Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

From our diary: August 2003

Anshun 安顺 is a medium sized city in the western part of the Chinese province of Guizhou.
Having a spot of Lunch at Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

China has changed so much and so rapidly over the last twenty years that trying to make sense of what has been happening can be almost impossible. In such a short space of time China has been catapulted from a largely agrarian society into a modern industrial and high tech country. While pockets of old China remain, evidence of modernization reaches even the most remote corner.

Trader with weighing tools Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

The Chinese have a saying: If the old doesn’t go, the new won’t come ( 旧的不去,新的不来, jiù de bù qù , xīn de bù lái ). Nowhere is this saying more appropriate than when used to describe the virtual disappearance of the Sunday Farmers Market in Anshun; a quirky barometer to show just how far and fast China has changed.

Poor horse: Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

just over a decade ago hordes of peasants, farmers and merchants, who made make up a vast array of a jack of all trades, would descend upon the Sunday market in Anshun in their thousands to sell their wares and ply their goods:

Fish net seller: Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

Some would produce their wares on the spot; basket makers, tobacco pipe craftsmen, chili sauce grinders all jostled for space with sellers of human hair, street dentists and Taoist soothsayers.

Hair seller: Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

Professional pickpockets took advantage of non-too street wise peasants from the countryside to relieve them of their hard earned profits.

Dentist: Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

It was organized bedlam that now, due to modernization, has been reduced to a few dilapidated streets and left waiting for the final death knell.

Traders:Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

Below is our account from our diary of the first of our three visits to Anshun’s Sunday Market 安顺星期七农民市场. Some of the photos are from our later visits in 2005 and 2007.

Anshun 2003 安顺星期七农民市场

Pipe smaker:Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

The receptionist looked at us with a puzzled expression and asked: “What market?”.

Pipe smoker: Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

“The Sunday market”, I replied, almost in despair, in my faltering Chinese. My spoken Chinese tends to lose a lot of its coherence when the reply to a question is not at all what I’m expecting.

Farmer: Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

“There are some good shops near the bus station, all the tourists go there”, she insisted.

“No not those; we have already seen those”, I responded.

Household goods seller:Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

“Oh I don’t know. There is a  local market where all the villagers come to buy and sell their products, but you wouldn’t be interested in that one; there are no souvenirs, or anything else for foreigners to buy”.

More Pipe smoking: Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

“Yes, that’s the one!”. I could have given her a hug. “How do we get there?”

Location.

Street Scene:Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

The city of Anshun, a mere two-hour bus ride away from Guiyang, the capital of Guizhou province, is a pretty ordinary modern town.

Chilli Crushers: Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

Nowadays, its new concrete buildings are encroaching relentlessly upon the few remaining pockets of old wooden architecture.

Peasants: Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

However, we had been told that Anshun’s Sunday market was well worth seeing and, as it turned out, we were not disappointed.

Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

Compressed into the north-western part of town, the market mostly follows one long street, spilling over into side streets and small squares.

Basket weaver Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

All goods are rigorously divided into sections: there is a square for vegetables and chillies, an alley dedicated to tobacco and pipes, a hairdressers’ and dentists’ corner, streets full of artisans, another square where carpenters work on wooden and wicker furniture, etc. etc.

Buying bamboopoles:Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

Fascinating artisans.

Watching the artisans at work is fascinating, especially now that so many of the old trades have become redundant and have almost disappeared from the modern cities.

Here, you can still observe street dentists extracting a tooth, see people having their bodies cupped, or watch a bearded sage selling ancient Taoist tracts.

Taoist Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

You can try and guess which of the five bamboo poles that the farmer is carefully inspecting and testing, he will eventually buy. Marvel at how quickly the wicker workers can put together a chair or a basket.

Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

Encourage groups of young men pounding mounds of chillies into a pulp. Work out how much that mass of human hair, lying on a set of portable scales, might be worth.

Broom seller:Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

Finally, you might also catch a professional pickpocket at work, using a giant pair of tongs to extract a purse or wallet from his unsuspecting victims.

Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

A sea of blue.

Bouyi Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

However fascinating the artisans are, the real highlight of this market are the people. Anshun is the heartland of the Bouyi ethnic group, whose origins are Thai, and who are related to Guangxi’s Zhuang nationality.

Sellers in the rain Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

Many of the Bouyi, as well as a few Miao, come to the market, dressed in their Sunday finest, for a few hours of hectic buying and selling.

Choosing the right bamboo pole Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

Most of the women wear indigo blue tunics over baggy black trousers and aprons. On their heads they wear black or white headscarves, folded into small turbans.

