» City specials
Markets seek heritage status
THE craze for intangible cultural heritage designation - leading to tourism - is going strong in Qingdao, Shandong Province, where two bustling daily goods and produce markets are seeking city-level listing as intangible culture sites.
The famous and popular Poli market and Wangcun market hope to be named sites of intangible cultural heritage, following the success of Licun Village in being listed as a local piece of intangible cultural heritage. Now Licun Village wants to be listed as provincial-level site of intangible cultural heritage.
Poli market emerged around 300 years ago when Poli Town arose in southwest Shandong Province. It's one of the oldest and biggest markets in Jiaonan City in Qingdao.
This is a busy time at the market. Almost everything, from daily necessities to food, can be found at the market.
It has more than 20 trading areas for clothing, shoes and socks, toys, calligraphy and painting, meat, vegetables, seafood, groceries, farm tools and hardware. The merchandise changes with the seasons.
At the southwest corner of the market, two seniors are hammering a red-hot piece of iron, the broken blade of a hoe, working like blacksmiths to repair worn-out and blunt farm tools.
"I have been repairing farm tools for more than 30 years, and we don't miss a single market day," says Chen Shanwei.
The fourth and ninth days of the Chinese lunar calendar are Poli market days. On other days, they visit households, fixing metal tools, sharpening knives.
The most boisterous time at the market is the Chinese Lunar New Year when the market is filled with traders selling Poli hongxi (mat woven with sorghum stalk), giving it a festive air.
Poli hongxi, a local specialty, features intersecting red and white patterns. Locals traditionally put the hongxi mats on kang (a traditional long sleeping platform made of bricks or other forms of fired clay or concrete) during the festival, since the tradition symbolizes joy and prosperity.
Poli market covers around 4.7 hectares. Trade volume exceeds 50 million yuan (US$7.9 million) on average every year.
Wangcun market dates back more than 400 years. Wangcun Town in Jimo City was the center of commerce, trade and industry and the town of rice and fish. In ancient times, vendors took agricultural products and fresh seafood to trade, giving rise to the market drawing people from neighboring areas.
It eventually became one of the largest fresh seafood markets in Jimo. During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), a number of time-honored brand stalls were established. Wangcun had a vigorous business culture. A set of coins in light green and deep purple was issued and circulated at the market as early as the mid-Qing Dynasty, facilitating trade for merchants and fishermen.
Today the market bustles. There are more than 2,000 stalls, attracting around 20,000 people a day. Daily trade averages around 12 million yuan.
The third and eighth days of the Chinese lunar calendar are Wangcun market days.
Construction of a new market, expected to be the largest seafood trade center in east Jimo, will begin this year, covering almost 9.5 hectares in the northwest tip of Wangcun Town.
It will incorporate an outdoor market, ancient-style architectural blocks and buildings as well as seafood processing and frozen storage facilities. More than 10 million yuan will be invested.
The aim of the new market construction project is to restore the flavor of ancient markets and the folk culture of visiting markets, making it a popular tourism and shopping center.
Compared with Poli and Wangcun, the Licun market is much "younger." It was built in 1892. But it is one of the most popular markets in Qingdao, partly because of its convenient location in the center of the city.
The bank of the Licun River is turned into temporary market on the second and seventh days of the Chinese lunar calendar, which are Licun market days. On those days there are long rows of stalls, selling everything from cars to embroidery needles and thread. Tens of thousands of people from around the city pack the market. During the Spring Festival there are as many as 10,000 stalls.
It's a favorite place for expatriates living in Qingdao to experience the traditional Chinese market.
There are flowers, birds, farm products, motorcycles, bikes, meat, rice, vegetables and clothing and a multitude of other items sold. Trade volume is more than 200 million yuan a year.
Stalls also sell local snacks such as zhizha, or fried pork jerky.
But experts say it won't be easy for Licun market, now a city-level cultural heritage site, to be listed as a provincial-level cultural heritage site.
"Traditional markets contain folk culture elements, but the province contains a raft of such markets, which are quite common," says Tian Qing, director of the Qingdao Folk Culture Association.