Cultural Markets take Hainan by storm

By Nicki Johnson / HICN / Updated: 18:45,15-March-2023

Have you had the chance to visit a cultural market, the kind where you can find specialty, niche foods, handmade fragrances, jewelry lovingly crafted in traditional styles, and creative, original designs only available in these exclusive venues?

Recently in Haikou, the MixC Mall held a coffee-themed fair and a Spring Festival market was held at the city’s Historic Qilou Street, while in Sanya there was a car trunk market at Luhuitou Park. Tons of cultural and creative markets have been popping up here and there and everywhere all across China’s southern province of Hainan.

Shoppers browse the stalls in search of treasure at a market in Haikou. (Photo / Feng Shuo)

Before Spring Festival, an ancient Hainan culture themed market was held in Haikou’s Qiongshan District, offering Chinese New Year merchandise, traditional foods, and local Qiongshan products. The market’s nearly 100 booths had everything shoppers could wish for all in one convenient location.

From Feb. 3-5, a Lantern Festival night market was held at Haikou’s Historic Qilou Street, with booths featuring everything from Hainan intangible heritage items to handicrafts, clothing, and foods sold by vendors hailing from many different countries, creating a cultural collision that sparked smiles and excitement in the crowds of shoppers thronging the market.

At the Langday Sunset Car Trunk Market held in Xixili, in Haikou’s Haidian Island, all the latest trendy fashions were on display, attracting large numbers of youthful market-goers.


A vendor at Haikou’s Nn Park holds up a mirror to help a customer decide which piece of jewelry to buy. (Photo / Li Tianping)

These kinds of creative cultural markets first arose in the UK, where they were known by the name “i-Mart”, combining the existing word “Idea-Mart” with the concept of “I’m Art”. These were flea markets as well as spaces where artists and other creatives could put their work on display.

“I do it because I enjoy it,” said Da Ning, who had a stall selling traditional-style jewelry at Haikou’s creative markets. In 2018, she fell in love with Hanfu, traditional Chinese clothing, and began making her own traditional jewelry to match. She came across a creative fair by accident one day, and was immediately seduced by the market’s atmosphere, with so many artisans, different designs, and the ways they all interacted with and influenced each other. So she decided to get involved as well.

Ladies dressed in Hanfu take a selfie at the Haikou Song Dynasty Market. (Photo / Zhang Mao)

Hainan University student Xiao Mo has also developed an affinity toward traditional jewelry, and often goes to creative markets with classmates in her spare time. She’s gotten close with several of the vendors, widening her circle of friends to include more and more other young people who share her love of traditional culture.

“Instead of just making friends with random people, meeting people at the creative markets makes it easier to find friends who share my interests. The markets are both fun and interactive, which is part of what makes them so interesting,” said Xiao Mo. Birds of a feather flock together, and these markets are turning out to be the perfect place to find your flock!

Nicki Johnson, a vendor at the creative market held at Haikou’s Historic Qilou Street, shows her Li handicrafts. (Photo provided by Nicki Johnson )

An international fun beach market is coming soon to Baishamen Beach, located on Haidian Island in Haikou’s Meilan District. The plans call for 300 vendors from across Southeast Asia, creating a permanent beach market featuring different cultures from all around the world, intangible cultural heritage, returned Overseas Chinese, and all kinds of international cultural exchange activities.

There are, of course, many types of cultural markets, such as small music events, street performances, movie screenings, creative competitions, and more, each with its own unique style. Cultural markets are a microcosm of the city, filling in gaps left by conventional shops, and filling the air with a unique energy and exciting atmosphere. 



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