Episode 1 – The Liaoning Province Industrial Exhibition Hall.
China is a shopping paradise. Not only are there very few things you cannot buy ready-made, but literally anything can be made to order. While buying online (like on e-commerce platforms Taobao or JD) becomes more and more popular, there is still a plethora of markets specializing in any item imaginable in most bigger towns in China. Shenyang, being the local hub of China’s Northeast, is no exception to this rule. The city has markets for anything you could possibly want and some that seem to have more than you even thought existed all in one place. There are specialty markets for the individual consumer and wholesale markets. We will try to give you an overview of the ones we find most interesting. Some you might want to visit yourself for shopping, and at some you may only want to gawk at what is happening there. We promise you all are well worth the trip.
To kick off our series of markets in Shenyang, we will introduce you to the Liaoning Province Industrial Exhibition Hall. The building is hard to miss as it thrones over Qingnian Avenue with its gilded roof and distinct towers with Chinese-style roofs, intended to show an amalgam of Chinese and Western architecture.
When the Exhibition Hall was completed in 1960, the city of Shenyang was still a lot more modest than today and the Hall was actually outside the city proper, sitting amongst farmland, the closest bus looping by Wenhua Street. In the sixties, it apparently was a choice spot for couples to take their wedding pictures and a popular destination for class trips where schoolchildren and teachers took a breath of fresh air in nice surroundings. The reason the Hall was built was to showcase industrial products from the area of machinery, chemical, petroleum, construction, light industry, textiles and for military applications.
Today, the Exhibition Hall still houses changing exhibits throughout the year, but these tend to be more frivolous (and mostly less dreary) in nature than the industrial fairs of the Hall’s early days. In August 2016 for instance, there is an “international” fair for Manga lovers, which has already been held there seven years in a row. The 2015 edition saw inventively dressed and coiffed teenagers running up and down Qingnian Avenue wielding rubber swords or teetering along in impossibly high platform heels with bright turquoise or bubblegum pink tresses trailing behind them. So we are waiting impatiently what strange creatures this year’s fair will bring.
But the Liaoning Province Industrial Exhibition Hall is equally (if not more) worth a visit outside of the times a fair or exhibition is held. Because the Exhibition Hall’s current main attraction is its motley assortment of little market stalls (on the ground and on the first floor – or, if you want to phrase it like the Chinese – on the first and the second floor). They offer a vast array of goods to the interested buyer: from clothes (under- and outerwear) to shoes, to bags, to kitchenware, jewelry, paintings, small furniture and much more.
The Exhibition Hall is not Shenyang’s cheapest place to buy these things or, indeed, not the place with the greatest choice for each of the products on offer. But, it is unique in Shenyang in that it offers the greatest variety of wares in a fairly restricted space. In other places, like the Underground Market or Wu’Ai, one has to fight through dozens if not hundreds of stalls seemingly offering exactly the same things, discussing and checking the merits or flaws of the products, haggling until your fingers are tired from punching the calculator and being thoroughly overwhelmed by the offer. The Exhibition Hall’s charm lies in its limited choices – you can go in (comparatively) quickly and get what you came to get, no muss, no fuss.
So let us have a look at what is on offer inside the Hall and where!
The biggest part of the ground floor is reserved for the changing exhibitions. But outside of this area, there are also quite a number of booths with all sorts of products – clothing, so-called quality items (smaller, more expensive products like jewelry and decorations), cosmetics (including shampoo and similar items), nail art, arts & crafts including some supplies and smaller items of furniture.
Since the furniture items are tucked away in a corner, you can follow the green line with red arrows on the floor to get to them. But beware! There is a second green line with red arrows that leads you to the bedding and sheets on the second floor. The one you need to follow is the one with the FIVE characters 家居家饰区:
The first floor (i.e. the Chinese second floor) is dedicated to anything you could possibly need to put together all kinds of outfits – from the underwear to the outerwear including shoes and bags for your snazzy city outfit, to a new bathing suit to get beach-ready or a new pair of pajamas for your next slumber party. And, the area that sets the Exhibition Hall apart from many other markets, is their good selection of bedding (both ready-made and made to order) and sheets.
To find those (as they are also tucked away neatly in a nook of the Hall), you need to follow yet another green line with red arrows on the floor. This one only sports THREE characters (床品区):
Once there, you can get quilts and pillows with cotton or silk filling – as big or as small and as thick or as thin as you want them.
And before you leave the Exhibition Hall, have a look at the ceiling with its awesome decorations and the pretty vaulted windows with their fancy lighting. It’s not every day you get to bargain in such illustrious surroundings, right?
What is your favorite place to shop in Shenyang? Which kind of market would you like us to introduce next? Have you had any funny experiences while shopping in China? Let us know in the comments below!
Written by Julie Marx.