My Chinese Flea Market Temple
One of the most wonderful things about traveling is the opportunity to find absolutely mystical places: temples, natural wonders or spectacular vistas. Here’s one of my magical spots… a flea market in China.
My first mystical Asian moment was at Wat Arun Temple in Bangkok. The indescribable beauty and splendor of that place made me speechless and overwhelmed, almost teary eyed. The next time it happened was at Panjiayuan Market in Beijing, China. That’s right, at a market (the „antique” section is open all week, even though I would not recommend hunting for real antiques there, the flea market part opens during weekends). I wanted to go for the full experience, so it had to be the weekend. That meant horrible traffic jams, honking cars, bikes and people cramming everywhere, small sacrifice, though. Fortunately the market place was big enough to accommodate the crowds still leaving some breathing space.
When I went inside it happened again, the speechlessness, the open mouth, the weak knees and teary eyes (the fact that aesthetically I am a Chinophile might have had something to do with it). I entered a surreal place that I thought was heaven, but it wasn’t. Looking at rows and rows of amazing embroidered fabrics and robes, hand painted ceramics, precious stones medallions, calligraphy brushes, wood carvings…I felt overwhelmed rather that happy. Too much choice, too much beauty, and what’s worse, all for sale. My wonderful boyfriend (probably seeing exasperation in my eyes) said: „Just get what you like!” The problem was I liked everything, I wanted everything…and I never wanted to leave. Having to choose one thing hurt just like it hurt looking at old hand embroidered robes being chopped into pieces and sold separately, just like meat. After a few hours spent wandering round the stalls, after my boyfriend gave up and sat at a nearby cafe I was still insatiable. I knew I would have to leave at some point. So I promised myself I would come back the next day. And I did, much better prepared, i.e. with a camera. It dawned on me that I didn’t really want to own everything, I simply wanted a visual memory , so that all the patterns, colors and shapes would not fade away (I know it might seem a bit superfluous problem, but hey, I have a creative blog, it surely wasn’t superfluous to me). So instead of buying everything I took photos, several hundred of them. Suddenly everything was all right, I would be taking it all back home, after all. With a much lighter heart I bought a few tokens and even managed to photograph my DIY jacket (I hand embroidered it with plenty of different embellishments looking like vintage brooches) among the Chinese fabrics. The locals loved my jacket and took plenty of photos of me in it. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a few (million) copies made already, the Chinese are a very entrepreneurial nation 😉 They are also very pragmatic. So immediately after they congratulated me on the jacket by pointing to it and putting their thumbs up (amazing how universal this sign is) they asked: „How you wash this?” Smile. No idea, yet.
Finally, there came a point where I was ready to leave, quite voluntarily , too. Happy end , after all…with a priceless experience attached. If you want to see more photos from the market go here or here. If you would like to see more photos from my parka on tour go here. And if you ever visit Beijing, defintely go to the Panjiayuan market…unless it’s not your kind of thing