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To Market, To Market, Chinese Style!

[ 5 ] October 20, 2010 |

Street side markets, a classic sight all around China from big cities like Shanghai to small towns in rural China. This is the traditional Chinese way of grocery shopping, no trolleys, no aisles and no loud announcements on the two for one deal for a 2L bottle of Coke!

Chinese street markets are extremely basic comprising entirely of tarpaulins laid out on the ground covered with goods, overflowing bicycle trailers and baskets full to the brim with stock.  This is the poor man’s way to own a shop. And in Shanghai the most expensive city in China and one of the most expensive in all of Asia, this is how the poor man can make a living!

Chinese Market

Market Cart Shanghai

A walk through a Chinese market is always confusing, is this a market or a farm? But in China a country where hardly anything is fresh, the air is not fresh, the street food is definitely not fresh and the smell of the public toilets, you guessed it, not fresh, there is one thing that is always fresh, the meat you buy off the side of the street. Or rather I should say the animals you buy on the side of the street! What was yesterday’s live stock is todays lunch!

Live Chicken China

Fresh eels, frogs and fish in China

The process of turning a live clucking chicken or flapping fish into a piece of meat is not for the faint hearted or the queasy! Countless mornings walking to the metro station in Shanghai I’ve witnessed Clark the Chicken in less then five minutes turn into a chicken almost ready for the plate!  To westerners the whole process can seem rather traumatic causing us to flock to the supermarket to buy our pre-packaged guilt free meat. To the Chinese buying chicken is as simple as selecting the fattest chicken sitting in a tiny cage on the back of a bike.

The whole process is very straightforward, select you chicken, the stall owner/bicycle owner weighs it like they would fruit!, they then slice it’s neck, drain the blood onto the road or if they’re really clean into a box. They then put the whole chicken into a bucket of water and swiftly pluck out all the feathers and throw them onto the street, once you have a smooth chicken you can even get them to gut it right there and where do those guts end up, you guessed it, on the street!  The sight is confronting the first few times you see it but it’s the smell that really has me struggling to keep down my morning coffee each day!

Ducks, Chickens, market China

A stroll through a Chinese market never fails to be entertaining from people debating over the worth of a chicken, to the sound of croaking frogs that you know will later be frogs legs soup, to the bicycles driven past by old men, the trailers overflowing with vegetables.  And proof that in China there is no where you can’t play cards, in true fashion even surrounded by a pile of chicken feathers, guts and poo even here in the market is a good place for a card game!

Card Game Chinese market

Like the whole city of Shanghai seems to be on crack and steroids so are the items in the market in one of the poorest area’s of the city.  I don’t know what’s in the soil (though most likely lead and other bad things) but somehow the Chinese have managed to grow super sized vegetables, and even super sized grapes!

Chinese fruit market

The whole experience walking through a Chinese market whether in Shanghai like this one or else where in the country is always entertaining and insightful.  So much of this countries culture, values and life can be seen in just a small area, you get a cross section of the entire country, how the people think, act and live.  One thing you will know for sure, any restaurant in the area will be using fresh meat!

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Category: China

About onurwaytravel: Colin has been travelling the world with his young family for the past 2 and half years. He runs a couple of websites all revolve around travel, family travel and digital nomadism. His websites include,, and now View author profile.

Comments (5)

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  1. Matt

    Sooo, wow. I’ve seen plenty of markets in Thailand but have yet to see a chicken get prepared on the side of the road. You can’t worry about the freshness I suppose!

    Enjoyed the photos and yes, I suspect it’s often difficult keeping the morning cup of joe down!
    .-= Matt´s last blog ..Exploring Bali – A Backpackingmattcom Travel Video =-.

  2. Sasha says:

    Yeah Matt the markets in Thailand aren’t nearly so fresh when it comes to food, at least with the chickens. The amount of Chicken blood stains on Chinese streets is kinda gross, but hey if I’m gonna eat it I may as well get used to seeing how it died!

  3. [...] first dose of medicine was a trip back to Shanghai’s Jewish quarter, the area that I loved so much, the area that had become my home on my many weekend trips to [...]

  4. Dina says:

    Poor Clark the Chicken… and his friends…
    It’s amazing they can get it ready within 5 minutes, including the feather plucking! Maybe we should borrow the method for plucking our own undesired hair?
    .-= Dina´s last blog ..Ballsy Kangaroo =-.

  5. [...] topic.Powered by WP Greet Box WordPress PluginThere are all sorts of strange things to be seen in Chinese Markets, mostly of the edible (or not so edible) variety. This however was not a sight I expected to see [...]

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