Squirming eels, frogs, snails and even skinned dogs at the local Yangshuo market

Fresh fruit seller taking a nap midst all the chaos
Fresh fruit seller taking a nap midst all the chaos

Fresh vegetables!!
Fresh vegetables!!

A visit to the local market meat and vegetable market is the best way to get to know the smells and tastes of the local place you are exploring. Yangshuo’s local market was tucked away in a warehouse-like building off the main road. 

 Walking in I was assaulted by the chaotic visual delights and smells that filled the market place.

In one direction were fresh fruit and vegetables, rows of bags filled with spices and herbs, the aroma of peppers and chili filling the air.

Love the array of different spices and herbs
Love the array of different spices and herbs
The air was filled with the aroma of chilies
The air was filled with the aroma of chilies
Even pickled chilies!
Even pickled chilies!

Buckets filled with wriggling prawns
Buckets filled with wriggling prawns

Turning in a different direction I was greeted by nets full of squirming frogs, buckets of live turtles, and eels. Right in front of us were enormous bloody fish heads still twitching as their bodies were being filleted a few feet away. I did not know where to focus my attention first.

Hard at work cleaning prawns
Hard at work cleaning prawns
Live Turtles Packaged and ready for sale
Live Turtles Packaged and ready for sale
Squirming frogs in their little net "packages"
Squirming frogs in their little net “packages”
Rows of buckets filled with live produce
Rows of buckets filled with live produce

Buckets full of squirming eels!
Buckets full of squirming eels!

We walked down the isle past rows of chickens and ducks in various stages of dis-assembly ones with their heads and feet removed, others that were dead and plucked but still had their appendages intact, and of course to one side live chickens waiting ignorantly for their death. And next to those, cages of rabbits and yes even cats, all cute and fluffy, like they’d been snatched from the pages of a children’s book.

Atleast they are already dead and plucket
Atleast they are already dead and plucket

Anybody for some fresh duck?
Anybody for some fresh duck?

It was grisly and shocking but also almost comical in its sheer Chinese-ness. I kept thinking to myself, “No, this isn’t a movie or quite like the stereotypes I imagined, and yet somehow it’s exactly what I had imagined Chinese markets to look like.”

A few feet away, hanging from the ceiling by hooks, were the carcasses of what could only be dogs. I was so shocked and grossed out by what I saw that I could stick around long enough for more than one photo. They had been sliced vertically down the middle and had their organs removed, so the white ribs and dark red edges of the chasm running the length of each body. Hanging there like that, they almost didn’t even look real, they looked like something that should be in a bad horror movie. 

Skinned dogs hanging from hooks....
Skinned dogs hanging from hooks….

I looked down at my feet. The floor was streaked with blood and bits of gristle and organs of all kinds, mingling with the water and mud that also ran in rivulets in every direction. I couldn’t wait to get out of there and be able to breathe fresh air again. The legality of eating dogs and cats in China seems to be a matter of debate, something the country is trying to move away from as it becomes more modernized, although obviously it’s still practiced in some places. For some the prospect of eating dog meat turns the stomach, however for some it’s a treat worth shelling out for. 

Needless to say that after our visit to the market I didn’t have much of an appetite left. 

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53 comments

  1. Wonderfull,Your images have great detail and give the viewer a real insight to the Chinese markets and life style.Years ago,I’m retired now, I worked exclusively in the Far East and Middle East as a Professional Photographer and seeing your presentation has whisked me back to those halcyon days,thirty years ago.Well done.

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    • Thanks James. The market was so full of people and produce that it was quite difficult to decide what to capture and what to leave! I had so much fun…well until I came upon the dead dogs, after that I wasn’t it quite as photo-crazy a mood as at the start.

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    • Thanks Penelope! I was so disturbed that I could only take one shot and then had to get out of there….its not a beautiful sight, especially seeing as I had always had dogs as pets when I was younger.

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  2. Great post and just like you I had no appetite left after the last photo as well. I can not for the life of me think that people can even think of eating dogs or cats. I am glad to hear that they are trying to move away from that notion. It just shows you what “beliefs” have been doing to people and the environment all these years. Here in South Africa we are still struggling to get them to stop believing in the “magic” that Rhino Horns have for their libido. I feel so sorry for those poor little turtles and frogs. They don’t want me there for sure and maybe that is a good thing that I don’t like travelling. 😆 I would have caused quite a racket there. 😀

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    • Thanks Sonel. It is quite disturbing to see that all these animals that we usually treat as “pets” are being sold as food! Definitely a huge culture shock and I don’t think I will ever get used to that idea.

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      • Totally disturbing hon and it’s something we all know about but it sure is a huge shock to actually see it. I don’t think I will also ever get used to that idea, especially to animal lovers like us. 😀

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  3. I feel really sick after looking at the last photo, but in fact all if the animal shots disturbed me. Those poor innocent creatures. I remember coming across dog legs hanging up in a market when I first visited China 25 years ago. It disturbed me then, and the memory still does.

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  4. I often joke to my friends who hunt, “I like my meat the way god inteneded: on styrofoam, wrapped in cellophane….” but I’m not sure I ever meant it so much as now. And yet, it’s fascinating how so many people live, and how differently, and how–I’m struggling to say what I’m thinking–how profoundly tactile. I almost said “authentic” there, but that’s not really it, is it. “Grounded,” is it? Whatever the case, great story—great bog.

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