THE YU GARDEN MARKET

Thursday, the 22nd of October, was our last day in Shanghai. In the morning our tour roup had a chance to see the Yu Garden Market where we all went shopping. The Yu Garden Market, also known as the Yu Yuan Market, is a busy market specializing in traditional Chinese arts and crafts. It is located near the City God Temple which was built in the 15th century during the Ming Dynasty. As more and more pilgrims came to worship in the temple, many peddlers also began to open shops near the temple. Slowly, a popular, old-fashioned market came about.

The old-style buildings at the Yu Garden Market are not really old, but the fanciful roofs are nevertheless unique in appearance. You can see these in the photographs I took. Today, around the temple and in a circumference of one-third of a mile there are now hundreds of small shops and restaurants. Local and foreign tourists enjoy shopping here since they can find things unobtainable elsewhere and they also dine at their favorite restaurants.

It is best to arrive early and go straight to the beautiful and relatively peaceful Ming Dynasty Yu Gardens. A dumpling lunch, before the restaurants get too busy towards noontime, will set you up for a hectic afternoon of shopping and haggling, followed by a cup of tea in the quaint Huxingting Teahouse. The market is a bazaar of stores that sells an assortment of crafts and souvenirs. Here you will find items such as chopsticks, Chinese medicine, walking sticks, fans, silk umbrellas, wrist watches, paintings, bamboo and rattan furniture, goldfish, pottery, and much more.

Part of the market has also been transformed into an indoor mall. Food is also a great temptation in Yu Yuan Market with local delicacies such as xiao long bao, pigeon egg dumplings and spicy cold noodles which are sold in the street stalls or in numerous restaurants. There are many restaurants that surround the lake and in some restaurants you can see the dumplings being made in the morning. The xiao long bao (steamed dumplings) made by the Nanxiang Steamed Dumplings Restaurant in the Yu Garden is very popular. Usually filled with pork, they also serve a version stuffed with fresh crab roe. Customers wait in the always long, but quick moving lines, to sit or take out these famous dumplings.

The Nanxiang restaurant is located at the entrance of the zigzag bridge that brings you to the front of the Garden. Many Chinese domestic tourists regard a visit to this takeaway dumpling restaurant as an essential part of their holiday here. You can also take a peek at the preparation process through the restaurant's plate glass windows. There are many shops around the exterior of the large Chinese-style buildings surrounding the Garden. These smaller shops, often housed in authentic historic s tructures, carry everything from furniture to porcelain. Residents of Shanghai say that despite the fact that the majority of the stuff sold at the Yu Garden Market are just junk items, there are still some items that are well worth looking for.

Despite being a bit of a tourist trap, there is plenty of fun to be had wandering among the stalls and haggling over prices. Nena and I spent more than two hours walking around and we did not really buy anything much, except for a jade bracelet and two embroidered landscape scenes which looked good enough for framing. However, we enjoyed window shopping and also watching the people who came to the market. I was also more interested in taking some photographs. The members of our tour group later reassembled at our designated meeting place which was just infront of the Starbucks Coffee Shop which I believe was one of the few franchised American shop found within the Yu Garden Market. Although I have seen a number of American fast food restaurants in most large cities in China such as Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonalds, there were just a few in the Yu Garden Market.

Nearby was the Huxingting Teachouse which has a charming looking building that was built in 1784 by cotton merchants. It only became a teahouse in the late 19th century. To enter the building you have to go through a zig-zag bridge which was quite unique to me. I learned later that this type of bridge was designed to protect the structure from evil spirits. The Chinese believe that evil spirits can't turn corners, hence the zig-zag design of the structure.

To view the photographs I took during our visit to the Yu Garden Market, just click on the link shown below:

The Yu Garden Market