Fear and experience are not strangers

It would be easy to miss. Three entrances set back amongst shop fronts, like thresholds, the odd moped driving in and out. It looks like nothing. Then there were the rumours coming through from Yin Yi and other Saturday visitors, “we found this market around there as well. It must be for the migrant community.”

I can’t explain, can’t describe the feelings, feelings which include fear, excitement and sensory overload. Photographs would flatten it out. Video would place it anywhere. And the light is poor.

It is vast. It has zones. Pyjamas, dogs in cages, dust, spices, hot water flasks, songbirds, furniture, insects in their small containers, goldfish, bulbs being part-peeled by hand and soaked in water, artisans masked up and sanding down, others cooking in corners and some are living here, illegally maybe, like an artist studio block. Two jiao to use the toilet.

The further back you go the more private it becomes. I could imagine renting a space here myself, for masking up and sanding down.

Of course this is familiar territory for the locals. And it’s a place of specialism, not just for the migrant community. It predates them. For me it has the magnetic pull of a grotto of resources, learning and desire.

I discover it late and am then drawn back most days. I want to spend here, to spread the UK Sterling in Yuen. It has something of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, without the hassling. No foreigners, few customers, something slightly forgotten about it.

Then I look again at the satellite map and there it is, all roof and rectangular space, directly opposite the recycling centre. It really is vast. Not just a feeling. And it’s named on the street map. This is the Changqiao Huaniao Market. Only.

Xu hui qu Xing huan fei Pin jiao tou zhan Recycling Centre, Luocheng Road and Changqiao Huaniao Market opposite

The large linear rectangle of Changqiao Huaniao Market, opposite the Recycling Centre

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