Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Panjiayuan Market

I spent yesterday with my jiuma (uncle's (Jiujiu) first wife) and her son, Mingyu, who's five years younger than me and preparing for college exams. He recently had nose surgery to clear a sinus to help him fine-tune his singing -- he's an operatic apprentice, which you'll see in the next post -- and his doctor advised him not to "use his mind too much" while recovering. I guess that's why he was hanging out with me.

First we went to KFC, which was, like all American fast-food joints in Beijing, two stories and packed. We were able to find a table and enjoy some crispy chicken wings though. I would post a picture of the experience, but it's a bit too banal.

This is better:

That's just inside the main gate of Panjiayuan, a "super shopping market for all Chinese arts and craft," according to the Beijing Guide. We arrived in the evening, near closing time, but that didn't stop us from wandering around. Below are a few of the things I deemed picture-worthy.

You won't be able to tell from afar, but both these framed pictures are stitcheries, both priced at about 300 Yuan (click on the picture for an enlargement and you might be able to see the handiwork).

Paintings and Mao's Little Red Book.

These I term "Bronze Lovers," and they speak for themselves -- the armless woman, mute, turns her head, breasts bare against the waning light, bashful at her companions' display of free love. From my vantage point, the enclasped figures are both women.

The thing on the motorcycle is a hog.

The market covers "4.85 hectares of land and accommodates over 3,000 stalls," according to China.org. The vast majority of those stalls were empty when we visited.

This was by far the coolest stall, where an old gentleman from Hebei had various bronze workings on display. Mingyu locked onto a couple of homemade bows, eventually buying the one pictured in his hand for 140 Yuan (a steal, according to our cab driver). The bowstring is made of cattle tendon, and the potential energy locked inside was impressive. We didn't shoot any passersby with our three arrows, despite strong inclinations to do so.

Crossbow and a bowl of goldfish.

The rest of the night is detailed in the next post.

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