There are many ancient shops in Beijing that have been open since the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). The Chinese name for these famous and time tested shops is "Laozihao" (literarily translates "an old brand"). The most centralized ancient shopping street, where is recommended for the tourists doing Beijing tours, is the Dashilan Shopping and Pedestrian Street. The shopping and pedestrian street has a history of over 600 years. Dashilan means "Big Fences"and is named after the large fences that the Qing Dynasty Emperor had built around the area to protect it from thieves. The ancient "laozihao" are not only a place for commerce, but also a cultural phenomenon. Their brands are famous throughout China and few visitors to Beijing fail to miss visiting them.
One of the most famous laozihao in Beijing, the Neiliansheng shoe shop, has been selling cloth shoes for nearly 150 years. The shop was originally opened in 1853 by a man named Zhaoting. He worked in a shoe workshop and after becoming considered one of the best cobblers in the area, he decided to open his own shop. He opened his shop with help from an Imperial General. He originally crafted and sold boots for officials and members of the royal family. He named his shop Neiliansheng. The meaning implies that the wearer will climb the ladder of success. After much success Zhaoting decided to make shoes for the general public and invented the black shoes commonly seen worn by elderly today. The shoes were extremely comfortable and became an instant hit. Tourists today can still visit this shop and pick up a pair of cloth shoes and see the techniques used to create them. It is one of the unique souvenirs you would like to bring back from a Beijing Tour.
Ruifuxiang Silk Shop:
Located up the block from the Neiliansheng shoes shop is a silk shop named Ruifuxiang. Opened in 1893, Ruifuxiang Silk Shop is the oldest continually operating silk shop in China. Ruifuxiang Silk Shop has mountains of silk and silk brocade. They specialize in making Qipao (Cheom-sam). This shop had the honor of creating the flag for the founding ceremony of the People's Republic of China on October 11th 1949.
Opened in 1669, the Tongrentang Drugstore enjoys great popularity throughout China and around the world. It is famous for its traditional Chinese herbal medicine and its self-made pills, powdered medicine, paste, and pellets. The founder of the Tongrentang Drugstore was Lexianyang. Three generations of his family had practiced medicine before him. He was unconsciously influenced by what he constantly heard and saw when he was very young. He read a lot of ancient medicine books and devoted himself to researching medicine-making. He was such a successful and consequently famous doctor that he became the Imperial Doctor for Emperor Kangxi during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
Founded in 1858, Buyingzhai is famous for shoemaking. Famous for its cloth shoes, Buyingzhai also produces leather shoes, silk slippers, and traditional hats. The cloth shoes that the shop is famous for are extremely comfortable and the women's cloth shoes are very beautiful. Buyingzhai has several locations.
Originally making hats and silk shoes for the royal family and nobility of the Qing Dynasty, Majuyuan Hat Shop was founded in 1811. Mujuyuan has made hats for China's most famous people throughout its history. Mujuyuan has several shops.
Shopping in Beijing ancient shops is much more than buying stuff. It is an unforgettable cultural experience of China that takes you to the old-time Beijing. If you are a shopaholic, go for it. You will find the showpieces of your China tour. If you are not fond of shopping, or simply a conservative economist, go for it. It has much more to learn than from a cultural class, and much more to read than from a textbook.
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