English, French, German, and Polish all tried using some recently acquired Mandarin skills to score some deals. With only a few classes under their belts they managed to impress the vendors and save some Yuan!
Pearl Market is located on Line 5 at Tiantandongman Station. Take Exit A2 and you’ll find the market on the right side of the street to the north. Come early for a less crowded shopping experience. The Market is open form 9:00am until 7:00pm.
Qixi Festival (Chinese: 七夕节; literally “The Night of Sevens“), also known as
In late summer, the stars Altair and Vega are high in the night sky, and the Chinese tell the following love story, of which there are many variations:Magpie Festival, falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month on the lunar calendar. It inspired Tanabata in Japan, Chisi in Taiwan, Chilseok in Korea, and Ngưu Lang Chức Nữ inVietnam. It has sometimes been called Chinese Valentine’s Day since the late 1990s, which is, strictly speaking, an inaccurate portrait of the festival. Girls traditionally demonstrate their domestic arts, especially melon carving, on this day and make wishes for a good husband.
A young cowherd, hence Niulang (Chinese: 牛郎; pinyin: niú láng; literally “[the] cowherd”), came across a beautiful girl–Zhinü (Chinese: 织女; pinyin: zhī nǚ; literally “[the] weavergirl”), the seventh daughter of the Goddess, who just had escaped from boring heaven to look for fun. Zhinü soon fell in love with Niulang, and they got married without the knowledge of the Goddess. Zhinü proved to be a wonderful wife, and Niulang to be a good husband. They lived happily and had two children.
But the Goddess of Heaven (or in some versions, Zhinü’s mother) found out that Zhinü, a fairy girl, had married a mere mortal. The Goddess was furious and ordered Zhinü to return to heaven. (Alternatively, the Goddess forced the fairy back to her former duty of weaving colorful clouds, a task she neglected while living on earth with a mortal.)
On Earth, Niulang was very upset that his wife had disappeared. Suddenly, his ox began to talk, telling him that if he killed it and put on its hide, he would be able to go up to Heaven to find his wife.
Crying bitterly, he killed the ox, put on the skin, and carried his two beloved children off to Heaven to find Zhinü. The Goddess discovered this and was very angry. Taking out her hairpin, the Goddess scratched a wide river in the sky to separate the two lovers forever, thus forming the Milky Way between Altair and Vega.
Zhinü must sit forever on one side of the river, sadly weaving on her loom, while Niulang watches her from afar while taking care of their two children (his flanking stars β and γ Aquilae or by their Chinese names Hè Gu 1 and Hè Gu 3).
But once a year all the magpies in the world would take pity on them and fly up into heaven to form a bridge (鹊桥, “the bridge of magpies”, Que Qiao) over the star Deneb in the Cygnus constellation so the lovers may be together for a single night, which is the seventh night of the seventh moon.
Shopping in Beijing
Beijing is an incredible city for many different reasons. One of the greatest reasons is the shopping. Compared to Western countries the prices are considerably much cheaper than usual. But, buyers beware! Depending where you choose to go and how much knowledge you have it is easy to be exploited. However, if you are smart and play the game well, you can come away with a great bargain!
So, here are some tips for au pairs on where to shop and how to do it.
One of the biggest tourist traps in Beijing is Wangfujing. Located in the middle of subway line 1, it is often filled with travellers eating scorpions, snakes and all kinds of exotic food. It is a place known not only for its snack stalls and markets but also the expensive shopping malls beside it.
The markets range from weird snacks to perfect souvenirs. From Mao Zedong books to jade jewellery. If you are interested in purchasing any items you should have in mind what kind of price you wish to pay before you start to haggle. This will help you walk away if you are not happy with the cost, and usually when that happens they will most likely shout you back and try again at a cheaper price.
Nearby the markets is the big shopping mall. Here are many famous brands such as Zara, Nike, Gap, Rolex, Omega and Gucci. So if you are one of the wealthier au pairs, here is a perfect place to spend money for some big brand designer labels, but don’t expect to negotiate the price!
Up until 2005, this market was called Silk Street and had the same location but was an outdoor market. Today, everything is covered by a roof and this market is probably the most visited by foreign tourists in Beijing.
Most famous for its counterfeit items such as hats, handbags, shoes and belts, over the last couple of years it has also begun to sell calligraphy, carpets, table cloths, paintings, toys, electronic gadgets, trinkets, watches and fine jewelry. With 3,000 salespeople spread over seven floors, they eagerly attend to the 20,000 visitors each week day and 50,000 and 60,000 visitors on weekends….so, be sensible and try to avoid shopping at the weekend. Open 9am-9pm weekday mornings are best as this will give you more space to browse and may also lessen the price of goods.
Most of the sales people can speak good English and may even speak a number of phrases in German, Swedish or French. However, they are also EXTREMELY pushy, and you will not be able to browse quietly. Located on next to Guomao (China World Trade Centre) with a direct basement link to Yonganli subway station (Exit A).
Located at subway transfer point between lines 1 and 4 is where the inhabitants of Beijing come to buy their clothes.
In the northern parts of the “Xidan Beidajie” street there are lots of small shops. The area also has several markets and malls. We know from experience that it’s very easy to spend whole days here and still have ground left to cover. Start by visiting the Xidan Outdoor Market, which actually is largely indoors. The prices here can be very low and the supply of clothes and accessories is not too bad either. Then visit one of the larger markets east or north of this area and remember to always bargain, on Outdoor Market too.
If you are looking for more exclusive shopping, a good choice is Grand Pacific, located west of Xidan Beidajie.
Some salespeople know a few relevant phrases in English, but most of them don’t. Some of the markets can be very crowded on evenings and weekends.
In Beijing’s north-eastern area there are many universities. The Wudaokou region contains a large number of students, which explains the popularity of Wudaokou Clothing Market. Therefore, the range of clothes is also targeted especially towards students.
The market is not the biggest in town, but the two floors are jam-packed with clothes, shoes and accessories. A ten minute walk from Wudaoku station, many of the clothes are of the hipper/trendier kind and you will seldom find the same clothes in two different shops. Girls, should you get tired of shopping you can head up to the top floor and get your nails painted for a small price. You can also find a few odd shops selling jewellery, sunglasses, posters, and simple electronics such as MP3-players, etc.
Few shopkeepers speak English but they are friendly and not very intrusive. Many of the passages between the shops are narrow, so on afternoons and weekends it can get quite crowded.
The Sanlitun Village is a huge shopping centre comprised of 19 buildings and is a popular hangout for shoppers, diners and people looking for a fun night out. Popular stores such as Adidas and Apple are often busy at all times in the week. Prices here are similar to those of Western countries, but located 5 minutes away from The Sanlitun Village is another indoor shopping haven; Yaxiu Market.
Yaxiu Market is very similar to the Silk Market, but the prices are much lower since it is visited by Beijing locals. As you may have guessed, all the designer items are fake so be prepared to negotiate on price!
IMPORTANT THINGS TO REMEMBER!
If buying from a market be prepared to offer 1/3 of their asking price. This may seem to make them angry, but it is their job to haggle and it’s what the item is realistically worth.
Bare in mind the highest price you are willing to pay before you start to negotiate.
Before purchasing the item, be sure that it is not damaged. Many sales people will say you can return it if it breaks within 2 months but in reality they will not allow this. Sales people change jobs quickly and as you will not have a receipt, they will not return your money.
Check that the money they give you is real. There are lots of fake notes in Beijing so be sure to check before you leave the stall.
Last but not least, be smart and be respectful. It is fine to ask for a better deal but be respectful at the same time.