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Liulichang (Glass Street) is a charming old street, best known for good quality antiques, books and paintings. It has been completely restored, and the high concentration of shops, many privately owned, make it an attractive place to wander in, even if you do not intend to buy anything.

Glass Street was established over 500 years ago in the Ming Dynasty. Initially it was the site of a large factory which made glazed tiles for the Imperial Palace.

Gradually other smaller tradesmen began to cluster around, and at the beginning of the Qing, many booksellers moved there. The area became a meeting place for intellectuals and a prime shopping district for art objects, books, handicrafts and antiques.

In 1949, Liulichang still had over 170 shops, but many were quickly taken over by the state. Inevitably, much of the street was ransacked during the Cultural Revolution. Following large-scale renovation of the traditional architecture, the street reopened in 1984 under the policy that the shops should only sell arts and crafts and cultural objects. The street is a mixture of state-run and privately-owned shops. You will be encouraged by owners of the latter to step inside, browse and bargain. Staff in state-run shops have a minim um price for stock so it is acceptable to bargain here as well. Shops that accept credit cards and have the largest amount of English signage will also be the most expensive.

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