BEIJING -- When Tang Qiliang began selling handmade toys in the 1970s, children rushed to buy the fur-covered rabbits and tiny clay mice his family made.
But this year, as today's Lunar New Year holiday approached, parents mostly bypassed his family's store on a quiet Beijing backstreet.
They headed instead for Wal-Mart and other large retailers to buy the season's hot gifts: Transformers action figures and remote-controlled cars.
The failing fortunes of the store, a business the Tang family has run for five generations, is just one example of how traditional culture is fading in the face of globalization.
Most of the change has been driven by China's economic reforms: As China has become richer - growing its economy 11-fold since 1980 - the world's largest retailers have poured into the market to tap surging consumer spending.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which built its first store in China in 1996, now runs 101 stores, including 30 opened last year. Carrefour SA, the French retailer, operates 109 stores, including one in Beijing so crowded with holiday shoppers this week that many people couldn't find shopping carts and jostled in long lines.
At the same time, increasing numbers of foreign television programs and movies have stoked demand for foreign-designed products. The best-selling toy this week at the New China Children's Store, a large toy store on one of Beijing's most popular shopping streets, has been Transformers action figures, said Wang Yu, a manager at the store.
"Mostly, kids just want whatever they've seen on television," she said.
In a nation whose very name is synonymous with a world-famous handicraft - china - the shift has pushed most artisans out of business.
In the 1980s, it was common to see crafts people selling their goods door-to-door, especially during the Chinese New Year, when Chinese families decorate their homes with auspicious paintings and paper cuttings.
Today few artisans can compete with stores selling cheaper, factory-made goods and most have gone out of business, said Xie Wendong, owner of a small Beijing store that sells some handicrafts, though mostly to foreigners.
The economic pressures on China's toy makers have been particularly strong.
Sitting in the Bannerman Tang's Toy Shop Tuesday, Tang Yujie, who manages the business that her great-great-grandfather started, estimated that only 20 toy makers continue to work in the city and said her family keeps the shop open "more as a hobby than for profit."
"Kids today want toys that are flashy and make sounds," she said. The demand has almost disappeared for the playthings on display at the shop - colorful paper kites, lifelike puppets and dollhouses modeled on traditional Chinese courtyard homes.
Tang worries that China has lost one of a few remaining links with its traditional culture. Holding up a small sculpture of a clay rabbit, she explained that few younger Chinese today understand the story of Lord Hare, a Chinese deity believed to have saved Beijing from a plague in ancient times.
Another toy in the shop, a gold-colored horse with a fur mane, had traditionally been sold in Buddhist temples on the second day of each lunar year as a talisman thought to bring wealth. But few Chinese now learn about traditional symbols, she said.
Globalization, however, has not been all bad for the Tang family. One of Tang Yujie's nephews works as a business manager at a foreign-run company while another earns $1,500 a month as a computer technician, a high salary in Beijing.
None of the youngest Tangs chose to learn the craft of toy making and Tang Yujie admitted that when she grows too old to make toys, their family tradition probably will die out.
"Globalization has been good for China, but we should also remember that there is value in our traditional culture," she said.