This small shop on the historic hutong, Guozijian Jie, sells beautifully painted traditional clay figurines, which make wonderfully affordable China souvenirs.
What makes this place stand out from other, similar shops, though, is that the lady who runs it sets up small tables and chairs outside the shop entrance so that customers can paint their own figurines. Young kids love it, although it’s not exclusively for children – you’ll often see adults mucking in too!
Just ask if you can “sigh hway” (paint) and the lady will bring you a small, plain clay model which you should then coat thickly in a white undercoat paste before painting in the colours of your choice. You can then take home whatever you paint. Typically a small, self-painted figurine costs ¥10 (although larger ones cost more). There’s no extra charge for the painting.
The professionally painted figurines, which also cost from just Â¥10 upwards, come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, but the main three types are as follows:
Beijing Rabbit Lord (pronounced “two arh yeah” in Chinese)
These tall-eared rabbit figures have been around since the late Ming Dynasty (17th-century) and are supposed to represent the Rabbit Lord who was sent down to Beijing by Chang’e (the Moon God) to protect the city from a deadly plague. The figurines now represent good health.
Tianjin Clay Figures ( pronounced “tyen jin knee ren” in Chinese)
Characterised by plump, playful childlike figures, these originated in the city of Tianjin around 180 years ago, and were first created by a famous sculpturer named Zhang Mingshen (1826-1906).
Shandong Roaring Tigers (pronounced “shan dong knee jyeow hoo”in Chinese)
Originating from the town of Gaomi in Shandong province, these clay tigers have a piece of sheep skin connecting their front and hind legs, which makes a roaring sounds when squeezed (young kids love these).
44 Guozijian Jie
Yonghegong Lama Temple (500m)