When you walk into a qualified Zhongguo laozihao (China Time Honoured Brand), whether it's a drug store, a shoe or silk shop, a restaurant or a furniture manufacturer, you are entering more than a commercial establishment. Quite often, you will find that you are stepping back and stepping forward in time in the same instant.
This is certainly the case with the Beijing Arts & Crafts Marco Polo Trading Company Limited (Marco Polo), located on Sanjianfang Donglu north of the Shuangqiao Station on the Batong Line of the Beijing Subway, between Chaoyang Lu and Chaoyang Beilu in eastern Chaoyang District. Entering this dazzling paradise of traditional works of art and crafts from all over China proved some of the hype about the store to be true: it is truly an arts and crafts museum, not just a simple trading company for antiques, collectibles, art and crafts.
When he served as the director of the Liaison Office of the United States in China during the 1970s, former US President George H.W. Bush reportedly added a twist to a saying often repeated by visitors to Beijing when he said there are three things a visitor must do when visiting Beijing: "Climb the Great Wall, eat Beijing Roast Duck and shop at Sanjianfang." The Marco Polo (Mao Long) shop on Sanjianfang Donglu, though a bit remote, receives numerous visitors from both at home and abroad, including governmental VIPs, social celebrities and business customers.
Zuo Anli, manager of the Marco Polo, which has a shop of the same name in Great Britain, said, "Most older Chinese and Englishmen know that Marco Polo is an importer and exporter of fine art and craft collections that they can rely upon." The stores' staffs in China and in the United Kingdom know what they can and what they cannot import and export legally and are authorized to engage in this business. The Marco Polo shop in China was founded by two Chinese, Huang Xiangyu and Jin Zhuoyun, and an Englishman, A. R. Porter, in 1946, basing the name of their store on the name of the legendary Italian traveller Marco Polo. Since its founding, the Marco Polo shop has enjoyed a reputation for outstanding service and high quality, two factors that have helped it weather economic prosperity and recession. Formerly, the shop mainly served the foreign staff of embassies to China. Now, it has survived as the only China Time Honoured Brand in the foreign trading industry of this time.
The Marco Polo shop settled in Sanjianfang after several moves during the last century from its original location in Dongjiao Minxiang. In early 2005, the renovated Marco Polo shop was officially opened to the public. The five-floor new Beijing Arts & Crafts Marco Polo Art Centre is one of a kind with more than 10,000 high-class works of art and crafts from all around China and abroad. The company's sales focus has changed; it now serves ordinary people in addition to foreigners.
Zuo said, "Regardless whether visitors buy something or not, we welcome their visit to our arts exhibition just the same."