advertisement

In a city where commerce dominates culture, it makes sense that market areas are going to be more exciting than half-hearted attempts at museums and galleries. Even so, not every wholesale market holds any interest for tourists. The Zhong Da fabric accessories market for example is made up of relentlessly repetitive rows of practically identical suppliers selling the exact same zippers, buttons, and bows. Huadiwan on the other hand is great for an afternoon's wander. Start out in the furniture section where huge showrooms are devoted to replica Chinese furniture that make the Forbidden City look spartan in comparison. This is where locals come to furnish their most opulent teahouses and residential buyers can find everything from Qing-style four posters to floor-to-ceiling apothecary drawer cabinets. Passing through the life-size mythic figures of the woodcarving section, visitors move into the aquarium area where enormous arowana vie with king-size koi in gigantic tanks. An avenue of aquatic plants leads into the pet area proper where customers can purchase anything from scorpions to Saint Bernards. Huadiwan has now become the natural successor to the live animal market that used to be so popular near Shamian Island but has recently been toned down. Be warned though, animal lovers may be distressed at the mercenary puppy farming and the sight of row upon row of cats and dogs in cages so small that they can barely turn around. Aside from the yelps and whines, this huge expanse becomes a Chinese garden center with a clear emphasis on sanshui (mountain and water) features, viewing stones (oddly shaped rocks to the uninitiated), and forests of bonsai. Finally, the bird market showcases just about every kind of avian from plain homing pigeons to imported parakeets and full display peacocks. Huadiwan is a spectacular array of sounds and colors but at the same time locals have little respect for concepts such as conservation and the protection of endangered species. Profit comes first, and so you will see stores piled high with coral and exotic animals of all shapes and sizes. My advice is to keep your hands firmly in your pocket and make a large donation to the WWF when you get home.