Shopping in Xi’an is among the many sites and highlights to include as part of your travels in and around this vibrant, lively city. In fact, you’ll find shopping in Xi’an offers a lovely fusion of luxury shopping a la SKP - a high-end shopping ‘cathedral’, old-world tradition like the kind to be had at the locally popular Kaiyuan Shopping Mall, as well as street markets and tiny bespoke shops offering unique handcrafted artworks. Whether you’re after the latest in high street fashion for your holiday, a cheesy tourist souvenir, or a beautiful memento to take home from your travel adventure in China, we’re certain this list will make short work of your shopping needs.
Bespoke and special: Shopping for treasures in Xian
If you’re anything like the ChinaTours.com team you love a good treasure; something extra special that immediately transports you back to a time and place when you discovered a new and interesting keepsake. In a city with a history and culture as rich as Xi’an’s, the challenge will be choosing, so let’s jump in with this delightful list of Xi’an shopping treasures.
Take home a terracotta figure
Take home a terracotta figure
If you’re into style and design, a terracotta figure could be just the thing to add to a room or outdoor garden. Produced in keeping with designs from the Terracotta Army in Xian, these figures are available in many sizes from miniature to life-size. We recommend purchasing from reputable outlets that can guarantee the quality and integrity of the piece, and choose either the General or Kneeling Archer, both of which are iconic figures from the exhibition.
Ancient artwork: Ink rubbings from the Xi’an Stele Forest
Ancient artwork: Ink rubbings from the Xi’an Stele Forest
In ancient China, ink rubbing developed as a practical method of reproducing multiple copies of texts. Reflecting a minimalist style, ‘rubbings’ of famous calligraphy steles are always welcome additions to the collections of calligraphy lovers and of those who simply love interesting and beautiful things. An FYI for those who aren’t familiar - a stele is a stone on which text or images are inscribed, carved, or painted. Take home your own piece of history with ink rubbing from an ancient stele at the Xi’an Stele Forest, then have it framed and mounted on a wall at home.
It may seem counterintuitive to put tiger and pillow in the same name, however, that’s exactly what the Chinese Tiger Pillow is. As with many things in China, there is a deeper symbolism, and so it is with the Chinese Tiger Pillow, which is a pillow, toy, and ‘guardian’ that protects them from evil and misfortune. In Chinese culture, the tiger is regarded as the king of beasts, so it seems fitting that this majestic and powerful animal is charged with the task of looking after the littlest people on the planet. Available as tiger pillows or baby shoes (yes, baby shoes with a tiger head!), these works of art are generally handmade using colorful cotton, threads and beads. Perfect gifts for the little people in your life.
In the 1950s, local peasants in Hu County learned to paint with the help of painters and professors from the Central Academy of Fine Arts. Awakening latent creativity, within a decade these artists developed their own unique, bold and colorful style in artworks that reflected their daily existence, farming the land and traditional local customs. Brighten up a wall at home or in your office with one of these lovely pieces while supporting these local artists.
An imaginative art form, shadow puppetry emerged during the Tang dynasty as performance art that kept the emperor and those around him entertained and enlightened. The appeal of shadow puppetry endures today and visitors to Xi’an can enjoy both a performance and a keepsake by purchasing a shadow puppet to take home. Made from cow’s leather or donkey hide, these puppets are extremely popular with collectors and are unique decorative pieces for the home.
Between puppets and paper cutting, a visitor to Xi’an might think the art here isn’t all that sophisticated - and that’s where you’d be misled. In fact, paper cutting - much like the traditional art of shadow puppetry - requires creativity, skill-based on years of training, and most importantly, vast imagination. After all, a paper cutter must envisage something where there is nothing in much the same way that a sculptor does with a piece of stone. Incredibly, paper cutting originated in the 7th century, and the style of pieces found in the northern Shaanxi region where Xi’an is located, are some of the best representations of the art.
The Chinese love their figurines and it’s no wonder when you learn a little about the traditional Fengxiang painted clay figures, which have a history spanning a remarkable 3,000 years. Featuring the bright clashing colors typical of China, these figurines are also recognizable for their bold, short shapes and typically depict flowers, birds, fish, animals, and characters from traditional Chinese myths and stories.
If music is your thing, then perhaps a xun is for you. What’s a xun, you ask? Only one of the oldest instruments in China. Can you believe the xun was used by musicians in China over 7,000 years ago? Best described as an egg-shaped vessel, the xun was originally made from clay, and while contemporary versions of this ancient instrument are commonly made of clay too, bamboo is also used. Musical sound is made by blowing into the xun, which is punctuated by holes that are covered by fingers while being played. A modern xun has eight, nine, or ten holes and plays a wider range of sounds than the earlier versions.
