What would I recommend to pack for China?
I just back from China about 10 days ago. I visited the cities of Beijing, Xi'an, Guillin, and Shanghai. I would say that the only things essential for you to take is medicine, money, passport, a few clothes, sunglasses, a sun-shade hat, good quality sneakers, and snacks that you like to eat and can sustain you when you are hungry and food is far away.
Don't forget to take sleep aid pills. I personally would not go beyond any natural herbal stuff to help me fall asleep while I am suffering from jet lag. I used the pills every night and they helped me sleep all night and be awake and energetic all day, every day for 8-9 days.
You should have a prayer/salah mat with you at all times. Although we were told by our guides not to pray in public, having a prayer mat helped out at our hotel rooms. There might be times when you need to pray outdoors somewhere and that mat will come in very handy. I usually carry with me the nylon-like pocket musalla which folds and fits into one's back pocket easily.
Other than that, most of your clothes should be bought over there, used over there, and discarded over there if you do not have space to bring them back.
A cell phone + charger + vpn is very important. Pleco is an offline chinese dictionary app. This can be extremely useful because the common people do not speak English and one cannot even take a taxi without speaking enough mandarin to be able to explain your viewpoint.
During my time there, it rained a lot. We bought Rain Poncho's but they were extremely cheap in quality. A good quality poncho might be a good idea to carry. I personally do not believe in carrying umbrellas especially since I am there to enjoy my time. I like my hands to be free.
What should you buy from China?
You will see nice decorative art all over. Since the RMB (Yuen) is 6.4 compared to the USD, I would buy things that hold value. I bought a very nice Jade vase. I also would have liked to buy some Animal skins that I saw for sale outside the Terra Cotta warriors and Horses Museum in Xi'an.
I regret not buying enough Chinese style shirts. They have a nice simple but elegant style in some of the chinese shirts. If I ever went back, I would buy them in many different colors. They can be worn on any pants and look very classy.
You might be approached by guys on the airport trying to sell latest iPhones out of a backpack. And there will probably be an unlimited number of them. They will show you a real Iphone. They will let you check the phone and check its IMEI number. It will be clear and the deal will look so good. What they do at the end is that they quickly swap the phone with another one which is not even worth $1 probably. So if you want to play that game, just understand that they are playing a game too and they are probably better at it. How do I know about this? Don't ask!
When I remember more things, I will update this article. In the meanwhile, if you have any questions, feel free to ask me.