KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
I have been to many markets in my travels, but I was totally unprepared for the wonder of the Panjiayuan Market in Beijing. Tamara told us about it when we met for lunch before leaving Edmonton and it stuck in my mind because she referred to it as the Dirt Market. Apparently, it is situated on what was once a mound of dirt at the end of the city. Shortly after the end of the Cultural Revolution, people began to dig up treasures that they had hidden from the Red Guards and offered them for sale from blankets placed on the ground on the pile of dirt. For short, it became known as the weekend dirt market.
Today, the city extends far south of the market and it has a formal name based on the name of the road at the front gate - Panjiayuan Lu. It is still primarily a Sunday market but some stalls are open during the week and there is a lot of action on Saturdays as well. There are beautiful permanent buildings, a large roof over another section and then on Sunday, every available corner of the market is packed with sellers who only arrive for the Sunday shoppers.
What is truly amazing is the sheer volume and variety of things for sale. Whole stalls are often dedicated to only one type of antique or handicraft. It is a veritable feast for the eyes. After spending all Saturday afternoon there, I had to return again on Sunday morning to get another "fix". David and Jeong Ae were as keen as me, but Anil begged off.
Anil's Note: At home, when I hear the word "markets", I think of the Dow Jones, Nasdaq, and the TSX, and you can get your "fix" on the internet. So, the idea of getting up at the crack of dawn to go to the "dirt market" made me seek alternatives.
Instead, he went to the Tuan Jie Hu Park near our hotel for a morning with the other over-sixty retirees. When we returned at noon, he was as excited about his morning at the park as we were about the treasures we had photographed at the market. His eyes twinkled as he told us about an old man, who appeared to be a master of calligraphy, demonstrating his skills to others in the park. He had a huge calligraphy brush that he dipped in water and then wrote the most amazing script on grey, stone pavement. It appeared as though he was creating a huge poster but within minutes, the water dried and the image disappeared. Then it was time for his students to give it a try.
There were old men with their bird cages, one old guy playing a two-stringed instrument while an older lady sang and one danced, people doing Tai Chi and all forms of exercises, and a large group of people in a sing-along. There was even a group of six playing "hackey-sack" and all were Chinese women over fifty! Anil sat down on a park bench reading the China Daily in English while the guy next to him read the Chinese version. He thought about renting a paddleboat but the sign read "Anyone under 12 or over 60 could not go alone but must be guided by a guidance person".
It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. If that is so, then what are 101 pictures worth? I know it might seem excessive but I couldn't resist sharing most my photos of the market with you. Perhaps these alone will entice you to make a trip to China yourself.
We are thrilled with everything we have seen and done and the people are some of the nicest we have met anywhere. It is often said that people in cities are less friendly and helpful that those in the countryside. If that is the case in China, then we are in for a wonderful three months because our first three weeks couldn't have been more enjoyable.