Nanjing is recognised as one of the most highly Westernised cities in China. Yet in spite of the daily encroachments of global capitalism, the humble flea market – that universal symbol of non-standardised commerce – triumphantly lives on. The following three markets offer a wide range of products that proudly do away with any notion of authenticity or intellectual property rights, and, more importantly, offer the opportunity to indulge in the ancient and beautiful art of haggling. If you ever find yourself tired of the dizzyingly expensive European and American designer stores that plague Nanjing’s centre, take some time to visit one of these markets. At the very least you will end up with a strangely effective version of Windows 7 or a washing machine that manages to contravene all known health and safety laws.
1) Zhujiang Lu 珠江路
Zhujiang Lu is the home of electronics in Nanjing. Many of the electronics stores located on the road are, however, extremely expensive, with most products usually approaching Western prices. Thankfully, there is another way to buy your electronics. Every Saturday afternoon, (what seem to be) employees from the stores descend onto the street, construct small tents, and sell their products at delightfully low prices. Whereas a decent pair of speakers will set you back 500 RMB in the shop, comparable quality can be bought for around 150 RMB on the street. USB sticks, headphones and other basic electrical and computer appliances can also all be purchased at a fraction of their store-equivalent. The brands sold on the street are all Chinese. Lastly, this market stoically (and bizarrely) remains open in all weather: for obvious reasons, an electronics market is best to be avoided in the rain.
Add: Zhujiang Lu, Nanjing, just East of the Metro Station.
2) Fuzi Miao (Confucius Temple) 夫子庙 View In Map
The Confucius Temple area is, with not inconsiderable irony, one the most commercialised and modernised areas of Nanjing. Much of the area consists of clothing chains and other Western branded shops, but there are also, in some of the more hidden alleys, a large number of flea-market-style shops selling strange products for extremely cheap prices. A ‘North Face’ rucksack can be bought for 100 RMB (a fraction of the retail price), although it must be admitted that said rucksack will bear little to no resemblance to the real thing and may collapse when you are half way up a mountain, so buy with caution. In addition to a wide range of fake bags, you can also buy genuine swords (?) for 150RMB, jewellery for under 10 RMB, DVDs for 10 RMB per disc, and a number of small animals such as hamsters, kittens or turtles. The DVD shops seem to have been targeted by the police recently, so you may have to peruse the films on offer at a strange angle, hidden by the shop’s employees and strategically arranged cardboard boxes.
Fuzimiao also boasts an underground flea market which is notoriously difficult to find. The best advice I can offer is to wander indefinitely until finding some kind of stairs or doorway. In short, you don’t find this flea market: it finds you. Once successfully in, the market will offer you a huge range of clothing, including silk Calvin Klein boxers for a mere 20 RMB (haggled from 30). There is also a selection of electronics products (this time unthreatened by rain), as well as a number of shops selling very cheap, but unfortunately equally small (you’ll be lucky to find size 44+), trainers and smarter shoes.
Add: Intersection of West Gongyuan Street with Fuzi Temple Walkway, north side bank of Qinhuai River, inside Zhonghua Gate
Getting there: Take bus routes 4, 7, 40, 44, 49, 62, 304 to Fuzi Temple (east) station
3) Tangzi Jie Area 堂子街
Just north of the river, this area offers e-bikes and bicycles at extremely cheap prices. Whereas a supermarket e-bike costs 2000 RMB+, a bike here will cost around half that. Even better, the bicycles are incredibly cheap: a Giant Bike worth at least £300 can be bought for 500 RMB (assuming competent haggling skills). The area also has a number of dilapidated buildings selling televisions and washing machines, the former costing 170 RMB (starting price) and the latter 300 RMB. Both of highly, highly dubious quality, but will probably just about get the job done. The bicycles, on the other hand, are highly reliable, and the prices seem to result from the sellers’ ignorance of the quality of the vehicles rather than from any issue in production. In fact, I would go as far as to say the bicycles are the best flea-market deal you will find in this city. The flea-market here is spread over several streets and covers an area of at least a square mile. The very best deals on the bicycles are found off the main streets in one of the small, inconspicuous squares reserved for this kind of market.
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Keywords: Flea markets Nanjing Tangji jie Nanjing bargain shopping Nanjing bargain hunting Nanjing
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