The city of Kunming is a shopper's paradise. Its streets and plazas are filled with shopping malls, department stores, chain-store supermarkets, and specialty boutiques. Unlike the typical American city, where shopping malls are generally located on the fringes of the city, the shopping malls of Kunming are located in the city center, with only short distances separating each shopping mall. Three of the principal streets where shops and shopping malls are concentrated – all three conveniently centrally located – are Qingnian Road, Dongfeng Road and Zhengyi Road, making duty-free shopping a breeze for foreign tourists.
The flower markets in Shangyi Street are quite famous. The florists there sell their wares by weight, so one can buy as little as a single rose. There is a flower & bird market in Jingxing Street, with numerous market stalls and shops run by ethnic minorities where one can buy all manner of ethnic handicrafts, including flowers and even live birds. Kunming is renowned for its handicrafts such as wood carvings, Burmese jade and other stone items. The food specialty shops of Kunming also offer many unique food and health-food items (aka Medicinal Foodstuffs) that are not available elsewhere in China, including tropical fruits.
Below is a list of some of the most popular handicrafts that the tourist will encounter in Kunming.
The Wax Print
The art of producing wax prints is an ancient tradition among many ethnic minority groups in the area. The artisans of the Kunming area weave themes relating to their respective cultures into their handicrafts. The wax prints of Yunnan Province, not unlike similar wax prints produced by ethnic groups elsewhere in China, are very colorful, with unique and complex geometric patterns as well as naturalistic representations. Surprisingly, the average price for a wax print in Kunming is very affordable – some selling for as little as 15 Yuan each. Learn more about Chinese Wax Printing.
The Sani Handbag
The Sani Handbag is made by the women of the Sani ethnic group, a branch of the Yi ethnic minority in Yunnan Province. Thanks to the preservation of the group's ancient handicraft traditions, Sani women excel in spinning, weaving and embroidering. The Sani Handbag, famous the world over for its superb craftsmanship and its intricate and exquisite patterns and designs, represents the epitome of Sani handicraft skills. The Sani Handbag, which sells for roughly 30 Yuan, is also comparatively cheap, considering that it is not only a work of art, but is intended for practical use as an attractive handbag.
The women of the Dai ethnic minority are skilled in the art of weaving, and excel in weaving silk brocade in particular. Dai women are responsible for some of the most elaborate brocade designs produced in China (note that brocade, or tapestry, is used in many applications, including curtains, pillow cases, sofa coverings and wall tapestries – and in Imperial China, silk brocade, usually richly laced with gold thread, was used to produce bling-like robes, jackets and other outer clothing). Tourists will find a wide variety of Dai brocades in shops and ethnic vending stalls along the streets of Kunming. The price quite naturally varies depending on the size of the item, its materials (some may still include gold) and the complexity of its design. However, one can usually buy a quality brocade for as little as 100 Yuan, perhaps a little less depending on the seller's willingness to bargain.