A Wild Goose Chase at the Qingping Market, Guangzhou, China

By: leelefever on August 13, 2006 - 5:38pm

We’ve finally started our month-long journey through China, starting in the huge and industrial city of Guangzhou.  This city greeted us with a couple of surprises.

Before we left I remember hearing about an amazing market in Guangzhou where you can find anything that can be eaten – including wild animals from all over China.  Upon hearing about such a market, I made sure it was part of our itinerary.  The market is called the Qingping Market and it is one of Chinas largest and most famous, for a few reasons.

Upon arriving in Guangzhou and the Victory Hotel on Shamian Island (US$50/night) I was happy to find that the Qingping Market was only a few blocks away to the north.  We would make a long, 95(f) degree day of it.

We’ve seen our share of street markets over the last 8 months and Qingping is certainly the granddaddy of them all with an unimaginable assortment of anything that can be dried and eaten, from snake skin to deer tendon and bugs, lots of bugs.  However, the market left me frustrated.  For one thing, it is hard to understand where the market ends and the city begins- there are no maps or signs or information boards (not a big surprise of course).  This set us wandering.  Second – as hard as we looked and as many people as we asked, we simply could not find the animals.  Where were the stacked cages of raccoons and civet cats?  Where is the roasted dog?  Everyone who has visited this place has been disgusted by it and dammit- we want to see why!

So we searched and asked more people and even got a map of the area that a person used to denote the location of such a place.  This sent us many blocks out of the market on a less-then-figurative wild goose chase. We found nothing.  Despite being amazed by buckets of live scorpions, eels, scary looking cats and meat hooks full of unidentifiable meat, we left disappointed that we didn’t find the animals. 

It was a frustrating failure for two people who have grown to feel confident in such situations.

Then, upon consulting the Internet, the story began to coalesce.  I saw my fist bit of evidence on this Flickr photo, which reads:

At one time, stores featured many exotic animals (for eating). Today after the SARS scare these are mostly gone, or at least hidden in back alleys.

HAH!  This was it.  It was the SARS virus! So, I looked on Google and found a little more information that actually painted the Qingping Market in a wicked light, from a microbial perspective.

This Environmental News article writes:


The Guangdong provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced today that experts from Hong Kong and Guangdong have found a large quantity of the SARS-like coronavirus from civet cats and other wildlife collected from markets in Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

National Geographic writes:

Many wild and exotic animals are sold as food in China, such as these raccoons in stacked cages at the Qingping Market in Guangzhou. Some scientists warn that such conditions are ideal for a virus to jump from animals to humans, which likely happened in the case of SARS.


Ahh sweet vindication (both for our search and the wild animals)!  We had been frustrated because what we were looking for no longer exists or is too well hidden for travelers to find.  We were not being rookies- we (and the people we talked to) lacked a specific piece of information about the recent history of the market.  SARS had a very positive effect on the market overall, but one that caused us frustration for a day.

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