A Chinese Touch for Your Garden

Last week at this time, I was spending the day with my just-married son, Alex Miller, and new daughter-in-law, Yan Zhang, in the Panjiayuan Antiques Market in Beijing’s Chaoyang District. It was the unwinding-day after their big wedding bash, and we were just having fun. (I’ll post more about the amazing Chinese-Jewish wedding celebration ceremony officiated by my rabbinical-student husband after the photos from the professional crew come in.)

It was my fourth trip to Beijing in the eight years that Alex has been living there. And the third visit in which I got to spend time with the delightful Yan. But this time, I was a new member of a big Chinese family, and the trip was more like living there than being a tourist. But people who live there also do touristy things like visit public gardens (watch for post about Behai Gardens later in the week) and go to “antiques” markets.

As everyone who’s been to China knows, the antiques are about as antique as the merchandise in Home Depot. But that’s OK. Just looking at all the great, cheap stuff, pondering choices, and bargaining could not be more fun. And since Alex knows I love to garden (and he got a big hug for sending me the stone Buddha that reposes among potted evergreens on the deck) Panjiayuan was his market of choice.

A Buddha is more than a decorative garden element. It represents a step on the path to enlightenment and is reputed to generate peaceful and contemplative energy.

Panjiayuan is Buddha Central. It is the largest flea market in Asia, home to more than 3,000 dealers from all over China who supposedly scour the countryside in search of antiques, family heirlooms and curios… or who buy or make imitations and spray them with fake dirt. Many sell in a huge tented area; others have small shops with (possibly) higher quality merchandise including furniture, porcelain vases and figurines, and jewelry boxes. Alex bought Yan a jewel box that looks like a miniature Ming Dynasty chest to hold her wedding pearls and earrings.

In the back of the market, which is surrounded by a ring of new high-rises, is the garden ornament area. You can wander around a half-acre of stone tables and chairs, pagodas, containers, plaques, and every sort of sculpted animal, especially foo dogs, the ultimate symbols of strength, energy, and home protection. The myriad Buddhas range from three or four inches tall to twelve feet. A shipping crew in a nearby booth will wrap, package and ship anything of any size anywhere.

What did I come home with? A green Buddha spoke to me. He’s pea green ceramic, with pea-like decorations on his pointy head. He seems to be content in his new digs (carried there in backpack), looking serene next to a Senecio mandraliscae “blue chalk fingers” and a Cercidiphyllum japonicum katsura tree seedling.

Panjiayuan Antiques Market
Southeast Third Ring Road
West of Panjiayuan Qiao, Chaoyang District
Mon-Fri 8.30 am – 6 pm, Sat-Sun 4.30 am – 6 pm

About writedesigner

Graphic designer, writer, and gardener Ellen Shapiro is based in Irvington, New York. A frequent contributor to design blogs and magazines including Print, Imprint, Salon.com, Communication Arts, and Etapes, she writes about trends, issues and personalities in design, illustration, photography, and visual culture around the world.
This entry was posted in Garden Design Projects, Travel-Asia and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to A Chinese Touch for Your Garden

  1. Ellen,

    What a wonderful post! Many congratulations again on the expansion of your family. I look forward to more stories from you and, one day, that cup of tea we’ve talked about.

  2. Thanks, Deb. Pick a day and let’s get together and have lunch!

  3. Ellen, mazel tov on your new Chinese family! As I love both flea markets and gardens, whoa, I would love to visit this place. Thanks for the great share. Your Buddha looks very happy in his new home!–Robin

  4. Pru Montgomery says:

    Congratulations, Ellen!
    And thanks for including us in on the shopping trip.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s