Burke’s Backyard in China – Shanghai Pet Street

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Shanghai Pet Street

Don visited the Jiangying Lu Bird and Flower Market in Shanghai. The largest of its kind in the city, the market is 200 metres long and has over 100 stands. During the week it is busiest in the morning, and extremely busy on weekends. As well as birds and flowers, the market offers a large variety of fish, turtles, crickets, dogs, cats, frogs, rabbits and plants, including orchids and bonsai.

Birds

Birds are a precious pet in China, mainly because they don’t take up much space. The ones with the best songs are the most sought after, and there are hundreds for sale in well-crafted cages. Mongolian larks are common at Chinese markets. Although plain in comparison to the many parakeets on display, the larks are highly valued for their song. Parakeets sell for around 20CYN ($3 AUD), while larks with the best voices fetch up to 600CYN ($105 AUD). 

On weekdays, many of the vendors and patrons are retired men. They appraise each others’ birds and sell a few when their cages at home get too crowded. Nearby is Sanjiao Park, where elderly men can be seen congregating and admiring each other’s caged birds.

Fish

The goldfish is perhaps China’s number one pet. The Chinese have developed hundreds of varieties in every imaginable colour and shape. Some have fins missing, some have crests on their head (Orandas) and others have big bubbles under their eyes (Water Bubble-eyes). Don was also amazed at the wonderful intensity of colour in the Discus fish at the market.

Crickets

The Chinese keep birds for their song and crickets for their chirp. Crickets have been kept as pets in China since the Tang Dynasty (613 – 905 AD). Each one is housed in a unique, ornate cage. Handmade from horn, stone or hollowed-out gourds, many of the cages are carved with traditional images. These images evoke the history of cricket raising. Antique ivory, jade and tortoiseshell gourds are highly prized among collectors.

Also on sale at the market are very aggressive, fighting crickets. The sport of cricket fighting is widespread throughout the large cities of China. The cricket can live about 100 days, reaching its prime in autumn. People buy the most ferocious and sturdy males. The best cricket fighting period is between September 8 and October 23 (known as White Dew and Frost’s Descent in the old Chinese calendar).

Further information

Jiangying Lu Bird and Flower Market

Jiangyin & Huangpi Bei Roads

Shanghai, China

Phone +86 21 6327 3603