Shaxi’s Friday Market

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.

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Most cattle were walked to the market and tied to the fence.
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Take a look at the full-size Holstein on the left. Then compare to the water buffalo for sale on the right. Look at his hind legs. That thing is HUGE! And solid. It was simply a massive animal when you got up close.
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Observing cows from a safe perspective.
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Oh, little donkey! Run…hide! Don’t you know what they do to donkeys around here?
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This little piggy went to market, and this little piggy cried “wee wee wee” all the way home.
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View of the Heihui River from the outskirt of town.

From the livestock market, we walked into town, which featured both a wet market (for produce and meat) and a household market.

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Prepared foods for sale, deli-style.
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These eggs were beautiful. Can anyone explain why the yolks were so big?

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.

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The bag is filled with eggplant. Imagine how heavy it must be. Also, note that she steadies the basket with the strap wrapped around her forehead, a very common practice in the area.

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.

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More eggplant.
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Think for a moment about how heavy carrots are.

Shoppers, for their part, carried their purchased  goods in smaller baskets, which are very typical of the region.

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These woven bamboo baskets are, I suspect, the traditional style. I especially like the little feet to keep them off the ground.
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Equally popular were modern versions made from vinyl or other plastics. I really liked these and was sorely tempted to buy one, even though it’s entirely impractical for my life.
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If you’re in a bind, you carry most anything in a basket, I suppose.

Some of the foods at the market looked familiar, others less so.

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Mmm, a lovely, fresh carrot salad with… omg are those chicken feet?!?!
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Stacks of tofu for sale at the wet market.
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Red onions.
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Bitter gourd.

The household market was also full of cool gear.

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Old rubber tires have been converted into buckets. What an ingenious design!
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Pig feed, for all your pig needs.
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“Hey, buddy, got a light?”
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This booth sold pest-control products. I don’t mean to judge, really. But if you’ve got a rhino infestation in your kitchen, just don’t invite me to dinner.

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.

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Dried pipefish, a relative of seahorses.
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Unidentified turtle shell.
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There was a tray full of coiled snakes that had been filleted and dried.

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.


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