Ridiculus sociosqu cursus neque cursus curae ante scelerisque vehicula.
Locals call it “The Dirt Market.” It has received this moniker perhaps due to the dirt cheap prices, or maybe due to the massive amount of artifacts sold here, seemingly dug up from the dirt.
Panjiayuan Antiques Market (潘家园旧货市场) is located in the southeast corner of the Third Ring Road in Beijing and is legendary amongst locals and tourists looking to marvel at the massive maze of stalls and blankets covered with some of the world’s most random items.
On weekends, the market begins coming to life even before the sun rises. You’ll likely find vendors setting up around 4:30 a.m.! During the week, the market opens at the more reasonable hour of 8:30, but only some shops will stay open during the week. The weekend is the time to go, that’s when Panjiayuan is in full swing.
The market is divided into six sections:
With more than 4,000 shop owners on the grounds of Panjiayuan, this sprawling complex may redefine your traditional concept of a flea market. The place is a mecca for people in love with absurdity. On my way into the market I found a vendor selling stuffed dogs and pheasants out of the back of his car. Inside, things get even weirder…
Expect to see a lot of trinkets and memorabilia from the Cultural Revolution era. Also, you may feel like you have just stumbled into the middle of a giant archaeological excavation. Stone statues, brass lamps, rock fragments containing giant pieces of jade, countless replications and sculptures of all shapes and sizes. Is that real Ming dynasty pottery or simply a replication? It is almost impossible for a casual shopper to discern. But if you have a foreign face and inquire about the price, they will certainly try their best to convince you it is real.
During my trip, I considered buying an ancient looking chess set from a blanket vendor. She started me at 850 yuan as she continued to go on and on, reinforcing how valuable each and every piece was. As I walked away she chased me through the aisles and I got her down to just 100 yuan, but still didn’t end up pulling the trigger.
Multiple aisles are dedicated to Tibetan style jewelry and handicrafts. It’s a great place to shop for a handful of cheap, colorful bracelets and necklaces. Antique clocks, cameras, and glasses are scattered throughout, as are oil paintings, tea sets, and tapestries.
Forget Antiques Roadshow, this is the real deal.
Scrawled across the outside of a building in the complex are the phrases, “the most popular antique market in China,” and “the most complete collection market in China.”
I’d recommend heading to Panjiayuan on a weekend morning when you have a few hours to spare for just walking around and taking it all in. Enter with an open mind and an affinity for oddity and you just might come away with a meaningful Chinese artifact, or at least a great memory.