Yiwu: China's massive Christmas market
Jump on the fast train heading south from Shanghai and two and a half hours later you will hit the market town of Yiwu. A holiday shopper’s paradise, the Yiwu day market is an ocean of storefront vendors selling all manner of small commodities.
Almost as large as the city’s downtown, the day market will take more than a day to cover in its entirety. And be prepared to buy lots of gifts this year; the traders in Yiwu sell in bulk. Trains to Yiwu leave from Shanghai South Railway Station.
The Yiwu day market is an endless maze of lanes and corridors, bathrooms and restaurants. Vendors line both sides of the halls, creating a melee of color and sound.
“I sell Christmas trees from March to December,” says Mrs. Ji. “I’ve been here for eight years. Most customers buy RMB 3,000-4,000 trees.”
“Chinese people don’t always bargain these days,” says Wang Fei. “Sometimes they want to know the price for quality. It was not always like this and we had to bargain a lot.”
“The market is the town,” says Mrs. He. “Other towns are far away. It takes time for products to get there. Here, it’s always Christmas.”
“We’ve been here for 10 years,” says Zhou Aihua. “Lanterns sell well. Chinese don’t buy white lanterns. Foreigners buy white. Chinese mostly buy red lanterns.”
Mrs. Fu smiles at her husband. “It’s fun for both of us to sell toys. That’s why we got into the market -- 16 years ago.”
“The Yiwu market is old California,” says Zhou Zheng, a local merchant. “There are prospectors everywhere. They’re all panning for gold. Some of them find it.”
“People in Yiwu have a saying: ‘Mei you zui pianyi, zhi you geng pianyi.’ This means: there is no cheapest [price]; only cheaper," Zhou Zheng continues.
“These lanterns represent happiness. I enjoy selling them,” says Mr. Yin. “The heaven lanterns sell well. Only RMB 1.2 each for a box of 200.”
A parking lot by day, at 5 p.m. the night market begins with a caravan of vendors setting up their stalls in less than 20 minutes.