Location: Jade Market 十全玉市, Sanmin District, Kaohsiung, Taiwan
Jade is extremely popular in Taiwan, and has historical significance in Chinese culture. It’s also very valuable, but the difficulty in distinguishing fakes from the genuine article means it’s best to avoid spending large amounts on it, unless you know what you’re doing.
The Jade market in Kaohsiung isn’t all about jade. There’s all sorts there – beads, charms, statues, tea pots and other items related to eastern religions. There’s also a flea market behind the main building and even some stalls for fruit and vegetables. The market is open on Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday from 8am until late afternoon. I visited on a Wednesday morning because I had read that this was the busiest day – Supposedly the day that jade shops from the area go to buy and sell their jade, though I didn’t find it extremely busy.
Instead of going right into the main market I first walked along the stalls outside that wrap around the building. I’m now glad I did because right away I met Kelsey.
Kelsey was one of the stall owners. As I was walking past I heard a “hello”. His accent didn’t seem Taiwanese so I asked him where he was from*. It turned out he was Tibetan, but had grown up in India after his parents moved there when he was a child. He said he’d been in Taiwan around 8 months and he’s at the market every Wednesday selling goods he has imported from Tibet and India.
* Tip: If you’re out doing street photography and someone starts talking to you, always respond and start a chat because it will usually end in a street portrait if you ask nicely.
A beautiful prayer wheel caught my eye on his stall. He showed me how it worked and explained about the markings being the chant that is said when you use it. He was a really nice guy and I was happy to have met him.
At the back of the building I saw an interesting man sitting on a table off to the side. He had a long white beard, and a peculiar haircut that was shaved at the front and sides. From the arms of his rounded, metal-framed, glasses hung a retaining cord. I wanted to ask him for a portrait, but needed to break the ice first. I made a comment about his beard “How long have you been growing your beard?”. Which came his reply “30 years”. “Mine’s only 6 months I said” and then asked if I could take his photo. He nodded.
After I took the photo his friend appeared to the side saying “money”, money” while making a coin shape with his thumb and forefinger. I looked back at the subject of my photo and he laughed and said “No – biru, biru”. ‘Biru’ is the Taiwanese for ‘beer’, which I think actually comes from Japanese originally.
I headed into the jade market, which is inside the main building and consists of long rows of tables that run the width of the main room. Each individual vendor/plot has their own numbered light directly above their table.
I started from the back, walking up and down the rows. The stall owners were all busy extolling the authenticity of their wares and potential customers were carefully inspecting.
After a few rows I noticed an office to the side. There was an interesting painting at the back, so I asked the man who was sitting there, Mr You, about it. He misheard and thought I was asking about the shrine, and so proceeded to give me the history of that particular god, which was Xuan Wu 玄天上帝, for the record.
Mr You said he was the general manager there and had 40 years experience in the jade business. He was happy to let me take his photo.
When I got out of the market I checked my camera and realised that I didn’t have one picture of jade. If I’m honest I’m not very interested in jade, and on this trip I had found more interesting stories behind the people that I met. However, to avoid having a blog post entitled “Jade Market” that did not contain an photos of jade, I went back in to deliberately photograph some. For your viewing pleasure here are some photos of jade jewellery:
Some more photos from the flea market at the back of the jade market. I loved the statue of the Shaolin monk, I wish I would have bought it.
As I was leaving there was a fruit stall setting up. The stall was actually built on the back of a bicycle, the green paint peeling off after years of use. I liked the contrast of the old bike with the bright and fresh fruit.
Here’s some more photos of the jade market during my brief visit back in 2013:
The jade market makes a good day out and there’s lots to see in addition to jade. Taking photographs there was generally fine. During my visit there were two stall owners who objected to my taking photos, and if you’ve been doing street photography for any length of time I’m sure you’re used to this by now. It’s best just to move on and not let is faze you.