[Photo Gallery:] Licunji – Qingdao’s most epic market

We’re celebrating one whole year in Qingdao! So here’s a photo gallery from the most epic market I’ve ever seen anywhere (scroll down past the blahblahblah and click a thumbnail to begin). It just happens to be a 20-minute walk from our place.

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The middle third of Lǐcūnjí.

李村集 has occupied a usually (but not always) dry canal bed for over 100 years, stretching between four bridges. You’d need a few hours to see everything. It’s a site to behold any day of the week, but “big market” days (大集) — lunar calendar days ending in 2 and 7 — bring breathtaking scale and variety (and near-apocalyptic traffic jams). For anyone who wants to learn about China, the amount of culture on display here — relating to food, medicine, religion, leisure, etc. — is just incredible. The streets immediately parallel to the canal are also packed. But two streets away you’ll find spanking new upscale malls, trendy shopping streets (步行街), and a forest of in-progress highrises. Lǐcūnjí is an old-school island in a sea of rapid development, and who knows how long they’ll let it stay.

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On one of the two middle bridges that stretch across Lǐcūnjí.

There are many ‘Chinas’Lǐcūnjí is one that foreigners encounter less often, and that perhaps represents (economically at least) a larger slice of China’s population than the university-educated urbanites foreigners are most likely to interact with. I couldn’t find anything online about it in English. So it’s almost like I get to play Marco Polo with this. If you’re a lǎowài and you visit, you’ll be the only one for miles. And chances are good you’ll see some things you’ve never seen before. Lǐcūnjí isn’t for tourists, domestic or foreign. It’s China unedited.

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Tiger paw, horns and assorted dried penises (tiger, deer & seal).

Photos are all by me or Lindy (a good friend from our Tianjin days), taken on her real camera and my point-and-shoot and iPhone. We spent most of a morning there, and I’ve accumulated some pictures over the months because I pass through there almost every week. This doesn’t come close to documenting or even summarizing the entire place. Still, it’s an eyeful (though not for the easily queasy!). Photos are loosely grouped by theme: marketscape (7), gods (10), pets (4), people (14), places (5), medicine (11), lunch (20), trinkets (3), meat (10), produce (9), and more marketscape (14).


When living in Tianjin we stumbled upon a different but similar sort of place:

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At Lǐcūnjí’s under-the-bridge BBQ pits, they’ll prepare whatever meat & veggies you bring from the market.

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The “Bridgehead Bathhouse”

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The south-west third of Lǐcūnjí.

6 thoughts on “[Photo Gallery:] Licunji – Qingdao’s most epic market

    • The streets and intersections all around there were so packed with vendor carts I couldn’t even walk my bike through — physically impossible. I thought it was weird that they didn’t know to get out in time, too. I assume that indicates something, like how disconnected many of the vendors are.

  1. That is fascinating thank you for sharing. We were planning a trip to Qingdao but mainly for the beer. This is more compelling.

    • It was called 南市 or 南市三不管。Last time I checked there was stuff in Chinese to be found on google and baidu. I used to know all the streets, but it’s been a while. If I remember right, go up 卫津路,turn right a the “Food Street” tourist trap (食品街 I think), and go all the way through to the backside of it. You’ll be facing the edge of the area where I took all these photos. Last time I was there you’d be looking at a wall of billboards, but it was easy to find a way in behind them. No idea what’s there now.

      On a map, the area is between the Nanshi Food Street tourist market (南市食品街; nánshì shípǐn jiē) and the Hai River (海河; hǎi hé), southeast of the Old City (天津旧城; tiānjīn jiù chéng).

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