Back to Front PageFeature StoryMenu BarBack to Front Page
Beijing Scene, Volume 5, Issue 22, August 20 - 26
39 Second Hand
Tattoos and groovy threads for urban rats

North Fake jackets and cashmere sweaters are among Beijing's better buys, but emerging rock stars and drama students are seriously handicapped by the lack of fashionable second-hand clothing in the capital.

This shortage is about to be remedied by a trio of hutong-bred Beijing kids, who are used to wearing hand-me-downs and would never spend their money on new Levi's. Graphic designer Li Yong (27), musician Gao Yang (23), and skatepunk Lu Jiankun (23) plan to use their streetwise proletarian chic to fill an empty fashion niche in Beijing with their own second hand clothing store and tattoo shop. 39 Second Shopping opens this week, offering customers quality vintage threads, skateboards, tattoos and other accessories essential for hip urban life.


39 Second Shopping is deep in a traditional alleyway in Xinjiekou at the northwestern corner of Beijing's ancient walled city. The shop is number 39B in 100 Flowers Hutong, hence the '39' in the name. The 'second' is not only for 'second hand', but also for the 39 seconds it will take you to pick out the threads of your choice, and for the yi which means number two in Mandarin and is usually rendered as 'B' in street addresses. 39 Second Shopping is surrounded by courtyard houses or ping fang that have not yet been branded by the ominous 'chai' character that means 'demolish' and signals the death-sentence of so many old buildings in Beijing.

39 Second Shopping's traditional building distinguishes itself from its more subdued neighbors with a four square-meter graffiti art work of a young Beijinger riding a mountain bike. Inside the courtyard, all four walls are covered with youth culture decorations ranging from 'Stay Punk!' slogans to Rastafarian flags depicting the jagged leaves of a well- known herbal medicine.

The two rooms of the shop are separated into a used-clothing shop and a tattoo parlor. The plan is to both buy and sell used clothes, using the resources of Beijing and Tianjin second hand markets as well as Beijing's large foreign student population. Gao Yang, whose own body is covered with ink from all over China, is most enthusiastic about the tattooing venture.
"It is really hard to get quality tattoos in China," he says. "My first tattoo was done in a beauty parlor by someone who did old ladies' eyebrows," he recalls, lifting his sleeve to reveal a six inch-long ink rendition of a dragon. Although Gao himself has tattooed several friends, the shop is hiring a professional artist from Hunan and has plans to import a quality tattooing machine from the US. Until it arrives, they'll be using the traditional Chinese machine, so be aware of health risks and tattoo at your own peril.

In preparation for the opening of their new shop, Gao, Li and Lu are painting the walls, collecting merchandise and making business plans day and night.

The three entrepreneurs used their savings to start up the business and fix up the shop that used to be home to Gao and his family when he was a small child. "I remember, when it was really cold in the winter, our entire
family used to sleep in one bed in this house," Gao says. "That was when my family started our first business," he says, "we used to sell yang rou chuan'r (roast lamb skewers) in the alleyway."

Graffiti murals and business plans have changed the old alleyway a lot since then. The influences of Channel V, smuggled CDs and pirated movies are irreversible. The 'three big necessities (san da jian) which used to be a watch, a bicycle and a sewing machine may soon become a skateboard (huaban), used jeans (jiu niuzai ku), and a tattoo (wenshen).

39 Second Shopping
39B Baihua Shenchu Hutong, Haidian District
(On the east side of the road, 600 m south of
Xinjiekou T-junction)
Tel: 1380-116-1151, 130-116-2051
Hours:12-7 pm


Previous Stories...


China's Cultural Underground Travel Scene Shopping Scene Classifieds Daily Events Guide CD Reviews Wine and Dine Guide FYI Ask Ayi Doctor Doctor Comrade Language cartoon News from the Chinese Press Book Reviews