Markets of Zibo

IMG_6332 One day, we were walking down a road in Zibo, headed for the Zibo City Museum. I was hoping that near the museum, I could find some pottery because Zibo is famous for its ceramics. A few blocks before we reached the museum, there was a pop-up antiques street market. It was Saturday, after all, and so all the collectors were out selling their wares and buying from each other. At first, we thought it was only a half-block long on one road, but as we wandered through, we found that there were booths set up all around that half block, and down another street! I really wanted to peruse everything, and so Austin stayed with the stroller while I took Landon around to all of the booths. Some more professional booths had a table with a few things on it. Others were just blankets or sacks on the ground with a whole pile of stuff. After going around more than once, I had no idea what I wanted to buy! There were all sorts of ceramic vases and bowls, jade jewelry and pendants, sculptures and things made out of metals, colorful glass, old books and scrolls… I could go on and on. Landon was particularly drawn to the military section, where there were old military supplies and a magnifying glass. Austin had expressed that he liked Asian art, so we found a painting of a bird that we liked. When Austin tried to haggle for a good price, the man did not want him to buy the painting by itself. He kept giving us all of the bird paintings and told us an outrageous price for all four. At first, we bought one for too much money, but then he threw in the rest for about half what he originally wanted for them. We have no idea of their value, but later, we realized that the paintings were of the four seasons, so of course he wanted to sell them to us in a set!

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Finding my favorite ceramic piece took more time. I wanted something unique, but still classic Chinese china. I thought I wanted a turquoise glazed piece, because that is the specific process that Zibo is so famous for, but Austin said that they looked cheaper and like we could have bought them anywhere. So, I settled on a pair of vases with dragons. They are pretty big and a unique shape. I hope we find a good (and safe) place for them in our home one day. Landon decided that out of all the treasures, he wanted some old coins with a hole in the middle. His request was definitely the cheapest of the purchases we made that day!

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Most of the neat and interesting things we find on the street come about because I’m wandering around, pushing the boys in the stroller. We found several open-air “farmer’s markets” around the city, usually with the gate over the road like in the picture. Cherries and blueberries were in season while we were in China, so you better believe we visited every few days to restock on produce. We also discovered this yummy tortilla-like flatbread that we bought fresh from the baker by the bag. We ate them plain or with a little peanut butter. They were great for rounding out our typical dinner, which we ate in the business lounge of the Sheraton hotel. It was typically enough food, but just included two meat dishes, fruits, and desserts. So the boys ate the flat bread as well.

IMG_6338The market in Zibo had much more than just fruit, vegetables and bread. Many people visited the market to do their daily shopping instead of going to the grocery store. There were meat merchants with their cuts of meat just set out on butcher blocks, fans with papers attached whirling to keep away flies. There were little toy stores and clothing stores. There were seamstresses sitting on the side of the road with a wagon full of fabric and batting and a sewing machine, sewing blankets to order. I bought some fun patterned comfy pants, and Landon explored a few toy stores, that ended up being impossibly narrow and deep. There were restaurants interspersed throughout selling dumplings and chicken, among other things. In this area of China, there were more bread places selling all sorts of baked treats made with wheat flour vs. rice flour. Seafood, dry goods, sauces, pickled vegetables, pretty much anything you could want as a (Chinese) person going shopping was there.

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Although the pictures look somewhat peaceful, this place was always bustling. People came on e-bikes, motorcycles, cars, and bicycles, or by foot. Trucks rumbled through pressing on their horns to move people out of their way. The market went on for several blocks down the main street, and then had several cross streets as well. I’m sure everyone had their go-to vendors, but it was a bit overwhelming for an outsider to choose where to buy my food! For the most part, people seemed surprised to see us. When I told Aya, our Chinese friend that we went to the market, she was really surprised and said we were like real Chinese! It was just the best place to get produce. I appreciated that there seemed to be a sizable market EVERY DAY in multiple parts of the city, so everyone had adequate access to fresh fruits and veggies near their homes.

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This reminded me of Vietnam, but at least the meat was hanging up on hooks instead of sitting on cardboard on the dusty road…
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