You could easily spend half a day wandering around the stalls of Dong Tai Road. The street is bisected by another smaller street and "antique" stores proliferate all over the small neighborhood. You can find just about anything from baskets to ceramics, Mao memorabilia, lanterns - junk or treasure - it's up to you. Let the buyer beware, unless you are a certified antiques dealer, don't think you'll come away with a Ming vase for a song. Shopkeepers are expert at making factory-fired porcelain look old: just rub some dirt on it!
Dong Tai Road is just off Tibet or "Xizang" Road near the old part of town. Tibet/Xizang Road is a major north-south thoroughfare easy to locate on a map.
How to Say it in Chinese:
In Mandarin, the market is called Dong Tai Lu
. This is pronounced: "dong tie loo" and literally is the name of the street.
If your taxi driver is still confused, you can say "Dong Tai Lu kaojin Xizang Lu", pronounced "dong tie loo cow jeen she zahng loo". This will get you to the intersection.
Avoiding Fakes? It's Impossible:
Please, don't be fooled by the offers of "antiques". Chinese purveyors are experts at making fakes look like ancient treasures dug up and on sale for a fraction of what you'd pay at Sotheby's. Unless you are a dealer in Chinese artifacts and have years of experience, trust me, you won't be able to tell the difference, and even the dealers get fooled
. The best thing to do is go with and open mind, a limited budget and a few ideas about what you'd like to have.
Some say offer 10% of what the vendor is asking, some say 25% and work up from there. In my experience, the best thing to do is make some snap decisions and then start the negotiations at the low end.
- Decide if you really want it. It's hard to extract a real price so you'll have to bargain to get close.
- Decide how much you're willing to pay. How much is it worth to you?
- Walk away. Sometimes it works...but be prepared when it doesn't. You may find the item again, but you may not.
- Bargaining 101: Eight Rules and Two Myths About Shopping in China will give you more guidance to shopping and bargaining.
What to Buy:
Well, just because I'm rather proud of my purchases at Dong Tai Road so I'll share.
- I've found lovely blue & white porcelain ginger jars (those pot-belly jars with lids). During one bargaining session the lady told me it was Qing Dynasty (yeah yeah yeah) and I got from 1500rmb to 200rmb. I had to walk away twice.
- We collect antique maps and after reading 1421, I happened to find a really neat old map of Shanghai. It cost a small fortune but the lady wouldn't budge and I went back to see if she put a replica out after I purchased it. If she did, she had the courtesy to wait until the next day. Treasure? Who knows, but I love it.
- Old wooden rice buckets are always a favorite, as are reed-woven fishing baskets. I've had to ship several to friends and family who can't bear not to purchase but can't fit them in a suitcase.