The Silk Market

The Silk Market

That night, seven friends and I (Emma, Arianna, Monica, Lihau, Jake, Ben, and Will) all decided to go the Silk Market, where we had heard you can get just about anything for dirt cheap.  To my surprise, it was not a street lined with stands but an actual building, which was built in 2005 to accommodate the previously alley-based Xiushui market.  It is a massive, seven story building, which caters to 20,000 daily shoppers according to a pamphlet, a number which on weekends can increase to 50 or 60,000.  We had heard stories of the chaos within its walls, although nothing could truly prepare us for the experience.  Walking in, customers—who were almost exclusively international tourists—are confronted with every conceivable type of merchandise.  Every floor is designated to certain products and as we walked in, as far as the eye could see were shoes, handbags, backpacks, luggage bags, and their accessories.

Shoes at the Silk MarketShoes in the Silk Market

Lihau Looking at some shoes

Lihau Looking at some shoes

There were long corridors with little alcoves on either side stocked with every color, brand, and style of shoes imaginable.  As we walked through, the vendors would shout “handsome boy, come look at our shoes” or “these shoes would look great on you,” and would insightfully identify brands you were wearing and display their coinciding collections.  Aggressive is an understatement for these salesmen, they would literally grab you if you tried walking away after looking at their goods.  Surprisingly, they spoke English almost flawlessly, and knew every word to close a deal effectively.  I even walked past a booth in which the two Chinese saleswomen were speaking Spanish fluently to a Spanish couple.  Later in the shopping spree, I befriended a stall attendant (after buying some goods, of course) and asked her how she learned English.  She told me she has been working there for three years, and had picked up English just by working here and having to sell to foreigners.  When I thought that was impressive, she started speaking to me in each of the five secondary languages she knew–English, Russian, Italian, German, and Spanish.  I couldn’t believe it.  She told me that most of her co-workers spoke four or five languages, and her friend came over and demonstrated her sales pitch in Arabic!   Granted, they only have a grasp on the limited vocabulary it takes on closing a sale, but it still blew me away.  As I walked around, I listened in as people bartered in French, Russian, and all sorts of languages.  Cheap goods are a universal attraction, and it seems for these shop keepers, their capabilities are boundless… so long as there is enough money.

Everything was brand name—Converse, Puma, Adidas, and high-end leather shoes—all identical to the real thing.  With every floor, the scale and promise of this market was more fully realized; the latest North Face Jackets, Louis Vuitton, Coach, and Gucci bags, Polo sweaters, sunglasses and jewelry of all kinds coated every inch of wall space.  Also for sale were calligraphy scrolls as well as other traditional Chinese memorabilia.  One section was comprised of all seamstresses; at each booth a seamstress, with bolts of fabric all around her, sat behind a desk with stacks of men’s fashion magazines.  Friends who have bought suits told me that you simply point to any suit you want (single or double breasted, two or three piece, how many buttons, etc…) and she’ll take your dimensions and have it done by the next day.  Two friends have since bought suits and they came out extremely well, with every detail accounted for, fully lined with pockets and a pen holder on the inside—all for just about $100 USD.

Everything’s price, without exception, can be negotiated.  We were told to start at 20% of their suggested price, right off the bat.  It is an arduous and tiring process, and can last for 30 minutes or more depending the audacity and stubbornness of both parties.  Overwhelmed with the endless options in front of me, I spent most of the day shopping but made only two purchases, the first of which was a pair of Levi Jeans for 150 Yuan ($23).  As with most everything in the silk market, I imagine they are fake, although these craftsmen have gotten so good through the years that you would be hard-pressed to find an imperfection.  After talking to vendors for little while, most do not pretend to be selling the legitimate brand products, but they know the quality and appearance is so excellent that it is still worth buying.  I set out on this shopping spree knowing I needed to purchase a winter jacket (as I did not bring one to China); Monica needed to buy a jacket as well, and she was also very good at bargaining.  After much deliberation, we finally got the jackets down from 1200 and 800 Yuan respectively, to 760 for both.  In the 30 or 40 minutes I spent carefully examining the jacket, I could only find two indications that it was fake—the zipper was not quite as big as usual, and inside fleece felt a little different…but still not bad (yes, it also came with an inside fleece embroidered with the North Face logo, as was the bag it all came in).

Despite the fact that it probably isn’t an authentic North Face, it is indistinguishable in appearance and will still keep me warm when it’s cold out in Beijing.  You do, however, have to be careful about what you purchase.  A friend, Lihau, bought brand name flip-flops and the color rubbed off in a little over a week.  The experience was exhausting, and we all limped back to campus juggling bags of all our newly bought stuff, satisfied and thankful for the conversion rate.

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2 Comments on “The Silk Market”

  1. Linda li Says:

    haha ,真有意思

    我要看看你的fake jacket~ ~ 看它什么时候坏掉


  2. Linda li Says:



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