Mashao is the Chinese word for wooden ladle; a utensil used daily everywhere throughout China’s long history. In previous times, people would paint charms on the back of ladles to pray for blessings. The Mashao masks have long been a feature of the famous Shehuo parade in the northern parts of China. Distinctive for the bright colors and unusual faces, the Mashao masks in the Shehuo festival are based on folklore characters. The face is painted on Mashao to reflect people’s wishes for a good life and local people believe that having Mashao masks at home will protect the house and ward off evil spirits.
If there is one thing those with a penchant for purchases should know it’s that markets, especially in cities like Xi’an, offer wonderful places to discover a trinket or memento that is a little unusual and special. In this summary list here, we’ve captured the advice of our guides on the ground who are dedicated market lovers.
Huajue Lane at Muslim Quarter
Nestled within the Muslim Quarter near the Great Mosque, the narrow Huajue Lane is a typical souvenir market, selling antique replicas, local handcrafts, Chinese silk products, paintings and calligraphy works. It’s the perfect place to give your haggling skills a workout too, so come feeling confident.
Xicang Market was established late in the Qing dynasty. Originally it was a market for flowers, birds, fish, and insects. Today, it’s a market for just about everything. Expect to find plants, old books, magazines, secondhand objects, daily utensils, as well as birds, fish and Chinese crickets. For an experience of local Xianese life, spend a happy couple of hours absorbing the energy and observing the antics of vendors and their customers.
Xi’an Town’s God Temple Market
Located close to City God Temple at West Avenue, is the Temple Market. Originally famous for handicrafts, stationery, sewing odds and ends, and other small commodities, the market has gained a new lease on life since the City God Temple was renovated. It continues to attract both locals and travelers. Allow a couple of hours to wander here without feeling rushed.
A mere stone’s throw away from the South City Gate, alongside the city wall, Shuyuanmen is a street tastefully reconstructed in the style of the Ming and Qing dynasties. On both sides of the street, are stores and shops that sell Chinese art, calligraphy, paintings, and other authentic traditional handicrafts. Our pick for lovers of bespoke anything? Stay cool with a classical Chinese fan customized with Chinese calligraphy, or have a Chinese seal made with your name written in Chinese on it. The more adventurous can learn to play the xun, the oldest musical instrument in China.
Xiaodongmen Antique Market
Originally a flea market and going by the moniker ‘Ghost Market’ because people came to trade secondhand goods and antiques after midnight, Xiaodongmen is now an antique market frequented by local antique collectors who are out hunting for ‘treasure’. Expect the hustle and bustle of a genuine market appreciated by locals and anyone who loves the unusual.
Saturday Flea Market at Tang West Market
The International Antique City at Tang West Market is the largest antique market in northwestern China and the Saturday Flea Market here is popular with local people who are hobby antique collectors. Scour through stalls selling coins, porcelain, jade, paintings, calligraphy, old watches, out of print books. You can even expect to find your own copy of the ‘red book’ if that interests you too.
Northwest International Tea City
Opening in 2015, the Northwest International Tea City is a wholesale center for tea and teaware. Unlike other traditional wholesale markets, Tea City is a modern stylish complex housing tea shops and food. Of course, you’ll find virtually every kind of Chinese tea here, from leading brands to unusual and difficult-to-find teas.
Jianguomen Old Market
Located within the Xi’an City Wall in the southeast corner, the Jianguomen Old Market is a destination fondly regarded by locals as the place where many happy childhood hours were spent. The original wet market has been upgraded and redeveloped as a cultural and creative area that houses the market itself, as well as cafes, bars, restaurants, homestays, art exhibitions, and bookstores.
We’ve covered bespoke and beautiful, but what about serious, hardcore shopping that is only possible in larger shopping precincts? Relax, we have that covered too. As a commercial mecca for centuries, it’s hardly a surprise to find some of China’s most significant shopping centers in key locations around Xi’an, so grab your bags and let’s direct you to these cathedrals of commerce.
Bell Tower Area
Located at the very center of Xi’an City, the area around the Bell Tower was once the main destination for local Xi’anese to do their shopping. Apart from numerous department stores and shopping malls, foodies can expect to be satisfied too with the Muslim Quarter, Dongmutoushi, Luomashi, and Zhubashi all within easy walking distance. If you only have one or two days in Xi’an, make this your number one shopping stop.
