Consummate dilettantism!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Bargaining At Yashow Clothing Market

I went with a Chinese friend (who is not a native speaker of Chinese and is at my level in the program) to the Sanlitun Yashow Clothing Market to buy stuff. Well, at first we hadn't really intended to buy anything, but the place soon won us over with its astonishing selection of items. There were four floors: the first and the second seemed to have mostly clothing, which we weren't really too interested in, but the third had these awesome Chinese knickknacks, and we soon relented, whipping out our cash-flushed American wallets. But of course, as the place is packed with foreigners of all kinds (mostly continental Europeans and Africans; I didn't spot any other native English speakers), the asking prices are very high, so we had to engage in China's national pastime: bargaining.

At the first stand we visited, the shopkeeper was already engaged with a man whose English was decent and who could speak a little Chinese (from his accent, I guessed he was Israeli), so we had time to browse the wares unmolested. There were jade objects, huge swords, opium pipes, etc; presumably they were mostly fake, but they were awfully beautiful and high-quality. I broke out my Chinese, and I was delighted to receive compliments from both the shopkeeper and the Israeli -- how I have improved in a month! My friend wanted a jade buddha, I wanted a lovely wooden dragon pipe, and we managed (using exclusively Chinese) to halve the asking prices. (Protip: Saying you're a poor student, you only have 90 kuai, and you need at least 10 kuai for the cab ride home works wonders.)

At the next stand, after receiving more extremely generous compliments (and no doubt genuine; the shopkeepers were very friendly and candidly joked with us about their prices and what we could afford), the two of us whittled down the price for these two huge statues that my friend wanted to give to his mother. Here there were more swords, and also a pair of awesome spiked gloves with metal nails -- oh, China...

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