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A few weeks ago I chose to go to the library via a different route. My need to explore was rewarded when I stumbled upon a handicraft fair – barely 3 hours before the closing! I call that a piece of luck. Another one was that I had the camera with me. I parked my faithful bicycle and went to take a look. The artists were usually happy to let me take some photos (except for one girl who had a stand full of tacky adornments, the description of which would require a repeated usage of words like “pink”, “sequins” and “frills”. If she was afraid that I might steal the ideas – uhm… no worries, girl). All in all – a very interesting hour and here’s a handful of pictures I took to prove it. I’ve been told that the attention span of an average blog-reader can only process a few photos at a time, unless you break them with some captions and explanations – so I’m going to do just that and hope you’ll bear with me.

This stand was not particularly artsy or crafty, but the umbies had such nice colours I couldn’t stop myself. Umbrellas are a vital piece of equipment here and as such come in all shapes and sizes (if you have to carry it all the time, you want it to be pretty). One common feature, though, is that they all break or go rusty after a month.

This one here sold jade jewellery and Buddhist charms and figurines. The owner didn’t want to be in the photos, but gave me a business card and told me to e-mail him the ones I took. When I did, he replied: ‘Wow, thanks! I forget which uni you said you were studying at. Do you think we can be friends?’ NOTICE: when Chinese men ask you if they can be your friends, 95% of the time they’ll mean “boyfriends”. It must be a cultural thing. So no, thank you, but no. Yes, girls dig artists, but making that man a desirable choice would take a lot of art indeed (no offence).

The brush stand. I’m sure many cute rabbits and other furry creatures have to go indecently exposed now, but it’s nice to see that the calligraphic tradition goes on.

The pearls stand. This one I loved, if only for all the different shades of creams and lilacs. The pearls in the bowl were 1 kuai each. You could take your pick, then you took them to a man sitting on the side and he’d grind them into a powder so you could drink or eat them as a medicine. I didn’t want to bother the seller with more questions while she was serving the customers, so I didn’t ask what they were supposed to be good for. Life experience tells me it’s potency. Everything you’d never touch with a fork for the pleasure of it is always supposed to be good for potency: stones, snakes, bear testicles – you name it, they eat it.

A stand with some sort of folk instruments that involve gourds. The man and his mother (she’s not smoking a sheesha, she’s playing the thing!) came from the Yunnan Province. They told me it’s full of foreigners. A bit of subsequent research revealed that it’s also full of green fields of marijuana and octogenarians wanting to sell you joints – might that explain the foreign invasion?

  And finally, the paper-cuts stand. Very nice, very impressive. But am I the only one who finds the second picture just a tiny bit disturbing?