Taiping Jie (太平街)
Most of Changsha was destroyed by fire in 1938, so the number of actual old buildings is very small. But that hasn’t stopped city planners from rebuilding Taiping Jie as an “ancient street” and tourist attraction. The street now boasts a hit-or-miss collection of shops, and it is probably the best place to come for your Changsha souvenirs. As you enter the street from Wuyi Lu, the first shop on the left sells batik textiles from western Hunan. The store next door sells some of the prettiest silver jewelry I have seen in China. (The nice stuff is in the display case at the back.) Made by the Miao minority group, it is similar to what you can find in Guizhou Province. Further down the street, several shops specialize in Hunanese tea and other edibles, including various spicy sauces.
Taiping Jie is the last bus stop on Wuyi Lu (五一路) before the bridge. It is just a couple of blocks west of Wuyi Guangchang (五一广场), the main commercial square. [June 2009]
The “Walking Street” — Buxing Jie (步行街)
If you want to see how Changsha — hardly a major city by Chinese standards — could possibly have more than 6 million residents, look no further than Buxingjie on a Saturday afternoon. This is the main destination for locals looking to “guang jie”: to window shop. It tends to be incredibly crowded, and it is packed with brands that can be found elsewhere in the city. But if you can tolerate the crowds, it is quite a glimpse into China post-”Reform and Opening Up.”
Buxingjie is one long block south of Wuyi Guangchang (五一广场). [June 2009]
You’re not going to find any fancy brands or local souvenirs at Dingwangtai. This is the place to come for your fake DVDs, CDs and your wacky stationery and decorations. The four-story mall is housed in a huge white-tiled building. The main entrance — right across the street from the bus stop — is on the second-floor, where most of the DVD sellers are. You can find almost any American movie or TV show, as long as you’re persistent. If you have trouble finding what you’re looking for, write down the title and show it to one of the workers. They may be able to help you find it. Depending on quality, you will pay between 4 and 10 RMB per disc.
On other levels, you will find small electronics, paper goods and books. There is a large bookstore on the fourth floor that has a few English books, mostly classics.
Dingwangtai is a few stops east of Wuyi Guangchang on the 202 bus line. The stop is named Dingwangtai. [June 2009]
Hunan Provincial Museum Shops
If you are looking for souvenirs and presents to take back home, the Hunan Provincial Museum is probably the best place to go. There are a bunch of small stores all over the museum selling reproduction lacquerware and bronzes, in addition to scarves and other small gift items
The museum is located at 50 Dongfeng Lu. Take buses 109 or 303 from Wuyi Guangchang, or direct your taxi driver to 湖南省博物馆 (Hunan Sheng Bowuguan). Admission to the museum became free in fall 2008, but you need to show your passport to get in. [June 2009]