The insect market, it was buzzing!

The name says it all.  Shanghai’s Flower, Bird, Fish and Insect Market is of the most interesting places to visit in the city.

Dozens of tiny stalls, jam-packed into an old building that you hardly notice from the street, are selling all sorts of animal life … equally jam-packed into tiny cages and tanks, and likely not enjoying life too much.

There are cats and dogs, mice, fish and turtles, and birds …

The screeching of the caged birds is almost deafening … which may be a fitting revenge on their captors.

The most fascinating (and perhaps less challenging) aspect of the market are the insects – specifically crickets.  Thousands of crickets, all shapes and sizes, are displayed in individual boxes and containers.

The large crickets are purchased as noise-making companion pets.  They are stored in jars with perforated lids so that people can preview their chirping abilities.  They cost 30 yuan (about 5 dollars) and live for 8-10 weeks.

And the smaller ones are bred for fighting.  Cricket fighting dates back at least 1000 years to the Tang Dynasty and is particularly popular in the south of China.  Champion crickets could become quite famous, receiving elaborate funerals upon their passing.  Fighting championships are still organised in some cities.

Crickets are well cared for, often receiving veterinary care and being kept on a special diet.

This diet includes ground fish, worms and water chestnuts, which are all available for purchase in the market.

Cricket trainers spend a long time selecting their warriors.  Firstly there is a quick visual check of each of the boxes to select a short list of good specimens.

The fighting potential of each cricket is then tested by placing it in a small cup and teasing it with a thin bamboo stick, provided by the stall holders.

And when a purchase is looking imminent, a test fight between crickets is sometimes arranged.   This usually draws a small crowd of onlookers.  You can tell by the look on the faces of these guys what a serious process, and business, this is.

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6 Responses to The insect market, it was buzzing!

  1. nat says:

    That is brilliant … love your research & pace … we have a few roaches that might give em a run for their money … and a lovely elaborate waterpark funeral for these pesky ones 🙂

    • Aha! Cockroaches, that is something about the Sydney summer that I don’t miss.
      It’s all about the research, as you well know. China gives so much material, it’s just a matter of finding it…

  2. katharine says:

    Glad you braved the insect market, it’s incredible. Your pics are great! I didn’t see the water chestnuts, not a bad diet for a bug 🙂

  3. Justin says:

    Indeed well done for braving this challenging place.
    Great range of photos – you were obviously a lot less shy about taking them than I was, and the results are impressive. Interesting background info too!

    • Xiexie!
      It was one place I felt OK taking snaps. The old guys were totally engrossed in their work, so didn’t notice. And the bugs seemed to be focussed on other things too … 🙂

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