When considering which souvenirs to bring home from China, eschew the classic pashmina, Buddha statue or imitation jade bracelet for a unique memento. After searching boutiques, stalls and malls, we’ve rounded up our top three picks for gifts that proudly shout “Made in China.”
Pinyin Press tea towels
These sturdy canvas tea towels (CNY100 or $16) measure 9-by-13 inches and come in four designs — bicycles, steamed buns (baozi), the hand signs for Chinese numbers and, of course, the paw-waving fortune cat. You could use them to mop up teatime spills, but we think they’re most deserving of a frame and wall space. The tea towels — along with tote bags, a T-shirt screen-printed with baozi and notecards — come from Pinyin Press, the brainchild of expat Sarah Armstrong, who moved from London to Shanghai in 2009. Order online or pick them up in the Shanghai store.
Where to buy: Shanghai: Madame Mao’s Dowry (86-21-5403-3551) or Pantry (86-21-138-1871-9543)
Yi Zhou’s body part jewelry
Product and accessories designer Yi Zhou was born and raised in Beijing, and she returned home after earning her master’s at Central Saint Martins in London. Her Body Memory line was created as a nod to the commonly held psychological belief that the body is capable of storing memories, as opposed to only the brain. Yi Zhou’s six handmade plaster pieces are CNY350 each (about $57) and range from a delicate pair of lips to a perfectly formed thumb, each available on a thin gold chain.
Where to buy: Beijing: Meridian Space, 86-10-5160-0496
Feiyue brand canvas sneakers
What sells in a Berlin or Paris boutique for more than €50 (roughly $63) can be had in Shanghai, from whence it originally came, for just CNY50 (about $8, or roughly the cost of a café au lait and a croissant). Feiyue (meaning “fly over” or “leap”) footwear was produced in Shanghai starting in the 1920s as a shoe to be worn during martial arts. The original design came in black and white, high-top and low, with a super-flexible padded rubber sole and a canvas upper. Today, there are a slew of different styles available in a rainbow of colors and materials that can include felt and even rubber, but it’s the original white low-top model that remains iconic. The shoes are a favorite of sartorialists and were even worn by performers in the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Where to buy: Shanghai: Culture Matters (86-21-136-7188-2040). Beijing: Feiyue