Most people wishing to add a treasure to their collection of antiques rely on dealers, shops, markets and auctions in their own country, or settle for telephone bidding at sales abroad. It's easy, safe, reliable enough and involves little effort. It also involves very little adventure. Yet it is still exciting. Hearts pound as the object of desire appears on the podium. A brief description tells you what you already know and the auctioneer begins. Tension wells as the bidding moves close to your limit and the sense of achievement as the hammer falls and the item is sold to the lady in the red hat - your red hat, is extremely gratifying. Imagine then, setting your sights on an exotic treasure, but instead of rolling up outside an auction room you pack your bags and head off to the mother of all exotic treasures and begin your own real-life treasure hunt in deepest, mysterious Shanghai.

You arrive in the humid, bustling dealers' community of China's largest city where rows of shops are bursting at the seams with beautiful old relics from nearby mountain villages and ancient pieces of perfectly preserved dynastic furniture. Picture yourself tracking down your heart's desire through a cacophony of haggling cries and a myriad of home-made wood and canvas stalls in a market rich with the tantalising aroma of true, far-eastern cooking. It isn't quite the same as digging at the spot marked with an X but it has to be the modern collectors' equivalent. Imagine placing your new acquisition in pride of place and being able to truthfully say 'Yes, beautiful isn't it - I found it in Shanghai.'

What to Expect

Shopping for antiques in Shanghai is simple, but there are a few basic facts and snippets of advice that will help considerably. Firstly, most of the affordable pieces are reproductions of Ming and early Qing. This does not mean they have no value. Most of the reproductions are themselves old and have become highly collectable in their own right. The Chinese government is currently attempting to keep as much of China's ancient heritage in the country. There has been a push to re-collect genuine pieces of dynastic collectibles from around the world and return them to their original home. Consequently, it is not easy to export older items and anything over 150 years old is virtually impossible to take out, but don't let this put you off. There are countless beautiful items circa 1900 that can be yours at highly competitive prices. The nature of the market suggests value can only increase and the exotic background of your treasure can only enhance its appeal. Purchases from fairs, markets and auctions are not likely to fall into the 'protected' category. However, it is still advisable to obtain receipts to help you through customs. Buying from a licensed shop will see you provided with all the necessary paperwork to take your treasure abroad. If you are in any doubt take your items to The Relics Bureau in Shanghai where borderline purchases will be clarified and the correct documentation issued. This is done quickly and efficiently and rarely causes delays to travel plans.

The Cultural Antique Export Verification Unit of the Beijing Cultural Antique Bureau can be contacted on +86 6500 3311 extension 255. If there is anything you are unsure about they are happy to help.

Secondly, bargaining is an art form! Some people do it extremely well and are richly rewarded. The basic rules are as follows: do not expect to pay more than 50 - 60 per cent of the original marked price. Practise bargaining with an object you do not want to buy. Make the initial offer about 25 per cent of the marked price. Don't go for less as you might be dismissed. Keep your temper and never accuse any store holder or shopkeeper of cheating. If you are suspicious just leave and go elsewhere. If the bargaining seems a bit too easy and the seller reduces the price quickly, it is most likely because the asking amount was deliberately inflated upon your arrival. Bear this in mind and be careful what you offer. If you are very brave, it is sometimes a good idea to walk away when the price is near your limit. It's a bit of a gamble but you might end up with a substantial deduction.

Thirdly and finally, language barriers are always a problem when trying to do business. If you speak any Chinese at all you might be able to convince dealers that you are not a tourist and are likely to get a better price for your goods. Failing this it might be a good idea to enlist the help of an interpreter or a local. Many are willing to help visitors overcome this difficulty for a small fee. Most shopkeepers speak English but the personnel at the Relics Bureau do not and it is unlikely that market traders will converse in any language other than Mandarin.

Where to shop

Below is a list of the most popular places to seek for treasure. They are all licensed and recommended for good service, value for money and authenticity.

Chuangxin Antique Store
Situated at the junction of Huaihai Road and Changshu Road
Best for leather goods, clocks, watches and ornaments.

Dongtai Antique Market
200 stalls selling everything from padauk, stone and ceramic to flowers, fish and insects!

Fuyou Road
Sunday morning flea market selling paintings, pottery, calligraphic art and more. Two new auction houses are also situated here.

Huabao Building Basement Market
In old Shanghai, this is the largest indoor market in the city.

Shanghai Antiques and Curios Store
194-226 Guangdong Road
694 Nanjing West Road
F/5 40 Beiling East Road
The oldest antique shops in Shanghai offering the biggest and best collections in the entire city. They cater mainly for overseas visitors and only accept foreign currency.

Shanxi Antique Store
At the junction of Shanxi West Road and Yan'an Road.
Again, selling mostly to overseas visitors. Renowned for porcelain, clocks, watches and artefacts.

Weixin Antique Store
Jingling East Road
Largest watch and clock sellers in Shanghai. Genuine pieces from early modern Shanghai and the rest of China.

Xinguang Optical Instrument Store
At the junction of Huaihai Middle Road and Yangang Road
Famous for optical instruments and camera repairs. Sells both old, new and second-hand items.

Where to stay

The cosmopolitan nature of Shanghai and its attempt to become one of the world's most visited cities has resulted in the recent development of the hotel and tourism industry and the influx of several highly acclaimed hotel chains. The happy consequence is that there are now several first class hotels ready to make your stay problem free.

The Hilton Shanghai Hotel, listed in Fodors Choice 2000, reaches the fine quality expected from one of the world's leading hotel groups. Beautifully appointed and conveniently located at the heart of the city it is only 15 kilometres from Shanghai International Airport.

The Portman Ritz-Carlton is also listed in Fodors Choice, along with a recommendation in The Westin Tai Ping Yang Resorts and Hotels 2000. Three fine restaurants serving Cantonese, Japanese and Western cuisine are among the highlights of this down town hotel.

The beautiful and famous Garden Hotel Shanghai rates highly in Leading Hotels of The World 2000, Fodors and Resorts and Great Hotels. Sitting amidst 7 acres of manicured gardens and fronted by a lake, this hotel is a stunning attraction in itself.

As you can see, there is no shortage of reliable names to choose from. However, for the most stunning views of Shanghai and its winding Hung Pu River the Grand Hyatt Shanghai stands alone. The highest hotel in the world takes up the 53rd to 88th floors of the impossibly enormous Jin Mao Tower. The rooms are arranged in a circle around the hotel foyer with every window offering untold delights to even the most jaded traveller.

Pre-Travel Check List

It is necessary to obtain a visa for travel into China.

Shanghai International Airport is close to the city centre and is served well by most airline companies. Ground transportation is widely available and inexpensive. The hotels listed below will arrange travel to and from the airport on your behalf.


Grand Hyatt Shanghai
Jin Mao Tower
2 Century Boulevard
Shanghai 200121
Tel: + 86 21 5049 1234
Fax: + 86 21 5049 1111

The Portman Ritz-Carlton
1376 West Nanjing Road
Shanghai 200040
Tel: + 86 21 627 98888
Fax: + 86 21 627 98800

The Hilton Shanghai Hotel
250 Hua Sahn Road
Shanghai 200040
Tel: + 86 21 624 80000
Fax: + 86 21 624 83848

Garden Hotel Shanghai
58 Maoming Nan Lu
Tel: + 86 21 641 51111
Fax: + 86 21 641 58866

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