U.S-China Peoples Friendship Association Store. 1924 Eye St. NW. 463-6199.

So far the city's best glimpse of the affordable, uncommon export side of China comes from the U.S.-China Peoples Friendship Association's shop, set snugly in a basement spot that will probably be quickly outgrown. Little here is repetitive of the staple items of tourist shops and antique traders because the store relies primarily on the alertness of association members who carry back discoveries made on their trips to China. The freshness of these Chinese imports is seen especially in the detail work which sets them apart from the mass-produced cousins. The artists' hands have left their maraks on nearly everything here: the glass-encased landscapes hen from cork ($22 to $150), painted and etched bamboo boxes ($4 to $8), soapstone carvings of fu dogs posing as bookends ($6 and $15 each), painted and engraved table screens ($24), embroidered opera figures ($8), rosewood and teak jewelrey chests trimmed with brass and cloisonne and fitted with brocade-lined drawers ($40 to $85), and mother-of-pearl boxes with lalcquered interiors ($8). One of the shop's rarer beauties is a tree whose petals and leaves are sculpted from colored glass ($290). The shop imports other tokens of Chinese culture, including authentic tea cups with lids, stamp collectors' albums complete with a starter set of Chinese stamps, rice paper tomb rubbings, English-translation periodicals and children's books. As a nonprofit business, the shop uses proceeds from its sales to support the organizations slide shows, trips and other efforts to promote good will between the two countries.