The internet resources on Shaxi travel—and there aren’t many—all agree that the Friday market is the coolest thing to do in town. I’m not going to lie. I think the coolest thing in town was sitting still at a coffee shop and drinking a fancy-pants coffee drink, the likes of which can otherwise best be procured in the U.S. or Europe.
But the market was pretty cool, too.
We started out at the livestock market, on the edge of town along the Heihui River.
From the livestock market, we walked into town, which featured both a wet market (for produce and meat) and a household market.
It was really amazing to watch women set up their stands for market day. Most of the sellers had driven in from the surrounding region and had to unload huge quantities of produce from the back of trucks. This was almost exclusively the occupation of women, and the accompanying men stood by while women lugged these huge baskets. It was such an unusual division of labor.
I was also struck by the atmosphere. Despite the intensity of the work, the mood was almost festive. The women were chatting, laughing, and seemed generally happy to be there. The chatter would pause periodically as they’d center a load on one woman’s back or discuss where to place a table of produce. But otherwise, it was a very social, happy environment. To be honest, I felt a twinge of jealousy that these women could be so happy while doing such back-breaking labor.
Shoppers, for their part, carried their purchased goods in smaller baskets, which are very typical of the region.
Some of the foods at the market looked familiar, others less so.
The household market was also full of cool gear.
We came upon a booth selling dried animal products for medicinal purposes. At first, the woman said it was OK for us to take pictures, but we must have overstayed our welcome because she soon shushed us away and asked us to put down the camera. Oh well.
Many of the region’s ethnic minorities come to Shaxi’s Friday market, either to buy or sell goods. The ethnicities I thought I recognized included Bai, Lisu, Yi, and Naxi. While most of the men have adopted a more modern style of dress, the women often still wear traditional outfits. The textiles were amazing. Beadwork, embroidery, and delicately woven clothes and accessories enlivened the sea of shoppers.