Living in China you may be worried about what happens if your glasses break. Do you have to send home for a new pair and spend the waiting weeks feeling your way around, will you be able to get quality eyewear in China, will this be your big opportunity to become a blind kung-fu master? The answers to your questions are: no, yes, and it’s really up to you, respectively.
Look around you – if you haven’t yet broken your glasses, that is – loads of Chinese people wear glasses. There are likely more people in China wearing glasses than anywhere else in the world and there is also speculation that the amounts of studying Chinese children do drive these numbers even higher. These glasses have to be coming from somewhere and in Beijing there’s a good chance they’re coming from the glasses market – Mingjingyuan.
Located on the lower East 3rd ring road, Mingjingyuan is a market in the same way the Great Wall literally translates as ‘long wall’. Centered in a large 3 story building, the glasses market sprawls out into stores that encircle the building and then cross 8 lanes of ring road into another building full of glasses stores.
When you first enter the market you may think you’re seeing double: on your right – a glasses store, left – glasses store, straight head – glasses stores lining a corridor that cuts 90 degrees to form a corridor lined with… more glasses stores. And that’s just the view from entrance. It starts to look like there are enough glasses there for everyone in China.
Shopping at the glasses market is like shopping anywhere in China – you will be followed around by clerks of varying degrees of aggressiveness and told repeatedly to ‘look, look’. Do your best to shake your head, smile, and politely ignore them. Be firm but don’t be rude. Many of the stores will have someone who speaks enough English to help you.
It is always advisable to shop around but beware of burning yourself out. Leave a breadcrumb trail – you don’t want to find the perfect pair of frames and never be able to find your way back to them.
No prescription? No problem, almost every store has someone on hand to give you an eye exam. If you have your current glasses they can get a read off them and then check to see if your eyes have changed, or they can start from scratch. The woman who did my exam knew what she was doing – when I finally looked up astigmatism in my dictionary it turned out she had been saying it the whole time.
After you pick your desired frames you choose from different kinds of lenses. Different stores have different options and unless you know quite a bit about lenses you’ll just have to pick the price you feel most comfortable with. Lenses can range from 80 yuan to 600 yuan before discount.
There is always a discount. Before you even ask they will haul out the big chunky calculator and knock 40 percent off the price. Although you’re already getting a better price than you would in the western world you don’t need to stop there. The easiest way to do it is name a lower price, if they say no walk away and wait to see if they call you back. If they don’t, try another slightly higher price. If you by more pairs you can probably wrangle more discount.
Lenses are ground onsite – you can smell the burning glass – and are usually ready in 20 to 60 minutes.
Be sure to enjoy yourself, stay calm, and not get lost in the maze of glasses stores. It’s a remarkable place and can be a lot of fun when it’s not an optometric emergency – if you’re in Beijing plan to go in advance so when your pair breaks you’ve got a backup.
A list of stores, directions, and more can be found on the Mingjingyuan English website
No.43 Huabei Li, Chaoyang District
Tel：010-87730786 | 67780460
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