Tips for Purchasing from Taobao (and Other Chinese-Language Parts Suppliers)

Now that you’ve taken a 360º Walking Tour Through Shenzhen’s Huaqiangbei street with Naomi ‘SexyCyborg’ Wu, take this tour on Hackaday (also by Naomi!) for navigating, understanding, and translating Chinese-language parts supplier-websites. Reverse-searching from Chinese back into English to confirm you are looking at a “Double pole double button switch” and other tips are incredibly useful, as well as some good advice on things to avoid and other insight that applies more broadly to purchasing online. All in all a good read.

For hardware aficionados and Makers, trips to Shenzhen’s Huaqiangbei have become something of a pilgrimage. While Huaqiangbei is a tremendous and still active resource, increasingly both Chinese and foreign hardware developers do their sourcing for components on TaoBao. The selection is vastly greater and with delivery times rarely over 48 hours and frequently under 24 hours for local purchases it fits in nicely with the high-speed pace of Shenzhen’s hardware ecosystem.

For overseas buyers, while the cost of Taobao is comparable to, or slightly less than AliExpress and Chinese online stores, the selection is again, many, many times the size. Learning how to effectively source parts from Taobao will be both entertaining and empowering.

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