Where to find Chinese Qing and Ming ancient dresses in Beijing : Geng Zhi Tang, Gaobeidian village

 

For fashion history lovers and style addicts, the Chinese traditional clothes that you find in most of the Beijing markets and shops can be a harsh disappointment: bad quality silk, sick flashy colors, poor mechanical sewing, ugly cuts…   At some point, one may think that during the past decades, the rich Chinese tradition of luxury craftwork has been forgotten and lost, forever.

As for many things in China, a second look is necessary to understand that things are not that simple:  if you methodically investigate among the hundreds of thousands of shops in Beijing, you will realize that some proud craftsmen and tailors are still there with their skills intact, ready to perpetuate the tradition (actually, to find them, too often you’ll have to rely on pure luck, this is not a world that opens itself easily in full daylight, and guides, mixing everything up, are not a great help).

Gaobeidian Beijing China ancient qing dress costume

Mr. Wang in his shop in Gaobeidian Village

 

Perpetuating the luxury silk weaving and Chinese embroidery traditions

Mr. Wang Qi (王淇)  is one of these people you are looking for in China, truthful to the thousands of years of a magnificent Chinese clothing history. Sixteen years ago, he followed his father steps and specialized himself in Chinese historical dresses. He owns a workshop where amazingly subtle silk embroidery is hand-made under the authority of his wife and where Ming and Qing dynasties weaving machines exact replicas are used to produce cloths and fabrics.

You can meet Mr. Wang in his shop located inside Gaobeidian classic furniture village. You could easily miss it, the place has one storey but is not very large, and is bathed in a soft dim light to prevent sunrays from damaging the precious dresses.  Do not be afraid and get inside. Actually, it kind of looks like a Chinese shop as you would imagine it in a novel about ancient China, with treasures piled at the corners of the rooms in an apparent mess, an impression which proves wrong since Mr. Wang can talk in details about every one of the artifacts that are gathered there.

Qing dynasty nobility genuine collection dresses

Mr. Wang is a collector of genuine ancient dresses, like his father before him.  Thanks to networks established through familial tradition, he still can find some original dresses, sometimes 200 years old and occasionally sells some of them. Such items are very rare, and the prices are high, you need at least 70,000 RMB to be able to buy one of those, and the prices can go up to more than 100,000 RMB. For such prices, it would probably be wise to have some knowledge about Chinese dress history in order to precisely know what you are buying, to what extent the dress is genuine and how it was preserved and restored. Nevertheless, the least you can say is that the dresses are magnificent; you can visit Mr. Wang’s shop as a kind of museum and a rare opportunity to have a direct look on ancient Beijing costumes.

Qing dynasty dresses in Gaobeidian

 

 

Ming and Qing dynasties costumes exact replicas

If your budget is more reasonable, you still can find great costumes there. Mr Wang and his family craft truthful replicas of the ancient clothes, most of them in Ming and Qing dynasties’ style. You can find these silk embroidered clothes at prices beginning at 5,000 RMB, the upper limit depending on the amount of work that was necessary to achieve it.

Special dresses and replicas can be ordered and tailor made with the fabrics you wish.  Mr. Wang is now more familiar with Ming and Qing dresses, because these are the more fashionable among his customers, but depending on your requirements, he might be able to recreate dresses from other time periods such as the Tang and Song dynasties.

The most beautiful replicas are processed on demand, because of the amount of work needed.   Mr. Wang acknowledges that he is now a bit reluctant about producing replicas of the Imperial family dresses, because of the time that is necessary to achieve such a work and the unbelievable complexity of the patterns and embroideries, but anyway, he has already reproduced some of them, and if you want one, just ask him about it!

Silk weaving machine replica

 

Silk Panels embroidered on both sides

Another type of artifact produced in Mr. Wang’s shop is Chinese traditional panels embroidered in such a way that they can be looked at both sides indifferently.  The weaving technique requires very high craftsmanship mastery, and everything is hand made. These panels can represent various subjects, such as Chinese traditional patterns, classical paintings or Buddhist pantheon characters.  This is an amazing Chinese tradition that Mr. Wang and his family perpetuate with pride, knowing that every one of these panels amounts to months of work.

Buddhist Silk Embroidery

 

A Chinese customer base

Advertisement is not Mr. Wang strong point; his customers come to his shop because of hearsay and recommendations.  The majority of his clients are very rich Chinese citizens interested in the revival of the Chinese traditional culture. Besides, Mr. Wang sometimes works with Chinese museums such as the Beijing Capital Museum. He seldom does dresses for Chinese movies since his dresses standards are very high and are unaffordable in large numbers for most productions, and there is no Beijing opera dress here, for the same reason that nowadays they tend to wear cheaper and simpler costumes.

If you are interested, it would be better to come with someone speaking at least a little bit of Chinese since Mr. Wang English skills are quite basic. In any case, his shop is really worth a visit, all the more that it is in the core of Gaobeidian classical furniture village which makes it a great opportunity to discover the revival of Chinese luxury craftsmanship around.

耕織堂Gēng  zhī  tang

北京市朝阳区高碑店古典家具老街101号

Beijing, Chaoyang district, Gaobeidian Classical Furniture Old Street, n. 101

Tel :    13366661199 (mobile) or 010-85760993

 

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