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beijing’s ghost market

In Uncategorized on January 9, 2011 at 7:13 pm

The New York Times Magazine hosted an article last week by Susan Conley on “Lives:  The Starter Buddha“.  In it, Conley outlines her anxious experience in acquiring a giant Buddha head which she later learned was a fake.  This lead us to wonder more about the Panjiayuan market in China also known locally as the “Dirt Market ” or  “Ghost Market”.  The name comes from the idea that original owners of the items being sold are now “long past”, and thus are now ghosts.

Panjiayuan Jiuhuo Shichang is said to be the shopping experience of dreams: endless rows of calligraphy, jewelry, ceramics, teapots, ethnic clothing, Buddha statues, paper lanterns, Cultural Revolution (Communist) memorabilia, wooden boxes, Ming- and Qing-style furniture, old pipes, opium scales, and painted human skulls.

The market runs Saturday and Sunday mornings at dawn or shortly after (hence the “ghost” label).  Vendors start to leave around 4pm. Initial prices given to foreigners are always high and require intelligent bargaining and negotiation.   A wonderful color travelogue type website that really gives you the feel of the place is here.

It started out as an unofficial flea market back in the early 90’s but has quickly grown in size and popularity. Panjiayuan’s treasure trove of antiques and oddities now has approximately 3,000 registered stall holders, 10,000 employees and up to 50,000 visitors on a busy day.  Maybe someday soon, we’ll see you there!

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