South Gate Area
Located just 2 kilometers from Bell Tower, the South Gate area is another hot spot for shopping in downtown Xi’an. Regardless of whether your taste is high-end luxury or high street functionality, you’ll find both ends of the spectrum and everything in between at SKP and Wangfujing Department Store, while Chinese cultural souvenirs can be found in Shuyuanmen Street.
Originally starting as a farmer’s market in the 1980s, the Xiaozhai Area has expanded to include the Xiaozhai Intersection such that it is now the center of south Xi’an city. Catering in large part to the predominantly student and university population, access is easy with convenient public transport options available. If there are teens and tweens in your travel group, Xiaozhai Area is heaven. Think fun, fashion, and personalized style. The shopping highlight here for young people is the popular Xi’an Saga International Shopping Mall, which is located at the northeast corner of the busy Xiaozhai Intersection.
Jiefang Road Area
Jiefang Road is one of the main roads in downtown Xi’an. The Xi’an Railway Station is located at the north end of Jiefang Road, which has retained its position as one of the busiest commercial areas in Xi’an since the 1950s, not least because of the landmark famous Xi’an MINSUN Jiefanglu Department Store. If you arrive empty-handed expect to leave loaded up.
Formerly named Xi’an Hi-tech Industries Development Zone, this area is Xi’an’s answer to Silicon Valley. After 30 years of development, it has established itself as an important commercial precinct in Xi’an. It abounds with shopping centers, cafes, restaurants, and international hotels. Among the long list are some stand-out choices: Gaoxin Wanda Plaza, Zhongda International Shopping Mall, the Golden Eagle Shopping mall, and Century Ginwa Gaoxin Shopping Center. Serious shoppers can easily pound the pavement in the Gaoxin area for a day.
Located in the southeast of Xi’an, Qujiang is a newly developed district that combines the arts, luxury shopping, and tourism. Sound like shopping heaven? Locals think so. Datang Everbright City, Xi’an Joy City, Qujiang Intime City, and Qujiang Creative Cultural Centre are all popular with Xi’anese and tourists alike.
Something different: Discover a shopping mall in Xi’an
If there’s one thing you can be guaranteed of while traveling around China it’s coming face to face with seriously big shopping malls. Catering to a vast population, it’s any wonder that shopping real estate appeals not only to investors but to the shoppers themselves. It would be fair to say that when it comes to visiting a shopping mall in Xi’an, the motto is ‘go big or go home’, because they are, well, really big. Here we share our ‘best of’ list for the shopper who prefers the latest and greatest in modern shopping experiences.
SAGA International Shopping Mall
SAGA International Shopping Mall
SAGA International Shopping Mall is the largest shopping mall in Xi’an and the leading shopping center in China’s northwest. Carrying a five-star rating, you’ll find the SAGA center in Xiaozhai, the center of south Xi’an. The highlights? The world’s biggest indoor waterfall, an eye-watering 80 lifts, a 50-meter long escalator, and 600 domestic and international brand stores.
Xi’an SKP is located near South Gate, just outside the Xi’an City Wall. This is the second SKP in China (the first was Beijing SKP) and it has quickly become the destination of choice for luxury and high-end fashion lovers. Fun fact: Sales on its first anniversary in April 2020 reached USD100 million.
Xi’an Kaiyuan Shopping Mall is located opposite the famous Bell Tower in the city’s center. If the shine of ‘everything new’ holds less appeal than something with more of an ‘old world’ feel, Kaiyuan Shopping Mall is for you. First opened in 1996, it has retained its appeal among local Xi’anese for exceptional quality.
Opened in December 2018, Xi’an Joy City makes our list because of the appeal it has for millennial shoppers (that’s right, those aged 18 to 35). Featuring a rooftop garden that provides a fabulous view of Big Wild Goose Pagoda, a giant statue of Monkey King, and a 3D ceiling LED art display, it’s certainly a destination for the young at heart.
We’re not sure where the name originated, however, City On has gained a reputation as a shopper’s delight. A complex of two hotels, a department store, office towers, and residential apartments, City On is like an all-in-one city. Located in the north of Xi’an, visit City On if you want everything in a single location.
Laochenggen G Park is a 3300 meter long open commercial block located near the northwest corner of Xi’an city wall. With a seemingly insatiable appetite for fashion and big brands, a younger Xi’anese crowd flock here to take advantage of popular global sports brands, a 24-hour food court, entertainment activities, and an open basketball court. Expect to find it as busy at night as it is by day.