Trendy Minorities Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

A few of the younger Bouyi girls wear brighter colours, such as turquoise or light-green, and combine their traditional clothes with high-heeled shoes, creating quite a stylish and fashionable look.

Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

The older men tend to dress in blue Mao jackets and cloth caps. Many of them have distinguished long grey wispy beards and smoke elongated and extravagantly carved pipes.

Hairdresser Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

Try and find a quiet spot from which to observe this blue-grey sea of shoppers and traders, pushing and shoving their way through the jam-packed, narrow streets.

Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

Most of the time you will pass unnoticed, as the people are so engrossed in their shopping; other times you might become the actual focus of attention, as many of the Bouyi from further afield have rarely seen foreigners.

Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

What to eat

Horse chao Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

Food at the Sunday market is not that appetising: fiery dog- meat hot pots and other such local specialities very much dominate the menu.  It might be worth waiting for the excellent daily night market to set up its stalls to enjoy a decent meal.

Spice Seller Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

What to buy

Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

Finally, as far as shopping is concerned, our receptionist was right: apart from the delicately carved tobacco pipes and rustic wicker products the market hasn’t got much to tempt travellers with.

Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

If you really want to buy something in Anshun, you are better off going to the shops on Nanhua Lu, next to the bus station.

Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

Here you can find a good selection of Batiks, a Bouyi and Miao speciality, such as wall hangings, table cloths, ethnic jackets and bags at a fraction of the price you will be charged in touristy places such as Kunming or Dali, or around Beijing’s Houhai lake.

Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

Other Anshun Attractions

Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

The countryside surrounding Anshun is dotted with Karst Mountains, jutting out the ground, with the medieval, stone villages of the Bouyi nestled in between. Some of these, such as Shitou Zhai and Tianlong, have become tourist attractions in their own right and can easily be visited by bus.

Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

Moreover, some 64 kilometres from Anshun is Guizhou’s number one tourist site and China’s most famous waterfall, Huangguoshu. In full flood the waterfall is a spectacular sight, while the surrounding area, with other, smaller falls and little villages, offers wonderful opportunities for walking and exploring.

Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

Practicalities:

Coming and going:

Basket sellers Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

Anshun is easily reached by frequent buses from Guiyang. It is also on the Guiyang – Kunming train line. Moreover, buses link Anshun to the interesting town of Xingyi (starting point for exploring the Maling Canyon) and other destinations in the remote western part of Guizhou.

Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

Update; Anshun is now connect by high-speed trains to various parts of China.

Places to stay:

Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

In recent years, Anshun has been put firmly on the Chinese tourist trail, not for the market but because of the waterfalls, and hotel prices have risen accordingly.

Bamboo pole anybody? Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

Bear in mind that at weekends and especially during the summer months the city can get quite full and finding a reasonably priced room may take a while. Most of the hotels that feature in the popular guidebooks seem to be eternally full.

Fruit and eel sellers Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

We stayed at the clean, bright and friendly Huayou Binguan n Tashan Xilu (tel. 322 6020) , excellent value for 150 Yuan. The hotel is in the centre of town, to the left of the roundabout on Tashan Donglu. Unfortunately, it was completely full on our last visit.

Teeth for sale: Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

In 2007 we really had a hard time finding a room. Eventually we were pointed to the huge Fu Yun Hotel, right next to the bus station on Guihuang Gonglu lu. Light, airy rooms, arranged around an atrium, were 210 Yuan, a modest breakfast included. Staff were extremely friendly.

Anshun’s special reed pipes. Now very expensive Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

Other cheap options that may have vacancies are the Ruo Fei Binguan on Nanhua Lu, and the Anju Binguan next to the train station.

Places to eat in Anshun:

For photos of Anshun night Market click here on Shitou Zhai and scroll down.

More pipes Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

There are restaurants all over town, but nothing beats the night market. Try one of the many tents, where you can roll your own pancakes with an incredible selection of cold vegetables, pickles and noodles. The hot pots are good too, though they are not for those with a weak stomach. The food is spicy enough in Guizhou to rival any of its neighbouring provinces, such as Sichuan or Hunan. 

Garlic Seller Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

For vegetarians there is a real treat, something that seems unique to Anshun: at the top end of Gufu Jie there are two tents that specialise in vegetable pancakes. For 4 Yuan you get ten small pancakes that you can stuff with any of the vegetable fillings, meticulously prepared and attractively laid out on plates. Sauces and chilli are provided for dipping.

Old man in the rain Anshun marlket Anshun Sunday Market: 安顺星期七农民市场

Author: Adam

My name is Adam. I have a degree in Chinese History from SOAS and a masters in International Politics focused on China from the same university. I have travelled around China 9 times and since 2000 I have travelled every year for two months. I guess I kind of like the place!

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