Liulichang Culture Street

Address: Liulichang E St. Hepingmenwai, Xuanwu Dis.
Tel: 86-10-63017989
Entrance Fee: 0RMB

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Located to the south of Hepingmen, the fascinating Liulichang Culture Street is one of only two streets in Beijing to still bear the appearance of a Qing Dynasty market street, with the other, the tourist-oriented Suzhou Street, located in the Summer Palace. This 750-meter street is famed for its stores selling ancient books, paintings, calligraphy, rubbings, ink stones and ink, and many other traditional chinese curios and is now the best place to find these items in Beijing. For visitors who are not interested in buying such items, a stroll down the street is still the introduction to the many and varied facets to Chinese traditional arts and scholarship.

Liulichang derives its name from the Chinese for “Colored Glaze Factory” (“Liu Li Chang” in Chinese). The factory kiln was situated in this area as, during the Yuan (1271-1368) and Ming (1368-1644) Dynasties, there were an abundance of residences and palaces for merchants and officials, as well as temple complexes, all requiring beautiful glazed tiles for their roofs. Though the tile kiln closed during the reign of the Qing Dynasty emperor Qianlong (1736-1795), the street continued to go by this name. According to local stories, during the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1644-1912), much like bohemian haunts in modern cities, visiting scholars, painters and calligraphers liked to congregate in Liulichang to engage in poetry, painting and write, with a book-sellers and shops selling the four treasures of the ancient scholar (paper, ink brushes, ink stones and ink stamps, also known as chops) growing to serve this market. Sellers of antiques, paintings and calligraphy also opened shops within the street so that by the reign of the Qing emperor Kangxi (1661-1722) the area had grown into a flourishing cultural centre.

Liulichang was divided into eastern and western sections in 1927 with the construction of the Hepingmen Gate in Beijing’s city walls. The eastern section of Liulichang became know for it’s abundance of shops selling antiques and curios while the western section became known for its famous book stores, such as the Shanghai Commercial Press, China Publishing House, Youzheng Press and many others. In 1950, following decades of looting of cultural artefacts by foreign powers and the transfer of many famous Chinese treasures to Taiwan by the defeated Nationalists (Guomindang), the newly founded People’s Republic of China passed laws prohibiting the sale and export of valuable books and antiques.

Important historical artefacts, paintings, calligraphy and other art works that were scattered amongst the various stores lining Liulichang were procured for the newly opened Palace Museum and Chinese History Museum. Following the period of Reform and Opening initiated by Deng Xiaoping, Liulichang was extensively renovated and reopened as a “cultural street”, with a large variety of shops selling traditional Chinese artwork and the four treasures of the ancient scholar opening along it’s length.

Shops of interest to the visitor may be the Yi De Ge ink shop, the Jiguge Tea Lounge, the Rongbao Zhai painting and calligraphy shop, and the Zhonghua Press bookstore.

For the visitor interested in traditional Chinese art or the four treasures of the ancient scholar, Liulichang Culture Street is an absolute must-see!

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